The Bulgarian family that I drove with took me to entrance of Sofia, gave mi 1 lev for the bus to the center, and driver’s wife came out of the car with me and told people on the bus stop to take care of me. And then she, with the tears in her eyes, wished me all the luck in the world on my life journey. I tell you, moms and dads are everywhere.
In the bus I asked one girl where is the square where I have to go off. She didn’t speak English, but she was good in drawing city maps on paper tissues. Oh, how I love these small acts of kindness. With the map I was embarrassed to miss the stop so I found my friend Stella with no problems. I visited her already last year, and she surfed my couch in Zagreb twice.
I spent next few days in Sofia. Which is a not-so-beautiful city, even in summer. But a very dear city to me.
Waking up was interesting. Stella snoozes her alarm 13 times, and I just wanted to offer to call at her work and let them know that she is sick and not showing up, but she gave up and got up eventually. Browsing through the center, meeting Stella and having two beers with her in some park. I soon understand that that’s actually Stella-after-work party.
I feel so much at home so I host people in Stella’s apartment. Victor and Bruna, French-Portuguese couple came to visit us and bring me my daughter, little sheep Maria Juana, which I left in Portugal 5 months ago. She is a bit dirty, who knows where she has been, and with whom. But she’s still smiling. And she has a new bracelet, with a sign – unforgettable.
Tomorrow I meet up with Venera, another CouchSurfer, in a park on during-work party, we talk about meaning of life and how majority of people look at our lives and actions. We are traveling around the world, wasting time, and we could have a good job, wonderful apartment and bunch of cute little children. On the other hand, we could have had job we don’t like, apartment we have to pay off for 30 years and such. Afterwards Stella joins us, and after her Vasil and Elena, close friends of mine that recently went on a trip to Spain, with their 9 months old daughter Yana. And then my mom thinks I’m too young to travel.
In the morning I say goodbye to Stella and I go on 222 kilometers long way to Veliko Trnovo. I get there with no problems. I find internet cafe, and only then I figure out I don’t have a place to sleep. I send couple of requests to local CSers, but no reply. Slight panic, thinking of Yes Man and how I forgot the basics of behaving on the road – blurry memory from last night comes to me – Vasil’s friend asked me do I want to go with him to some mountains with his friends, spend the night there and then tomorrow go to Veliko Trnovo. Lesson – say YES on that type of offers, especially when you don’t have a place to sleep in the next city.
Oh well, I should get to work. I take my guitar, write a couch request on a piece of paper and start playing on the street.
I play few songs I know, people react with smiles, some of them stop, some of them ask something, some give me money I didn’t want, but nobody says yes. At the end, with last rays of daylight, one couple comes to me and takes me to the cheapest hotel in the city. They wait until I check in.
I look at my options: a) if I go away, I leave them in worry, b) say I don’t have money for a hotel (8 euros) and hope that they will pay for it, c) say that I have money and pay something I didn’t plan for and leave them not worried.
I picked option c). Not even one week passed, and here I am, in a hotel. But if Gods are fair, I will get some bonus points for this! And while I was thinking about that, I receive a message on my cell phone – “I can host you tomorrow, if you still need a host…”
I haven’t slept well in a hotel. A home is a home, even though it’s someone else’s.
So I took my belongings and went to meet with Emilia, CouchSurfer that messaged me the night before. Even though I ate on the way, she took me home for another, proper breakfast. With a beer. It reminded me of my first impression of Bulgaria, since everybody drinks it in every occasion, the country should be called Beergaria. Unless Bul on some dialect doesn’t mean beer. Not impossible.
Anyhow, after breakfast we went to work. Emilia had the easier job since she knew where she’s working, but I had to find a good location and earn minimum of 8 euros which I spent yesterday relentlessly on not-so-comfortable bed. Guitar in my hands and lets get down to business. Since the main attraction in Veliko Trnovo is some old castle, I gave my last euro for the ticket, went on the half way and started playing.
It turned out that the ticket was a good investment because I earned around 24 lev (12 euros) in around 2 hours of playing.
