Report on Bulgaria 2004
Getting to Bulgaria - airports are such fun!
The check in at Birmingham airport was pretty chaotic; the airlines (or tour operator) insist you get there hours before you need to and then don't have a check in desk open. When they finally do open just two desks you find out about it by the hordes of streaming customers with their Balkan Holiday luggage tags rushing to the check in area.
After a long time the check in TV displays are updated but it's far too late then - you're number 26 in the queue even though you've been hanging around the check in desks for the past 90 minutes! Grrr!
Having got the front of the queue you discover the (new) baggage handling belt system has broken down. The Balkan rep has not informed anyone apart from those standing next to her so everyone is muttering and wondering why you are spending so long at the check in desk.
I sheepishly shrugged my shoulders at them and vaguely indicate that there is a problem before finally being told to take all my baggage to the oversize baggage counter. Poor chap had his work cut out for him that day!
If you get the feeling our holiday did not start exactly on the right foot, then you have understood how we felt as we then killed two hours waiting for our flight to be called.
I can't help thinking that in these days of computers and high technology that there must be a better way!
The aircraft was a small jet (A320), so no ex-military Russian Aeroflot were being used, despite such rumours. And yes, you get a basic snack on the plane with a free soft drink. I recommend you eat it because the restaurant in your hotel will be long shut by the time you get there. There was also alcohol for sale but no mixers! Doh!
Now, as I'm 6' 3" I'm used to poor legroom and headroom in aircraft and cars and Balkan didn't disappoint on that score. Leg room was as poor as any short-haul aircraft I've been on, and of course the seats were far too short to offer me any kind of head support for sleeping. Luckily I had a kid in front of me who didn't insist on reclining his chair so at least I could eat my meal.
There's no in-flight entertainment so bring a book or newspaper unless you intend sleeping because 3 hours looking at the back of someone's head can be pretty boring.
Well at least we got checked in!
And the plane took off on time despite the baggage handling system fault.
And the real bonus was that the flight only took 3 hours instead of the anticipated 3hour 30 minutes.
But that meant we still arrived in Bulgaria in the middle of the night (partly due to the 2 hours time difference).
If we ever go back we'll look for a tour operator that flies (and arrives) during daylight hours.