Maluk Izvor to Plovdiv

I was really starting to wonder if I was ever going to make it away this week. I really need to do a blog post about the reality of “being able to work from anywhere.” But I managed to wrap up most of my work last night and only had to do a small job this morning. I woke up around 6:30 and, really, I just wanted to go back to sleep, but I had to get up if I wanted to do that job and still be on the road before noon. One good thing about being up that early was that it was my turn to roust the dogs after all the times they’ve woken me up, bwa ha ha.

We got back by 7:30 and then I did the unusual thing of going right to work without having my coffee first. You can’t really sip a drink and transcribe effectively at the same time, but that’s what I did. I was bringing the computer with me and it’s the first thing that needs to be packed into my bag, so I couldn’t get anything else done until the work was sent off.

I was finally done around 9:00 and got to work packing and tidying up the house. I wanted to leave with just my little backpack and my purse, so it was quite an effort to whittle down my things to just what would fit in those two bags. I’ll have a lot of hand laundry to do while I’m on the go and will be glad to see the washing machine on Tuesday!

I knew there were a couple of buses leaving Yablanitsa around 11:00 and that the next ones weren’t till just past 2:00. Max offered to take me into Yablanitsa, so I asked him to leave around 10:30 and he obliged. We got into “Yab” as a bus was pulling away. The direction it was going, Max thought it might be going to Sofia. I bolted out of the car and a lady on the sidewalk yelled to me, “To Sofia?!” and I replied yes. She flagged the bus down for me. WOW. So that got me on the road to Sofia at 10:45.

We took a different route in than I’m used to and it was slower even if we had the same number of stops. So we didn’t get to Sofia until 12:15. I had a look at the electronic board and saw that there was a Vitosha company bus to Plovdiv leaving at 12:30 from sector six. Talk about good timing! I used the bathroom and then went to look for the Vitosha kiosk so I could buy my ticket. As it turned out, it was the first one as I came out of the bathroom. Easy! But only because I could read Cyrillic. Otherwise, I’d probably still be in Sofia… My ticket was 14BGN. I grabbed a croissant for a snack and headed for the bus.

There, a man looked at my ticket and mumbled something as he pointed to my croissant. I think he was telling me no food on the bus. I couldn’t get him to say anything clearer and I knew I had a few minutes, so I hurriedly ate it and then he let me on…

The ride to Plovdiv was surprising. I expected a lot of “civilisation’ between the two cities, but no. How can there be so much space in such a small country?!


We pulled into Plovdiv at 2:30, so the ride was exactly four hours door-to-door from home, as I’d been told it would be. By car, though, Plovdiv is only two hours away.

It was only 1.5KM to my hostel from the bus station, and most of that was through a park, so I decided to walk. My phone did a good job of getting me there.

I passed Plovidiv’s “Singing Fountains.” Not quite as impressive as those at the Bellagio, but the air coming off the water was wonderfully cool. Keep reading for visual proof of how hot it was…


I made it to the hostel I’d booked at for a mere 15CAD per night. The reviews for it were mixed, but most agreed that the bathroom was unacceptable. They didn’t have any payment information for me, so I decided to check it out and if it was bad, I’d go to the next one on my list, for 22CAD per night (both prices for a private room with a shared bath). Well, the first hostel was gross, so I went around the corner to the next one, which was brand new. Worth the extra 20CAD!

Here is the outside. From what I’ve read about European “guest houses” or hostels, this is fairly typical in that the hostel is just one floor of the building. I wasn’t sure I was at the right place and the gentleman in the white shirt that you can just barely see asked me, “Hotel?” and when I said yes, he pointed upwards.


The entrance was rather off-putting! When I came in tonight, it was pitch dark and I had to use my iPhone flashlight!


At the end of the corridor, you turn right to get to these stairs:


And then, you follow the instructions on the steps. They amused me! Read the steps from the bottom of the photos up.



