Bulgaria - the first two weeks
I must confess that I did not think much about Bulgaria before arriving. I did not know exactly what to expect and what Bulgaria stands for. I had a pale idea that things would be similar to other Eastern Bloc countries and that people would not smile a lot. That’s it – I wanted to plunge into this new world without a plan. A world without a wardrobe, without the possibility of withdrawing whenever I want, retiring, changing outfits or talking about the latest events in a language I know.
From Sofia to Plovdiv
In Sofia, right after arrival, we have the opportunity to visit the state dog shelter, which is supported by the stray help Bulgaria. What a welcome: Over 1000 dogs, passionate helpers and all this on dog-walk Sunday. Fascinating stories that we are allowed to record. (the project)
We can stay overnight at a couch surfer, Georgi, who introduces us to the local national drink “Rakija” – which we will be offered a few times before eating in various places.
One day later we are already in Plovdiv, where we visit the school for children with disabilities. Three years ago, a fire had burned down one of the two buildings. Externally, everything is rebuilt, but the rooms can not be used because the equipment is missing. (Click here for the project)
Burgas and start
In Burgas on the beach of the Black Sea, we officially begin our journey into adventure. However, since the actual route is 70 kilometers north, we still have a short drive with an old Microbus before us, leaving us nowhere with a few hand signals.
Now it really starts: 1 year, 2 backpacks, with stories, emotions and adventures that, right now, are not more than fantasy.
It’s hard, it’s beautiful, it’s hot, then wet again, it’s … the first day. We meet wild horses and friendly Russians who help us with a bottle of water.
At the bay of Cape Emine we meet Vasili Atanasov. He lives there in his trailer and dives for several hours almost every day, unless he works on his self-made, physics-defying harpoon.
The man is already 71 years old and has won several national and international diving and swimming competitions, including participants in the 1966 Olympics. The detailed interview will follow.
The next days are getting longer, with distances between 25 and 30 kilometers, especially with 15kg on my back or 18kg (with Jan), it is not always fun. Landscapes and animals delight us, especially the turtles are a surprise. Some sections are completely without waterholes, but at two days passing Bulgarians help us out. Much of the mountain villages are Muslim, with evening prayers and conversations in Turkish.
In a prolonged thunderstorm, our tent is soaked overnight. Especially for me this is not the only new situation to go through. A change of emotions from breathtaking joy to fear. It’s not like I’ve never hiked or camped, but the villages were less wild and the roads often led to huts.
Not to mention that I knew I would be home after 6 weeks at the latest.
Lizards, snakes, horses, wild bears have only been spotted so far and the backpack weighs more. It is nice to have Jan with me, who can explain the single noises and calm me down no matter what is surrounding us.
It’s very exciting to see how quickly you can get used to something. 10 days in a sweaty T-shirt? At some point no longer a problem. A conversation in which one can only communicate with sign language? More amusing and instructive, than many “normal” chats. I am still happy to see the free-range chickens, goats, daring, pigs in villages. A lot of scrub is to be overcome, waist-high nettles not only meet us once. Unfortunately, I fall in the forest and kink. This determines the course of the next 5 days.
In Kotel, a village with about 5,000 inhabitants, I realize how much I missed the people and varied food.
We arrive on the holiday in honor of language and education, as well as the invention of the Cyrillic alphabet, through Cyril and Methodius. This is also the day of the graduation ball – so the whole city seems to be together in the center.
The next day Jan and I split up – Jan continues along the route and I drive to the orphanages in Veliko Tarnovo, where I will give my foot a break and show it to a doctor, because even not swollen, every step hurts.
Do you know that feeling when you take a step into a place that you like? Which seems to be already a part of you? You look around, run around and feel: Here I will stay. Here I want to go deeper. That happened to me in Veliko Tarnovo. One of the reasons was a group of people who welcomed me, laughed with me and made it almost impossible to get out of this wonderful city.
To take care of orphanages, Katia and her team – learning from speaking to working together – live for them as social educators and psychologists. I could support them and had not only once almost tears in my eyes. (The project)
What is surrounding Jan right now?