No fear: Sofia. Sofia, so good. So near, yet Sofia.

So- the Macedonian border. I’m just going to plough on though 48 hours behind. There are 4 steps to crossing an east European border on the dumball.

1. Exit the current country. Provided you have the appropriate documents (passports, car registration documents, valid insurance, valid vignette, proof of sanity [this one is rarely checked actually]), this is generally a formality.
2. Arrive at new country, present passports, explain why you are driving a car which looks like the flintstonesmobile.
3. Go to little hut round the corner to buy insurance valid in the country you are entering. This step it is not immediately obvious, and border guards do little to explain what is required of you.
4. Return to the frontier, present new documents, wish guard a fine dash and ask them what the current local time is.

Step 3 was at issue today- one of the 2 insurance sellers just outright lied “the other insurance is not valid”! They normally try a little banter to get you into their booth rather than their competitors, but when you’re selling the same certificate, at the same price, nothing works better that a little bit of scare tactics. Apparently.

And so onto Skopje. The standard of hotels of going up now. We had a large meal booked for some traditional Macedonian food and music. It turns out Mondays in Macedonia are not a big, are we struggled to find a large enough club which was open beyond 2nd, so it was all back to the hotel bar.

Gareth did us proud, and cracked out the grand piano for a massive sing agog to all the classics: No monkey no cry, I’m loving monkeys instead, and hey monkey.

Finally a ‘short’ 4 hour drive ahead, so I set off with orange squad at a leisurely pace and stopped repeatedly to admire the stunning country side of MKD.

A some indeterminate point we crossed the border into Bulgaria and were welcomed back into the cradling arms of the European Union. We picked up an impromptu police escort at one point- but it seemed they just wanted us out of their town.

And it appears Bulgarian roads actually work quite well! The only problem is the large amount of local traffic which makes keeping a squadron in one piece a bit if a challenge, but also gives us plenty of people to entertain.

In Sofia, it rains. It was raining here 6 years ago, and was raining when we arrived last night, do we can only assume that it rains continuously here. Another fine night if traditional food (meat) and traditional music (bonkers), followed by a failed attempt to get 3 men in drag into a night club. Homophobia is still rife round here, and they really don’t like anything which might threaten their masculinity. Shame. Their loss, they missed out on a good night!

And dangerously, the hotel had it’s own casino. The faces of dumballers told a story this morning: some had won hundreds of Euros, other had spent all their holiday money.

And everyone was knackered.

But today we have something to perk everyone up, we’re heading to the awesome abandoned Bulgarian monument to socialism at Buzludzha. With Bulgaria now fully converted to capitalism, the abandonment seems highly appropriate. It’s 12km up a 4X4 recommended road, so we’ll see how many make it up there…

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