So the top step in this photo says, “Keep…”


And that continues with, “Walking. You are are awesome.” LOL






After three flights, I finally got the first sign telling me that I was, indeed at the right place!


There was a fresh paint job here.


This is what greeted me at the top of the building (fourth floor). Reception area ahead of me, bathrooms to the left, my room (I would soon learn) to the right.


Kitchen to the right of the entrance (behind my room). I really appreciate the cold water!


Ladies Italian-style shower room. I was surprised that the vanity and toilet barely get wet after a shower. The hostel provided shower shoes! I had my own, but I do use them outside, so theirs are preferable since the bottoms aren’t dirty.


My room is marked staff…


It is tiny.


But satisfactorily appointed for my needs. I like the big wardrobe.


The door makes me think of the floors in the new part of C&C’s house!


View from my dormer:


There was a good breeze coming from the window and a fan so the room was not as hot as one would expect.



I wanted to go exploring, but was shocked by how inappropriately dressed I was for the weather — in a tee-shirt and long skirt! My clothes felt so heavy and sticky and I wished I had a light sundress. And then, I remembered I had one! I’d packed my Chrysalis cardi in case of cool weather. It was time to try it out in dress mode! Yes, ladies, I will do a proper post about this item. I’m getting close to being ready for that. 🙂 This is the cardi styled as a “Grecian tunic.”



Can you hear my sigh of relief at getting into something so light and breezy?! It looks pretty cute with my Ipanemas, too!

It was almost four at this point. I scrapped my plans for a late lunch and decided to have an early dinner, then get a snack after my walking tour.

The hostel is right off the main street. Here I am at one end of that near the Roman stadium (not to be confused with the Roman theatre). I will have more details and pictures when I do my post on the walking tour.


The largest mosque in Plovdiv. Can you tell what is so odd about it? If so, can you explain why that is? The palm trees are NOT native to Bulgaria. 🙂


I passed three thermometres that put the temperature at 46C. 115. OMG.


Tunnel under the Roman theatre…


Neat house at the top of the hill (I’ll have a better shot of it in my next post!).


Right outside my hostel… I am going to check it out. 😀

One really annoying thing about the drive to Plovdiv was that every few kilometres, there was a giant billboard announcing the “Happy Grill” restaurant chain’s sushi menu! We passed at least six! So you can imagine what I wanted for my late lunch! There are tons of Happy Grills all over Bulgaria, so I wasn’t surprised when I found one two blocks from my hostel. I got prompt and excellent service in English and asked for a big beer! The sushi menu was interesting (I particularly liked the idea of the Mexican roll featuring cheddar), but promising. I ordered two rolls (one with mango and shrimp, the other more traditional with just raw fish (tuna, salmon, sea bass), seaweed, and rice) for a total of eight pieces and they were really good! Add in the ginger and the soy sauce and this was better sushi than I’ve had in Mexico. I would not hesitate to eat sushi at another Happy Grill. But it wasn’t quite enough and I debated whether to order another roll or dessert. The suggestion that I try the Oreo cheesecake did me in. So I had that with an espresso. 🙂

I went back to the hostel to change into my walking sandals and to double check the start point for the walking tour, which was just past the Happy Grill restaurant. I got there around 5:45, with the tour starting at 6:00.

This is Button Plaza (you’ll learn why tomorrow) and is a very popular meeting place for locals.


Behind it is the municipality building (town hall).


As I waited for our guide, I spotted Atlas on a rooftop.


That’s it for tonight. It’s crazy late!

I Might Actually Get Out of Here!

My clients aren’t used to me taking much time off during the summer and have been keeping me busy! But I’m determined to leave tomorrow for six whole days! Max is driving me to Yablanitsa tomorrow so I can grab a bus around 11:00 to Sofia and from there, I’ll grab a bus to Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city and the one I wanted to see most of all! I’ll be in Plovdiv till Saturday morning.

Things get a little murky there as I’m still trying to sort out a car rental. I have much better selection and prices in Plovdiv, so I’m hoping to pick up a car there Saturday morning and head for the coast, to spend two full days there and return home on Tuesday sometime (remember, Bulgaria is small, so I will get to see things in between my start and end points!).

