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A day in the life

August 19, 2012 | Bulgaria, Romania, Travel | 20 Comments
Walking Dave

It’s 7:59am.

All is quiet in a darkened room in Bucharest.  Blankets lie discarded on the floor.  The room was hot again last night, and sleep was hard to come by.

The phone alarm blasts into life, jolting me awake.  Walls are so thin here that I doubt anybody in the hostel slept through it.  Fumbling for the source, I flail at it until the noise stops.

That technique probably isn’t in the manual.

Groaning out of bed, I stumble towards the shower.  It’s down to a fine art now.  Bathroom.  Shower.  Pack.  Leave.  45 minutes on a good day.

Today is indeed a good day.  There is still time to walk past the kitchen on the way out, wolfing down toast, boiled eggs and the half-cup of coffee still left in the machine.  Thank the lord for an included breakfast.

~~~~~

It’s not yet 9:00, but the mercury is already rising fast.  I need to walk less than a mile to my destination, and I’m pleased it’s no further.  If it is actually the right place, of course – there were no details online, so I’m relying on a friend’s instructions.  “Outside the Hotel Horoscop”, he said.

There’s only one bus a day from here to Bulgaria, apparently at 10:30.  If I miss it – or it doesn’t exist – I’ll be traipsing back across town to the train station.  Unsurprisingly, there’s only one train per day as well.  Let’s just hope there’s no need to catch it.

I arrive at the hotel.  There is a cafe and a flower vendor, a foreign exchange office and a magazine kiosk.  Everything you could hope for.  Except, of course, a bus stop.

“Autobus to Ruse?”, I ask hopefully.  Nobody really speaks English, but with hand gestures and apologetic smiles, I get a series of almost-consistent answers.  The elderly woman surrounded by magazines climbs out of her kiosk to point energetically at the parking lot in the middle of the street.  The flower seller on the other side of the road waves vaguely in that direction too.  The waiter at the cafe suggests the bus leaves from the nearby Metro station, but getting the thing up and down the escalators seems like a feat of physics beyond even Romanian buses.

I’m thinking he may not have understood the question.

A wild-haired guy with a backpack wanders past, looking equally lost.  Safety in numbers time.  “Are you going to Ruse today?”.  “I’m hoping to”, comes the accented reply.

Join the club, man.  Join the club.

Twenty minutes later, I’m happy to have spoken to him.  He’s standing in the carpark beside what looks like a small van, waving frantically at me.  Right.  He has found the “bus” – it’s just someone’s personal vehicle, and there aren’t many seats left.

“Ruse?”

“Da.”

And just like that, I’m off to a new country.

~~~~~

I jam my card into the ATM slot.  How long will I be in Bulgaria?  How much money might I need?  What on earth is the exchange rate?

Money Dave

For a change there is actually a cash machine at the bus terminal, but I’m being rushed onward by the van driver.  Picking a random number, I hit the button.  What the hell, at least I’ll be able to buy my ticket.

The change of country means a change of language and alphabet.  While I couldn’t speak Romanian, at least I could read the signs.  No such luck here, unfortunately – for some reason Cyrillic wasn’t part of the New Zealand school syllabus.

Bundled into a different van, I hand over a colourful bank note and settle into my seat.  Are we going to Veliko Tarnovo, I wonder?  I think it’s a two hour trip, so I figure I’ll know by mid-afternoon either way.

Certainty isn’t my strong suit today.

~~~~~

The town isn’t huge, but we have already stopped half a dozen times to let people off.  Where should I jump out?  No idea.  Wait and see, I guess.

Just as the road signs start to suggest I will end up in Sofia if I don’t get out of this minivan, we pull into a dusty station.  “Tarnovo?”.  “Tarnovo.”

With an address written only in the Latin alphabet, I don’t like my chances of telling the taxi driver where to go.  I like the thought of walking two miles in the sweltering heat with my backpack on even less, mind you, so it’s time to play the Accent Game.

Phone Dave

“Shenovo Street.”

Puzzled look.

“She-novo Street.”

Nada.

“Shen-ovo Street.”

No dice.

I peer at my map.

“Um … Hotel Silvestar?”

And we’re off.

~~~~~

Finally checked into the hostel, a few metres from the infamous Silvestar, it’s time for a mid-afternoon lunch.  Walking towards the nearest place selling cold beer, I’m accosted by a large, hairy local guy.

