Last Market Day in Yablanitsa

I had a tight deadline today, but also a full weekend of work ahead of me, so I decided I was best off going to Yablanitsa today, for a final trip to the market, since I’d have a better chance of getting lifts.

I had just passed the village limits when I heard a vehicle come up behind me and honk. I thought it was my chauffeur because of the van type, but no. It was a couple in a similar vehicle, which is a two seater… Let’s just say I’m glad I don’t carry my excess weight in my hips because the three of us just barely squeezed in!

They dropped me off just within the town limits, so I had a short stroll to the market. I hoped to pick up another pair of capris, but the lady wasn’t there today, the only time this has happened in all my visits to the market. Am I glad I at least got the pair I had on!

Produce was pretty usual today, but I did see some folks had cauliflower. I found a vendor who had nice tomatoes, but he was the kind who doesn’t let you pick out your own. “Kolko?” he asked me. It literally means “how,” but I’ve heard it used for “how many?” and “how much?” I said four, then amended it to five. I was very happy with the ones he picked out! I also got onions and carrots from him. I got potatoes and zucchini from another vendor who looked at me like I was a moron when I thought he told me my total was 1.20, I handed him as much, and asked if that was okay. He shook his head (which is a nod in Bulgaria) and again repeated what I thought was 1.20 before moving on to the next customer. So I’m guessing I heard right!

I was happy to do my final shop at the supermarket since I am really tired of buying and eating the same foods from there every week! I had a bit of a stumble when they were out of the two different jam brands they normally carry and the brand they had not only didn’t have clear pictures, but the writing was in lower case, which I haven’t mastered yet, and in a super fancy font. I was looking for strawberry, “yagodi,” which looks like this in “normal” Cyrillic: яагоди. Look at what the label has instead!


If I squint, I can see the Ya letter (“backwards R”) and the o is, of course, clear. But the hard g is sort of like a backwards s, the d looks like a g, and the i looks like a u! I think they just want to confuse the tourists!

My shopping was particularly heavy today so I was glad I’d come on market day since, surely, I’d get a lift home. So certain of this was I that I didn’t pace myself heading up the hill out of town to the junction where I usually get lifts. Hmm. No cars today. Okay, maybe by the underpass. Nope… I got all the way to the village turnoff, with 2KM left to go, and thought surely I’d get a lift at this point. I even properly stuck out my thumb a few times, to no avail. By the time I limped into Malak Izvor, I was pretty annoyed with myself for having started off so fast since I had barely enough energy to get up the hill to home!

But I made it! I put my shopping away, then pulled out a tin of sardines I’d bought for the pets as a treat. Normally, Mechka and Penghu each go for a bowl and Sausage gets the tin. But today, Sausage went for a bowl. I put the tin down for Mechka and was very amused when she picked it up and carried it over to the far side of the yard to enjoy her treat in peace!

This was my last trip into Yablanitsa. If I need anything in the next week, I can get it at the village shop. I thought I was leaving next Friday, but it’s actually going to be Thursday (it was always going to be the 22nd, I just messed up the day of the week) and I have to be out of Bulgaria on Saturday. So this time next week, I could very well be in Serbia!

12 kilomètres à pied, ça use, ça use…

I really burned the midnight oil with work this past week, so when it was 10AM yesterday by the time I was up, had walked the dogs, and breakfasted, it really was too late to go to the market in Yablanitsa, never mind that I had another really full day of work ahead of me. I decided to postpone my trip to today, even if I knew I would very likely not get a lift.

I would have actually preferred to do a day trip to Sofia today, but I had an 11AM Skype interview about a possible house sit, so that changed my plans. I did the interview and then left for town around 11:45.

It was a pleasant walk, surprisingly hot, but increasingly overcast and with an odd breeze. I didn’t mind walking all the way in.


Coming into Yablanitsa.

I thought I was finally ready to try the “snack bar,” if only for a coffee, but there was a “ne raboti” sign out front, which I’ve come to understand means the business is closed. Dang!

Instead, I went to a cart place that’s set up across from the plaza, where I knew I could get a kebapche. It’s really not what I was in the mood for, but it was cheap and good, although I didn’t finish all the bread. This was my first time eating at the cart!

It was only then that I realised that a lot of businesses were closed. Crap! Had I ever come into town for groceries on a Saturday? Thankfully, the supermarket was open! I got what I needed, remembering coffee at the last minute, and was still insufferably pleased with myself that I can say, “I would like a big butter, please,” in Bulgarian. Of course, I treated myself to an orange-chocolate ice cream cone for part of my walk back!

One phrase I really should have learned earlier in my stay here is “I understand.” The lady at the cash spent way too much time trying to mime that I needed to pay a deposit for the beer bottles and that she was adding it manually to my total, despite my saying, “Yes, okay, very good, not a problem,” repeatedly. I appreciated her efforts!

I hoped to get the taxi home, but he wasn’t at the town plaza and when I called, he said it would be an hour wait! I could get home in an hour and it’s not like there’s anything to do in Yablanitsa to fill the time! So I declined and headed off on foot. Traffic was light, so I didn’t get a lift.

However, I ran into a man putting wood in his car about 1KM from home who chatted with me in English (!) for a bit and then said if I could wait a bit, he’d take me the rest of the way. At that point, I just wanted to be home, so I politely declined. It started to sprinkle rain as I left him.