Then, I’m hoping to have the car for a few days at home to run errands and see things locally. If I get the car for a week, I will have to return it Friday in Plovdiv, more than two hours away by car, and more than four hours away by bus. So what I thought was to take “back roads” to Plovdiv, drop the car, and head to Sofia on the bus for the night to come home on the bus on Saturday.

I really can’t officially take time off for this trip as I may lose one of my contracts if I do, so my computer and foot pedal are coming with me and I’m ready to do an hour or two of work per day if I need to. So it’s not going to be a vacation-vacation, but it will be a welcome change of pace!

The car rental thing is tricky because the big name rental places are fully two to three times the price of smaller local companies and that will make the difference between renting for three days and renting for seven. My worst case scenario is taking the train to the coast and using buses to get around there, coming back to Sofia, and renting a car to have for a few days to explore around Yablanitsa.

Now, to get through the rest of today’s work. But…

Have You Ever Considered How Freaking Amazing the Global Postal System Is?

Yesterday, a neighbour came by to drop off a letter my best friend had mailed me from Virginia just ten days before (and this after the postcard I sent her took almost a month!).

It wasn’t until I went to Mexico, with its so unreliable as to be useless postal system, that I began to realise just how freaking amazing the global postal system is. It’s an incredible model of international cooperation! How is it that someone could have dropped something off at the post office in Latvia and it’s in my mailbox in Saskatchewan just a week later? Never mind stuff that comes from China!

Sure, mail gets lost or stolen sometimes. Some shipping prices are unreasonable. Sometimes things take forever to go just a few kilometres, never mind around the world. But the amount of times mail just works is staggering. When SaskTel gave me my iPhone, I sold my iPod Touch on eBay. The buyer wanted the cheapest possible way to get it to him in New York state with no insurance or tracking. I wrapped it up in a bubble envelope and had to clearly mark the contents for customs. Anyone between SK and NY could have pocketed the iPod with no one the wiser, but it got there.

I was ridiculously excited to get mail yesterday, almost as excited that the post card I’d sent had arrived. There’s just something about receiving an item that was touched by a loved one half a world away to make you feel infinitely more connected than you ever could by just email.

One of the best parts of getting mail from Bast is the stickers she puts on the envelopes. This one on the reverse, one of three to make sure the flap was well sealed, made me burst out laughing:

Photo on 8-13-16 at 12.10 PM

Zipping into Town

My current work project ends Monday and Max is going to be here for two weeks, so I’m “free” as of Tuesday to go exploring! So I wanted to go to town today to buy just enough groceries to get me through the weekend.

Unfortunately, I was up later this morning than I would have liked, but I finally left at 9:15, hoping I’d get lifts because I really had to get to work not too late!

Well, about halfway to the main road, I got picked up by a man who had picked me up a few weeks ago. He dropped me off at the start of the market at about 9:40. I did a walk through and was rather disappointed by the slim pickings today, especially the tomatoes. Most were of the cooking variety, with few big juicy ones to slice into sandwiches and those that were there were obviously a bit old. I guess the season for the “good” tomatoes has passed? I did find a few that would do me for the weekend and I did much better on the onions than I did last week. The only new fruit was grapes, but I really didn’t think I’d get those home unsmooshed!

Done with the market part of the day, I picked up a “kufte” (кюфте). This is what I got that first time that I thought was kebapche. But when I ordered kebapche last week, I got more of a hot dog type thing that, while yummy, wasn’t quite as flavourful. Kufte is shaped like a patty (so think kufte=”hamburger” and kebapche=”hot dog”) and has onions and more cumin in it. The lady held up an enormous piece of a bread and a small one. I asked for the latter and that gave me a much better meat/bread ratio than I had the last two weeks. Next week, I’m ramping up my game and will ask for cabbage and pepper sauce on it. Just need to practice saying “lutenitsa” (лютеница)! 🙂