“Where are you from?”  Finally, a question I can answer.

“New Zealand.”

“Ahhh, New Zealand.  Nice place.  I used to work with two people from Ashburton.”

“What did you just say?!”

Ashburton is the small town I grew up in.  The population is less then 20,000, and many people in New Zealand haven’t heard of it.  For some random dude in Bulgaria to just drop it into conversation is, well, a little unexpected…

~~~~~

Dog Dave

It has been a tiring travel day, and I drift off to sleep as dogs bark in the distance.  A new bed, a new town, a new country, but those strays seem to have followed me all the way from Romania.

Tomorrow, I will explore.

And the next day?

Why, I’ll probably do some variation on this all again.

Because, apparently, this is my life…

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20 Comments

  1. Reply

    Theodora

    August 19, 2012

    Beautifully written. This sums up all the reasons why a) I'm behind on blogging and b) I'm not travelling fast for a while...

    • Reply

      Dave

      August 21, 2012

      Yup, there's a good reason why I'm booked for a week in Istanbul, and am already looking at extending.....

  2. Reply

    Gerard ~ GQ trippin

    August 19, 2012

    I wish I had a ghost photographer following me around to capture the perfect candid moments that would fit a blog post too. :)

    • Reply

      Dave

      August 21, 2012

      Hahaha. Well, you do! It's funny that I was able to find photos to illustrate this post so well - even if they do come from several different places and times!

  3. Reply

    Amanda

    August 20, 2012

    Such a good read, as usual!

    I think you made a good decision, taking the "bus" from Bucharest to Veliko Tarnovo. I took the train, and it was a pretty miserable ride!

    • Reply

      Dave

      August 21, 2012

      I'm surprisingly happy to hear that about the train in a way ... it was a toss-up as to which one to take, but the bus left earlier and took less time, so we went with it. Plus I believe that train comes all the way from Moscow, so it runs on time approximately never...

  4. Reply

    jan

    August 20, 2012

    I love this Dave. Even though I like to stay in each place for at least a week, the way you have written this makes me want to throw on my pack and do exactly as you have described.

    • Reply

      Dave

      August 21, 2012

      Thanks Jan! After moving every few days for most of the last three months, I've *finally* managed to slow things down a bit now I've got to Turkey. Burnout was approaching fast!

  5. Reply

    Lauren

    August 20, 2012

    I love your day in the life posts! What happened to all the trains you were gonna take, though? (Although I can't say I enjoy taking trains in this region very often...)

    • Reply

      Dave

      August 20, 2012

      I took them for about 5 weeks... still loads to write about, I just skipped forward briefly to write this. :-)

  6. Reply

    Chrystal McKay

    August 20, 2012

    It is funny - because this is how it actually goes most of the time. No wild adventures 24/7, but a constant fun struggle to move from place to place. Very nicely written!

    • Reply

      Dave

      August 21, 2012

      Thanks Chrystal!

  7. Reply

    Nigel D

    August 20, 2012

    Very good post. Maybe it is time for everyone to learn sign language.
    I burst out laughing when I read the part about 2 people from Ashburton. We seem to be everywhere - that has happened to me several times in far flung parts of the world!

    • Reply

      Dave

      August 21, 2012

      Yeah tell me about it ... it was a very bizzare thirty seconds, that's for sure.

  8. Reply

    Matt

    August 21, 2012

    Miss this life.

    Also, I didn't know you were from Ashburton. I'm sorry, I guess someone has to be. :)

    • Reply

      Dave

      August 21, 2012

      There's a reason I don't usually bring it up, you know... ;-)

  9. Reply

    Kate - Canuckiwikate

    August 21, 2012

    Brilliant!

    I love that the 2 degrees of separation within NZ has gone to a world wide level!

    • Reply

      Dave

      August 21, 2012

      Hehehe. Yup, it really has!

  10. Reply

    Sarah

    October 9, 2012

    Dave ... You are an incredible writer!! I absolutely LOVE reading your blogs - better than any book out there !! Thank you for sharing, inspiring and keeping me entertained !! Hugs to you and Lauren !! Xxx :)

  11. Reply

    Serena Star Leonard

    August 6, 2013

    I can so relate to this life, only luckily every country here speaks Spanish - I know this level of relatedness will drop once we head to countries that don't speak English or Spanish, not worse, but less connected-ness for sure!


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