Hundreds of thousands of Bulgarians were expected to hit the road for the four-day Easter weekend from April 18 to 21, facing warnings of traffic delays in some parts of the country because of road repairs and with advice from police to protect their empty homes against burglars.
The year 2014 is one in which the dates for Easter coincide on the Orthodox Christian, Roman Catholic and Protestant calendars. In Bulgaria, it is a four-day weekend, with April 18 and 21 as public holidays.
Bulgaria’s Easter weekend was forecast to be begin with less than festive weather, with rain expected in north-western regions.
April 18 was expected to see cloudy and rainy weather in western Bulgaria and a drop in temperatures in eastern Bulgaria, followed with light rain on April 19. Forecasters said that Sunday would be mainly sunny in the morning, with rain showers in some places but an overall rise in daytime temperatures.
At Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, daytime maximum temperatures would range from 12 to 15 degrees Celsius, with some rain along the northern part of the coast. In the mountains, the weather would be cloudy, foggy and rainy, with snow in the higher reaches of the Rhodopes.
Apart from wet roads, motorists face bottlenecks in about five places where the older sections of the Trakiya Motorway are being re-asphalted.
There is also a detour on a section of the road between Sandanski and Kulata.
Road authorities have announced a ban on the movement of heavy goods lorries, of more than 12 tons, in six places on the national road network. The restrictions will be in force from 6am to 9pm and on April 21 from 2pm to 8pm.
The sections are Rebarko-Botevgrad, part of Struma Motorway, on the Rousse – Veliko Turnovo road, between Plovdiv and Harmanli, Varna and Bourgas, and Bourgas and Tsarevo.
The restrictions do not apply to vehicles carrying perishable foodstuffs, cargoes subject to temperature controls, live animals and dangerous goods.
Stefan Chaikov, head of the Road Infrastructure Agency, said that it had been decided not to ban goods lorries from motorways.
He said that experience was that when heavy goods vehicles were banned from motorways, they used lesser roads that were not designed for such traffic, increasing the risk of serious accidents.
Road authorities appealed to motorists to drive carefully and at reasonable speeds. They called on motorists to avoid travelling at peak hours such as after 5pm on April 17 and 18.
Traffic police said that they would step up checks for drink-driving and reckless driving, especially near restaurants and other places of entertainment, as well as on third-class and municipal roads.
Police also would be checking on whether seat belts were being used and whether vehicles had mandatory insurance.
The heaviest traffic was expected to be on the E79 from Sofia to Kulata, from Kocherinovo to Rila Monastery, the Simitli Pass and the route from Razlog to Bansko and the Ilinden checkpoint, from Kalotina border checkpoint to Sofia, from Plovdiv to the Kapitan Andreevo border checkpoint, from Rousse to Haskovo, Rousse to Shoumen, the road to the Malko Turnovo checkpoint between Bourgas and Resovo.
Meanwhile, the Independent Balkan News Agency reported, police will be out in force around churches while inspectors from firefighting teams have been carrying out fire and safety inspections, especially given the Orthodox Christian tradition involving the passing of lit candles.
In Plovdiv, the office of the Orthodox Metropolitan has posted a notice about when the “Holy Fire” is expected to arrive by aircraft from Jerusalem.
Police also warned those who would be gathering around churches for the ritual of passing out the flame to be aware of pickpockets. Similarly, police warned people visiting shopping malls to be careful, noting that pickpockets sought to not raise suspicions by blending in by being well-dressed and well-groomed.
Authorities also appealed to people going away for the Easter weekend not to announce this on social networks, so as not to alert potential burglars that their homes could be easy pickings.
Bulgarian state railways BDZ said that it was providing additional railway coaches on about 139 trains travelling the main rail routes in the country. BDZ said that it was adding the equivalent of about 14 000 extra seats over the April 18 to 21 long weekend.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)