I then popped into the supermarket for some sandwich stuff, bread, and sausage to cook up with a tiny cabbage I’d picked up at the market. There really isn’t much in that little store! When I have a car sometime in the next two weeks, I’m going to do another run to Kaufland. Since today was actually not that hot (it was positively cool this morning after it rained all night), I picked up a small package of frozen ground pork and a bag of mixed frozen veg (amusingly, their “Mexican” mix, with green beans, red peppers, carrot, and peas). I’ve found it hard to get green veggies here (I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen a broccoli, not even in Sofia!), so I’ll be glad to have that for variety. I couldn’t believe I came out of there for only 12BGN (9CAD).

The other food store has better produce and variety than does the supermarket, so I decided to pop in to see if they might have decent looking grapefruit. I finished the night before last the ones I’d bought at Kaufland and couldn’t get over what a treat they were! Well, the little food store had some and they looked really good! Grapefruit here is the same price as in Canada; like at Kaufland, I paid 1CAD each. These are the ruby red ones, not white, so that price seems fair to me. No point comparing with Mexico since this is an imported fruit here!

I headed out of town and had no sooner crested the big hill that the man who had given me a lift in pulled up behind me and gave me a “Well, you might as well get in!” look. He was loaded down with a lot of stuff and I wish I could have had the words to ask where he picked up his big bag of oranges! He lives here in the village and knows Max, so he was going to drive me all the way up to the house, but I told him that the guesthouse was fine because it’s hard to turn around up here (Max actually reverses down to the main street!). I thanked him profusely, of course.

By 11:00, the dogs had been petted, the groceries put away, and the coffee was perking. I wasn’t even gone two hours!

Now work. Then, I can have fun planning my next two weeks!

Heat and Sun and Humidity Like I’ve Only Seen in Mexico!

Holy smokes, today was hot and sticky with an relentless sun! I’m lucky the house stays cool and that there is a good breeze through the windows.

I powered through work and a volunteer project before taking the dogs out this afternoon. They were really eager to go, but not even halfway down our normal afternoon route, they flopped down and gave me a, “You know, we’re good, thanks. Can we go home?!” kind of look. I brought them home, gave them their treats, and they had a half of a huge bowl of water each!

As for me, I faced a dilemma. My only option for dinner was yet more pasta. A) I’m sick of pasta and B) it’s too dang hot to cook! I could have had a PB and J, but that would have used up the bread I wanted to save for tomorrow. Would it be worth facing The Hill in order to see if the village store had bread and salami? What cinched it for me is that I knew they’d have beer and ice cream. 😀

I lugged all my beer empties with me and the look the storeowner gave me when she saw them was comical. She must think I’m a real lush! With a bit of pantomime, she made me understand that some of my bottles cannot be recycled and should be thrown out.

The meat and dairy cooler was full, thankfully, and so I found a salami that I hope will be good (haven’t had a bad one yet!). I also found a chocolate ice cream cone, they were full up of my favourite beer, AND they had a loaf of fresh bread. That was my best trip there yet!

One the way up, the sweet old lady at the end of my street came out to say hi. We had an honest to goodness conversation!

Her: Hello!
Me: Hello! How are you?
Her (taken aback that I’ve learned “How are you?”): Very good! How are you?
Me: Very good, thank you!
(She then said something and pointed to my bag. I took that as her asking where I’d been.)
Me: Store.
Her: Ah, store! Bread?
Me: And salami and beer and ice cream.
Her (laughing): Good, good!
Me: Goodbye!
Her: Goodbye!

I know how little progress that is for about six weeks in the country, but it’s not like I’ve really been in an immersion setting or interacting with Bulgarians daily. Sad, I know, but it’s what I expected and it’s not like I’m likely to use Bulgarian again. So, really, I’m pleased that I’ve made any progress at all!

It’s nice to be done early (very early today, in fact) two days in a row! It’ll be an evening for a couple of movies because it’s too hot to move!