Traffic police will be out in force in Bulgaria as the country celebrates a four-day weekend beginning on March 3 2016, with 100 000 vehicles expected to take to the road from Sofia as the holiday begins.
March 3, a Thursday this year, is Bulgaria’s national day. The Cabinet has declared March 4 a special public holiday to make a four-day weekend possible, in turn declaring March 12 a working day to compensate.
Traffic police head Rossen Rabchev said that there would be large-scale checks for speeding, drink-driving, driving licences and whether cars travelling on roads outside cities and towns have mandatory road tax stickers.
Given the expected heavy traffic, a ban has been imposed on heavy vehicles, meaning those of more than 12 tons, using motorways and other major roadways between 4pm and 8pm on March 2.
With national holiday celebrations centred on Shipka Peak, vehicle traffic through Shipka Pass on March 3 will be banned and vehicles will be directed to the Pass of the Republic.
Bulgarian state railways BDZ said that it was providing a total of 14 000 additional seats on trains during the long weekend, adding coaches to trains running on the busiest lines in the country, such as trains linking Sofia with, respectively, Varna, Rousse, Vidin, Pleven and Blagoevgrad. Additional coaches are being added to the Sofia-Plovdiv trains, although demand is not expected to be as heavy.
Bus companies are adding an additional 10 000 seats, on March 2, 3 and 6. Galia Topolova of the National Association of Carriers told local media on March 2 that bus tickets were almost sold out. Bus companies were ready to provide extra buses but advised passengers not to wait to the last minute to try to buy a ticket.
Across the country, March 4 was expected to see the least promising weather, with most of the weekend expecting partly cloudy skies.
For Sofia, March 3 was forecast to see a maximum 13 degrees Celsius, followed on Friday by nine degrees with rain, rising to 13 and 16 and partly cloudy weather at the weekend.
Plovdiv was expecting 16 degrees on March 3, 13 with rain on March 4, and weekend highs of 15 and 17, with partly cloudy to sunny weather.
Bulgaria’s major Black Sea city Varna was expecting 13 degrees on March 3, followed by 11 degrees with rain on March 4 and highs of 11 and 13 on Saturday and Sunday.
Among Bulgaria’s three major winter ski mountain resorts, Bansko seemed the best bet, with a forecast for 13 degrees on March 3, followed by nine with light snow on March 4, and 13 and 16 degrees on the weekend.
Pamporovo was expecting rain on Thursday and Friday, with eight and seven degree highs respectively, followed by 10 degrees on Saturday and Sunday. For Borovets, the forecast was eight degrees and four degrees on a rainy Thursday and Friday, followed by maximums of seven and 12 at the weekend.
Bulgaria marks March 3 as its national day because it is the anniversary of the 1878 signing of the San Stefano Peace Treaty, a landmark in the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire as a result of the Russo-Turkish war. The epicentre of celebrations is the monument at Shipka Peak, which commemorates a battle between Turkish forces, on the one side, and Russian military and Bulgarian volunteers on the other.
The boundaries of Bulgaria envisaged in the San Stefano Treaty were subsequently pared back at the 1878 Congress of Berlin, which split off an autonomous Ottoman province called Eastern Roumelia from the principality of Bulgaria, handed some territory to Romania and Serbia and put Bulgarians in Macedonia and eastern Thrace back under direct Ottoman rule.
(Photo of the monument on Shipka Peak: Georgi Chorbadzhiyski)