allochthonous: (Default)
Never before have I felt so acutely the lack of a t-shirt bearing this slogan. I guess that's what I deserve for insisting on arguing with pissed old guys about the nature of the Big Bang. I may no longer be a physicist, but I still refuse to hear Stephen Hawking's name taken in vain.

Veliko Tarnovo is indeed north of Plovdiv, and kind of in the middle of Bulgaria. It used to be the capital, and is dominated by Tsvarets fortress, a gigantic medieval walled citadel. VT is built on several inconveniently large hills, which, although adding to the general absurd picturesqueness (I'm not entirely certain that that's even a word) of it all, is a pain in the arse. The hostel is lovely, and has a kitten that was so catatonic when I first saw it that I was afraid that it was dead. There's also an excellent view of the fortress,  especially good at night when the sound and light show turns it an attractive shade of neon pink.

One of the first people I met at the hostel was J, another student bumming around EE trying to string out the long vacation for as long as possible. She was the first female solo traveller I'd met, and I was the first she'd seen for a while, so we practically flung ourselves into each others' arms (um, figuratively) and spent a couple of days investigating the delights of VT together. A chocolate-cake-eating-competition on the first night (we found a place that does magic sachertorte) rendered us ridiculously giggley, much to the chagrin of our dorm-mates when we attempted to make our beds at 11 at night (incidentally, what is up with the sheets here? They're all made double with a huge round hole in one side. Maybe all sheets legally have to double as duvet covers?). Apparently everyone thought we'd known each other for years, and to be honest, it really did feel like that. We hit it off really well, and spent far longer chatting at the fortress than we did thinking deep cultural thoughts (I'm sure we were soaking it in though). She spent her gap year in Romania, and would open her ideal hostel in Brasov (mine would be in Guatemala, preferably by Lake Atitlan). Sadly she's headed in the wrong direction, (although I'm still not entirely sure which direction I'm headed in - I LOVE this), but hopefully we'll stay in touch.

Back to Sofia now I think - I vaguely toyed with hitting Romania, but don't really have enough time. That leaves Serbia or Macedonia next then - I think I'll have to leave the decision in the lap of the train timetable gods.
allochthonous: (Default)
Heh. I was so planning to update this at least every week. Is backdating cheating?

Well, Plovdiv started off great, since I had scarcely been there for two hours before I had released a pigeon outside a cathedral (I'm not entirely sure why I did this, apart from the fact that it cost about 50p, but I'm sure it was an important local tradition or something), been presented with a bunch of flowers by a charming old American man, and eaten an enormous ice cream of extraordinary sugar content. However, there's not an enormous amount to Plovdiv, if you're not planning to investigate every single museum mentioned in the Lonely Planet, which I sure as hell wasn't, unlike the fantastically keen other occupants of my dorm at the hostel there (I lay low and read determinedly).

The LP is always a mixed blessing: on the plus side, it is reassuring to arrive in an unknown destination clutching your big purple book and feeling confident that you can find your way from the bus station to somewhere, but on the other hand, it does mean that you are walking around clutching a large purple book, which, in combination with a backpack, amounts to a flashing overhead neon sign screaming "Please overcharge me for taxi rides and attempt to sell me "hand-woven" rugs with "Made in China" labels on them!" (hell, I'd try and take advantage of me, and I am me). You tend to stay at places where all the backpackers are and eat where all the backpackers eat, and drink where they drink, and while this helps if you're travelling solo and looking for company, it means that it's much more difficult to meet locals. I'm kinda tempted to chuck it (possibly at the next person who tries to sell me one of those rugs) but I'm still not comfortable doing this totally blind. Baby steps.

Having sampled most flavours of ice cream at the stand there (and rather horrified to discover I hadn't eaten anything else for nearly two days, and drunk only coffee and a small bottle of water), I thought a change was necessary in order to rescue my digestive system, so got a bus to Veliko Tarnovo. Which is...actually, I'm still not entirely where it is. Somewhere north? Well, Plovdiv is somewhere south, so the likelihood is that it's somewhere north.
allochthonous: (Default)
Здпавейте!

Excuse me, I'm a little overexcited about being in a country where they have backwards Ns and Rs. And other weird letters.

Ж Б Д Л И Я ЖЖЖЖЖЖЖЖЖ (I like that one especially).

OK, think that's got it out of my system now. It is probably painfully apparent that, pretty as the Cyrillic alphabet is, I have yet to work out how to decipher it.

The geology project which I have spent most of the past six weeks plotting to escape from is done, and I have precious little to show for it apart from numerous mosquito bites and a reputation as "that drunken English girl" in a couple of small Macedonian villages. Having been ditched by the friends that I was planning to dive with in Turkey, and realising that if I wanted to live my life free of skin cancer in the future I would have to make a fast track out of the country where there had been 43 C temperatures for the previous week, I pitched up at the train station in Thessaloniki, saw a departure for Sofia, thought "anything is better than here", and ended up in Bulgaria. I'm not entirely sure what one does in Bulgaria, but I intend to find out, and then damned well do it to the best of my ability.

Having finally escaped from the all-embracing clutches of The Rock, I now find myself meandering homewards through the Balkans. Meandering being the operative word here, since I have pretty much zero idea of where I'm going, when I'm going there, and what I'm doing when I get there. Travelling solo in a country whre I can't even read the signs, let alone speak the language, means that I take disproportionate pride in even the smallest accomplishments: currently I am gloating over my acheivement in getting from Grevena to Thessaloniki to Sofia without losing wither my luggage, my important bits of paper, or my temper.  The fact that I was told "get a new passport" by the Bulgarian border official (by which I mean she told a trilingual Greek guy sitting opposite, and he told me) is only mildly disheartening. It appears that passports are not OK when in the past they have been dropped in streams thus rendering all previous visa stamps illegible. This seems to me to be excessively pedantic (and wow does the turquoise ink from the Guatemalan ones bleed like anything, even after a year), but then I'm not being paid to keep undesirable people with damp passports out of the country. Such is life.

I should probably stop abusing the free internet at the hostel and work out where I'm going next (Plovdiv has a pleasing sound), but in the meantime, someone is offereing me free spaghetti and beer. I think I like it here.

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