The dogs still got their walk this afternoon, of course, but now I’m officially beat! I don’t have any work for tomorrow, so I think I will have breakfast before heading out on a much longer hike with them. I probably won’t have any work for Monday either (because it will still be Sunday for my clients), so I may do a run to Sofia then. I just want to make sure museums are open on Mondays.

Hard to believe I should coming into Belgrade about this time in two weeks. WHERE has the summer gone?!


I headed to town pretty early today to get bread and tomatoes. The man who has picked me up a few times pulled over just as I got to the village square so I got a quick ride into town. Yay!

He’s very chatty and not daunted by the fact that I barely understand anything he says. He started to go on about Teteven and since he said bazaar and Saturday, I figured he was asking me if I’d been to the market there (sadly, no). To show that I was getting the gist of this part of our conversation, I said, “Big bazaar Teteven,” and he rolled his eyes and said, “Very big! The Yablanitsa bazaar is very small!”

And that’s as far as we got even though he kept talking!

We got to town and he pulled over at his usual spot, then said what I understood to be, “Be here at 9:30 and I’ll take you back to Malak Izvor.” I thanked him and made a note that I had 45 minutes to test my understanding of what he’d said.

First stop was the trouser lady. Unfortunately, my capris will not survive my Bulgarian summer. I bought them at the last minute because I knew I’d be hiking a lot here and so they have practically been my uniform. There are stained and also discoloured from my having had to type on my lap all summer. I don’t feel comfortable wearing them in “public,” ie. any further than the village shop.

I immediately spotted exactly what I wanted: black, rayon-type material that looks and feels luxurious and washes well, suitable for a night out or slouching about, and capri length. The lady came over and took the ones I was examining out of my hand and said, “Too big!” She pulled out another pair and showed me that they would fit perfectly even though they were marked XXXL. Wow, I’ve never worn more than XL in my life (and currently wear medium), but she was right!

I asked her how much, bracing myself and happy I had tons of cash. Well, while I understood her answer, I couldn’t believe it. Ten?! She held up ten fingers to confirm I was hearing correctly. 10BGN! 7.60CAD or 5.80USD! WOW!!!

This photo really does not do them justice. I need a cute top to wear with them!


I got my tomatoes after and then headed to the supermarket. Yablanitsa is a normal Bulgarian town and pretty ugly, but sometimes it surprises me:


I didn’t need much at the supermarket, but I did pick up a tin of sardines for my love bugs. I can’t believe we only have another three weeks together! 🙁 I also got a chocolate orange ice cream cone. 🙂

It was almost 9:30 by the time I had finished my ice cream and returned to the market. I didn’t see my chauffeur, so I perused the wares again, really wanting some green grapes. Finally, I decided that I was very likely getting a lift home and so the grapes would survive the trip. So I found the vendor who had the freshest looking ones and handed him a bunch. He weighed them and quoted me the price, which was either $1.30 or $1.13, with the former being much more likely. I handed him a 2BGN note and then said, “Um, three…?” passing over the 30 stotinki I’d conveniently gotten as change at the supermarket. The merchant grinned and said, “Very good, thank you!” passing me a 1BGN coin as change.

Bulgarians love you when you have exact change or are able to make change a whole number. Rae’s Bulgaria travel tip of the day!

I promptly sampled my purchase. YUM.

I got back to the drop off point at exactly 9:30 and guess who pulled up? Yep, Mr. Chauffeur! I had understood him! Wow!

However, I didn’t understand a word he said on the drive home. *wry grin*

He dropped me off at the guesthouse and then I schlepped up the hill to put away my groceries and give my charges their late breakfast.

Mechka and Penghu are greedy pigs, so I always leave some in the tin for Sausage and this way I know everyone gets his or her share! They were very happy with their treat!


I have to share something Penghu did last night because never in my life has a cat made me laugh so hard before!

Night before last, I gave Mechka and Sausage a treat and then Penghu ran in the house meowing at the injustice of it all. I had a nearly empty sour cream container ready for him, so he was happy! I don’t know if that was a trigger, but he was incredibly affectionate and cuddly all evening and that followed into yesterday. His favourite spot is to lie across my neck and burrow in, which is great because it means I can keep working as he snuggles.

Around ten last night, I gently pried him off me and took him outside because I don’t want him in the house at night or when I’m not there (I don’t trust him in the kitchen). He immediately ran back into the house. I went into the kitchen and bedroom, but he wasn’t there and I figured he was just messing with me and had sneaked back out. So I closed up and headed to the shower.

The shower is huge and it takes a moment for the hot water to come, so I step in, turn it on, then step back out to put together my sleep wear and lay out the towel I use as a bath mat. So I started on that last night, got the water on, turned around, and… found a very sheepish looking Penghu huddled in the corner of the shower (away from the shower spray)! The look on his face was almost as priceless as what my shriek of surprise must have been! I would take bets that he is extremely intelligent and his reasoning was that since he’s never seen me in the shower, I must not go in there and therefore it would be the perfect hiding spot. Ha ha ha. I brought him outside again and he again tried to come in, but I managed to get the door shut before he could.

I really hadn’t expected to bond so hard with my charges and I am spoiled for life when it comes to dogs. But I’m grateful that we’ve had such a lovely time together.

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!

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!