Hello from Veliko Turnovo!
Its been a relaxing few days and I am enjoying my final day off before I head to the farm tomorrow. Sofia was great, so much better than expected which is always nice. The hostel I stayed in was wonderful, such a great location (right in the center of the city) and, surprisingly, there were so many other travellers. The first day I got there, I just kind of wandered around and hung out in the park and ate ice cream. Afterward, I went back and the hostel (for 10 dollars a night) gives you free dinner and a free beer plus free breakfast in the morning (legit-not just toast, we are talking cereal, meats, breads, cheeses, vegetables) so I had my beer and met some really awesome people. There were quite a few people who had just gotten out of the peace corp. One, from Tennessee, was in Mali and just got evacuated because of the coup-d-etat, so it was fascinating to talk with her about her experiences there.
The next morning, I woke up and decided I wanted to take a hike around the mountain (Mt. Vitosha) which overlooks Sofia. It started off as a beautiful day so I headed over there and did a hike up to a monastery. It was nice, nothing fantastic, but nice. Slowly, the clouds started rolling in, and the forecast had called for afternoon storms, so I headed back down and toward the hostel and right as I pulled in, it started to rain. Perfect time for a much needed nap. I napped through the storm, and when I woke up, the skies had cleared so I went downstairs to see what was up. It was then that I met this guy Shane, from Atlanta. He is mid-40s, definitely gay( I think) but no confirmation on that, and a professor-currently teaching American lit in a Bulgarian university. He is fascinating. We really got along, and, it turned out, he was also headed to Veliko Turnovo yesterday. We decided we would go together. I ended up going out to some bars with some other people that night, but turned it in kind of early, I have had a seriously delayed tiredness reaction to Goats with the Wind.
Yesterday morning, I went out early and experienced my first Saturday morning stroll in about 2 months. I forgot how much I loved Saturdays. Shabbat was wonderful, but it was great to be in a city again where everyone is out enjoying the city and running errands, the streets are empty so you can cross wherever you want and the weather was just a little crispy and so nice. I went down a street I hadnt seen which was where all of the Soviet buildings were hiding, loved it, and headed to a park to walk around a read. And then I saw it, something I havent seen for so long- Starbucks. I dont normally feel that way about Starbucks but it was like it had been placed there just for me. By this time, the sun was out and it was starting to get warm so I picked up an Iced Latte and sat on the patio and read. It was great. Families were out and friends were meeting, everyone just taking it easy and reading the newspaper. I realized that time had flown and I needed to head back to check out, Shane and I had agreed to meet at noon to head to the bus station, so I walked back and different way and stumbled upon a farmers market so I picked up some snacks for the bus and headed back.
You really forget Bulgaria is a Soviet legacy, only the older generation speaks Russian and it still seems very central european. But then, I had a throw back to my Russian days and it felt good. So Shane and I get to the bus station and our bus is leaving in 5 minutes, so we head out with our bags to check out the situation. Both of us are coming from places where you dont get help getting on the bus. Both in Sofia and in Israel it is a mass free-for-all, they sell more tickets than there are seats, there is no lining up, only the strongest survive. So, following that assumption, we go to put our bags under the bus. The door is open, other bags are in there, seems like the natural, Bulgarian thing to do. As I go to put mine in, I hear someone who sounds like he is about to murder someone. I look up, and that someone is yelling at me, in Bulgarian, and its the bus driver. I told him, in Russian, "I dont understand" and he does this little laugh and smirk and says "you dont understand hah" and starts yelling again. I cannot for the life of me understand what the problem is. So i start laughing because this is absurd. So I start talking to him in Russian, he is not calming down and finally i just yelled back "OK, what is the problem here" and he whips out this reel of stickers and looks at me like an idiot and slowly puts one on my bag, like "duh, you dumbass, how you could EVEN think about putting your bag in without a sticker on it". I started dying laughing, I was like "no no no, this cant be what you were so upset about, a sticker? Seriously?" I DID NOT follow the appropriate bureaucratic procedure and that just really cut to his ego, he was by-passed and DID NOT appreciate it.
We made it here with no other problems, stayed within the party line and were rewarded for it. The town is gorgeous, it is a college town tucked away in the mountains and my hostel here is sooo chill. There is a big outdoor patio overlooking the river with hammocks and a nice breeze. This morning, Shane, this other guy and I went for a walk to the fortress and to another monastery and this afternoon, I might just do nothing and love it.
I head to the farm tomorrow and I am excited, a new place with new people. It sounds like she has a lot of projects going on so I am looking forward to doing something new. I havent seen any sign of goats- and I cant say Im upset about it. Enjoy your Sunday!
PS: Shell, does a fortress count as a castle? You know me too well