Since I am my own employer, I took the rest of the day off. The boss of the castle helped a bit when he came and told me to get lost. I didn’t went to Emilia’s place right away not to make her sad because of my short working hours so I went to the city and called my parents and aunts, realizing that I talk with them more then when I’m in Zagreb. Usually, I send them SMS or email every single day when I’m traveling. No exception. That’s the least I can do in return for the stress I cause with my lifestyle.
And then I finally visited Emilia at her work. It’s a pity she works in a bar so it went like this:
– she brings me free beer while I wait her shift to finish
– she cries on my shoulder while I take her home, because all the bars are on our way, and she knows a lot of people so we have to stop in every one
– we end up in an Irish pub on few rounds of more expensive beer (almost 1 euro for a pint!)
– we waste our time playing pool
– talk about the meaning of life (very popular subject these days)
Around 2am I hoped that we’re finally going home because I am a CouchSurfer that missed his couch last night, but someone suggest that we continue, I hear something about drinking and cooking chicken soup… At that point I give up, take out my passport to prove that I’m not Bulgarian and that I don’t have Bulgarian endurance. I’m still young, my summer has just started!
In the morning (with just a small headache) I walk to the exit of the city and lift my thumb towards Burgas. Thinking how everything is going pretty smooth and wondering if some adventure will come unexpectedly. On the other hand, maybe its better like this, who knows what’s waiting for me in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan…
With just two rides, four hours later, I’m in Burgas. Adventure I was thinking about happened on the way – my traitor of a guitar sent the driver wrong signal that we have the same taste in music so he tortured my poor ear for the last two hours with Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath. My poor sensitive acoustic ears.
But apart from different taste in music, driver was great. Good heart and precise driving – he left me in front of the doorstep of my CS host for the next couple of days. And that’s how I met Alexandra and WhatsHisName, she is Polish Erasmus student, and he is just visiting her. I wonder, are there any Polish people in Poland? They seem to be everywhere else.
She studies journalism and keeps asking me these questions about my trip, where, how, why, how much. And I like to answer, especially to people that are interested in what I have to say. Paying my debt to the society – if I didn’t get answers from my CouchSurfers in Zagreb back in the days, I would probably be much more normal. And I don’t like normal.
Alexandra still didn’t become real Bulgarian – she doesn’t buy beer for breakfast.
As I managed to get in contact with Tanja (one of my friends that hitchhiked from Zagreb to Istanbul with me, together with her dog Nina and parrot ChiChi), we agree to meet in Nessebar, little city under UNESCO protection, just 30ish kilometers north of Burgas.
Tanja and Nina haven’t changed at all – Tanja is still the most talkative person on Earth, and Nina still has four legs and barks. Tanja tells me how she spent last 11 months, since I left her in Istanbul, traveling around Turkey until they deported her, sailing in Greece with the owner of Galatasaray (his dog liked Nina), then Macedonia, Kosovo and then Bulgaria. Everything just hitchhiking, Couchsurfing and with few hundred euros in her pocket. And someone thinks I’m a big adventurer.
After a delightful afternoon I head back home, to Burgas. I like the fact that while traveling some place becomes your home so easily. And stops, as soon as you change it with a new one. This time I was living in Burgas, went for a drink with Tanja in Nessebar, and then back home to Burgas.
In front of Alexandra’s house I practice my guitar skills because, even if you have a home, it doesn’t mean that you have the keys. So you have to wait for a while. And you make that time worthwhile, instead of just sitting and waiting. I don’t like waiting.
Tomorrow I’m off to Istanbul. A taxi driver stops and, after hearing my story, offers to give me a ride to city exit, no matter that I don’t have money. I ask him will the taximeter mind, he smiles and says that we won’t tell him.
He leaves me at the agreed spot and, little by little, passing by some gypsy villages, torn and dirty, some hunter that chases away my potential rides with his rifle, border police officers that argue who will stamp my passport – I cross the border and enter into Turkey.
GALLERY – BULGARIA.
YT VIDEO – BULGARIA: