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Monday, April 28, 2014

VARNA TO PLOVDIV BULGARIA

VARNA, BULGARIA

Flag Hostel could have been somewhere I stayed for quite some time but - as often happens - the people running it caused me to move on.

Anyone who knows me well can tell you "If you want Logan to leave the room, turn on the TV."  Double that with 'foreign TV' and 'awful dubbed shit'.  Naturally, the guy running the hostel was interested in watching a good deal of TV in the tiny common area.  The only area with a table for the computer.

I'd checked out "Yo Ho Ho Hostel" which Adam had mentioned.  They're a party hostel with a chummy hostel vibe.  Nearly full compared with the nearly empty of Flag Hostel.  Noisier as well - people who believe music should always be on.

I prefer silence.  And headphones.

Varna itself was 'nice'.  Not thrilling, but nice.  Really nothing all that interesting aside from the amazing Alba Restaurant.  One restaurant isn't really enough to make me stay.  There are also various day trips one can make from there but it really wasn't of interest to me.  I just wasn't 'feeling it'.

So I left my keys and lock on my pillow and ninja'ed out early in the morning to catch a morning train...

Because train station restrooms are such a joy, I availed myself.  Four of the six cubicals were blocked off because cleaning is hard - despite they charge you for using them.  The remaining two had been frequently fouled by their inaccurate loathsome clientele.  Used my bags to barricade myself into the squat toilet as the door locks had long ago been destroyed.  The six squares of toilet paper they give you are never enough, be sure to pack your own.

To celebrate not getting a fatal disease from the bio-hazard bathroom, had a couple espressos and smoked some cigarettes then escaped by train.  I am a leaf on the wind!



ARRIVAL IN PLOVDIV

Even if you knew where to go, it's too far to walk from the train station to the old town.  The good news is it's only 3.50 lev by taxi.  Because the guy was chatty and nice, I just gave him five.

The first place I checked out was "Hiker's Hostel".  This was a dirty, nasty "What the hell" place for seven euros.  "Would you like it?"   Er, gosh, I might be back later.  Or slit my wrists and die in a fire.  The next place I checked out was a huge marble building for nine euros a night.  Gosh.  Much better.  And I have a dorm room to myself.  Yeah.  I can live with this.  Glad I walked the extra ten meters to 'Plovdiv Guesthouse'.  The downside is the owners were pretty nitpicky in their pricing.  An extra euro for this, an extra euro for that.  Silly.

Did a little exploration of the town - it seems interesting.  More scrutiny tomorrow.



MAKING RAKIA

In England obtaining things from a 'fellow you met down at the pub' is a normal way of doing business.  Especially for Hagrid.
It's where I obtain information.  When talking to a couple guys in a Varna bar (Bulgaria), they told me about home made rakia.  It's a big deal here.  You can make up to 10-12 liters per year for 'personal use'.  After that, a heavy tax of a euro or two is charged per liter.  This is an old law that's been enforced for quite awhile.  As a result, many secret stills and hidden brewing lairs are set up by 'hicks' around the country.  People will have their drink!



FOOD IN BULGARIA

Thus far, my ranking of restaurant food for three of the countries in Eastern Europe:

Bulgaria - I've only had great food here and look forward to eating more.
Republic of Georgia - Good, but the selection is limited.
Ukraine - McDonald's tastes better and is cheaper.



LANGUAGES

I often marvel at how many languages I go through in one day.  This is not to say "Oh, I am cool, I can speak lots of languages."  Anyone who has heard me speak various languages knows that my vocabulary is severely limited.  Mostly this is a combination of such a bad memory things leave after a couple minutes and laziness.  I've never sat down and studied any language other than German.

Even with an extremely slipshod 'learn as you go' program you can still pick up a lot of stuff - and it is all useful.

If I actually spoke a few languages fluently, I'd probably not even think it worth mentioning that I was talking to someone in Russian, etc.



RUSSIAN TERRORISTS

Bulgarian's attitude toward Russians.

Unlike in Ukraine where it could be kindly summarized as 'mixed feelings', here it seems to be neutral or against.

At a corner store, I made the mistake of speaking in Russian and was told, "я не хочу россиянам".  ('Yanie ha choo Ruscianam', aka 'I don't want Russians').  Since it rhymes, I countered with 'yanie ha choo Pikachu!'

Fortunately they knew who Pikachu was, thought it was hilarious and I was forgiven for speaking in the language of what they called 'terrorists'.

Does this mean all languages from this part of the world sound the same to Logan?  Yes.  Hence, I'm going to stick with English and German.  So far, about 60% of my conversations have been in English, 40% in German and 5% in Russian.  Note, this study has a 5% margin of error.

German just keeps on being useful.  Unless I speak to Germans who all speak flawless English.  Also, unlike foreigners who have learned German, natives tend to say "Ah, you speak decent German, not a bad accent - you must be totally fluent.  Into the deep end with you!"  Where I drown.  Not with other foreigners.  There is no deep end!   Much easier.



LOGAN'S TRAVEL MENTOR
Folks, the normally camera shy (he's a private person) Adam allowed me to get a couple photos for posting on Facebook with him. In addition to showcasing my extraordinarily large Ukrainian given (well, OK, self inflicted) gut they are the only photos of Adam. He channels the Evil Cat many of you have come to know. This guy has had several extremely interesting careers. I won't mention them because he is a private person. I will say they are outside the 'norm' enough that they would make an interesting book. He's been traveling seasonally for close to three decades, has a couple of masters degrees, is contemplating a doctorate and a teaching position. He's been approached by various newspapers who wanted deep background on different shit - which he doesn't like to give them. Possibly because he knows they're just looking for a sound bite. Yes, he is wearing a 'Blackwater' tshirt. Why no, we won't go in to how he got it but I will say he didn't have to pay for it. This guy has been my travel mentor for about three years and knows a lot of shit. I appreciate learning from him, making his life hell and occasionally breaking his toilet seats. Shitting all over and destroying your property is how Logan shows affection.



KEEP YOUR SHIT TIGHT
Beyond this you are inconveniencing other guests, making the hostel look messy etc. When people see your stuff like this, you get a 'neutral' mark. Nobody will ever say "Hey - thanks for keeping your gear tight". They will think dark thoughts about you if it is 'looser' than this. Because I keep my gear tight it doesn't count against me like so many other things I do and say.  One of the things I learned from Adam I'd have never thought of on my own.

If someone says "But I didn't sign up for the military!"  If you did you'd be cleaning.  And doing push ups.  Communal living means respect.  If even a couple people get sloppy with their gear, the room goes to hell quick.

You should be able to access everything in the dark.  Only the biggest dickheads turn on the light "just for a second" to get stuff.  If you have to use a flashlight that's OK but a pro knows where all of their stuff is by touch.



VIDEOS

Train in Bulgaria



COSTS

Train Varna to Plovdiv, first class 26 lev
Espressos at train station, 1-2 lev
Cigarettes, 5 lev/pack

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PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia | Michigan | Illinois | Colorado |

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