Bulgaria & Turkey, November 2001 Travelogue
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Tuesday, Nov. 20th, 2001

Yeah, I drank the mini-bar beer, want to know why? Because it was only 75 cents a can. My guide book had said that restaurants in Bulgaria were inexpensive, and that it was a good place to "splash out" a little.

My impression of Plovdiv during the night was that it wasn't very large, so I immediately started planning how to leave. I decided that the trip to the Black Sea was too short to bother taking an overnight train, and that I would stay two nights at Plovdiv and leave on Wednesday morning. The travel days are so annoying that it is tempting to put them off like that.

I had breakfast alone at the hotel restaurant, then set out to find all the stuff the guidebook suggested. Having a room on the sixth floor allowed me to get lots of good shots of Plovdiv and to orient myself.

It was cold, but not as mind-numbingly cold that Sofia had been. I have to take back that bit about orienting myself. I walked out of the hotel down the wrong street and had to back up and re-try it before finally wielding my compass and guidebook in a successful attempt to find the town square.

Plovdiv was just OK, a medium-sized city with a historical old town. Hey, that reminds me of Sacramento. I bet in the summer it is pretty nice, but for me, in the grey wind, I felt like I was just bearing it until I got to Turkey.

They had some nice old churches and a mosque. There was a sculpture park, a great town-square and open mall. I tried smiling at people I walked by, but here, as with other parts of Bulgaria, most were unresponsive. It is pretty disheartening to not be able to get any kind of communication going unless I am buying something. Oh well.

There was a lot of manual labor in process in Plovdiv, people stringing cable and hanging signs and grinding down handrails, which I photographed. As with my mud-shoe incident, they never coned-off the areas where they were working.

There also seemed to be a lot of work to do. Rubbage-filled alleys and broken houses, which also happen to photograph well.

I walked pretty far out of the center of town to find a non-existent bus-ticket outlet. That really sucked. I composed a terse letter in my head to Lonely Planet.

I had dinner at a grilled-chicken place where I could simply point to stuff I wanted on the menu. It got dark & cold & boring on the way back to my room. At least I had a TV.

overlooking Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Monument to the Soviet Army on the
Hill of the Liberators

Vazrazhdane bridge over Maritsa River

Excavating in the old town

Georg Copangnov Sculpture

From the Modern Art Museum

Painting in black leather jackets

A run-down part of Plovdiv

Circus train-like temp worker housing

Wednesday, Nov. 21st, 2001

The next morning I headed out to the Black Sea coast, to a town called Burgas. I got to the train station around 10 but had to kill 3 hours before my train left.

I had my backpack along, so I sat patiently, writing out postcards. Oh, by the way, if you want a postcard, send me your address.

I started the trip in a nice cabin which turned out to be first class. I was guided to the crowded 2nd class cabin by the conductor who punched my ticket.

I typed for a couple of hours until a deaf guy came into our cabin and passed out little cards with the virgin Mary on them. I would have paid good money for a Bulgarian finger spelling chart, but his card didn't have one. I asked the young woman next to me (who had uttered a tiny bit of English earlier in the trip) what it said.

So that is how I met Pepe, a young woman studying civil engineering. Her English was great, although she sometimes had to pause & coax vocabulary out of the corners. I showed her my vast assortment of photos and tried to get her to identify things. She was pretty good at it.

She didn't think Sofia had an inordinate number of lingerie shops.

Her university was in Sofia, as were a number of other schools, which helped explain why the population was so beautiful there. I pointed out the empty fields we were passing and she explained that since 1989, no one knew who owned the fields, and they often sat unused. A professor at UCSB had explained this back at school, and here it was right in front of me. If more than one person seemed to have a claim on a piece of land, it quickly got mired in the courts.

I asked her about Burgas and she marked a couple of restaurants on the map.

She did the yes/no head shake thing a couple of times & I couldn't believe it...totally bizarre.

She pointed out and apologized for the vast Burgas oil refineries as we got close to her hometown. They had a strong smell. There were big piles of sulphur near the tracks. Also long strings of tanker cars labeled "sulphuric acid" in Bulgarian and German.

As we approached the port of Burgas we could see ships being unloaded & I asked about container ships. She said that while Burgas couldn't handle them, Japanese companies were working on upgrading the harbor.

I would have enjoyed spending more time with her, but her mom and aunt met her at the station and we said goodbye.

I marched down the main street to a hotel the guidebook suggested. It was more than I expected, but I didn't want to walk any farther to save a few bucks.

I got lasagna dinner at a neat little place called Verana. It was $4, including the beer. I walked around a bit and found one of four internet cafes in town. It was packed with schoolgirls chatting and boys playing soccer and Opposing Forces online. I was overjoyed to learn that cockeyed had been featured on techTV's "the screen savers"! The review even called me a "college student", undershooting my age nicely.

The train schedule

barren fields of the defunct commune

clear sky on the trip to Burgas, Bulgaria

The smokestacks at the hugigantic Burgas refinery

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map of Bulgaria | map of Turkey

Read my other travelogues: Minneapolis 2001 | Burning Man 2001 | Europe 1999 | Costa Rica 2000

Back to main Cockeyed | Write to Rob@Cockeyed.com Last updated November 9th, 2001.
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