Jeff and Kerry's Vacation in Greece

-or-

Greece in a Large Nutshell

IT BEGINS

9pm, our travels begin! Leaving Sofia, our destination Athens with our "Let's go" book in hand. 12 hour bus trip, this should be fun, well I'll be able to get some reading.... **%$ the lights don't work, figures. Well at least we will have plenty of time to sleep. **%$ it is hot in here! Can't sleep. A Bulgarian man felt the same way, and approached the driver, "Hey, this was to be an air conditioned non smoking bus" Well, at least the AC got turned on, this is Bulgaria, nothing is non smoking! Midnight we awake with the border in sight!! But wait what is going on? The bus pulls off the road, the driver shuts down and turns off all lights, and leaves! A car appears out of the darkness and he enters. Off the driver goes into the night towards the border. Non of us know what is going on, I have my theories though.

10 minutes pass; the driver reappears and enters the bus. In silence with the lights off, he turns the bus around and begins to drive. One turn, then another, he turns again; finally he finds what he is looking for. We end up at a dark and deserted train station. As we sit there the questions begin to fly, no response. A van pulls up and people begin unloading the luggage from below. What are they taking, is ours there as well? We disembark to find all the luggage has been removed. No questions are being answered, only orders given. "Get all you things from the bus!" We proceed as ordered. Standing there in the darkness with the rest of the passengers, the bus pulls away!

There we are, our luggage gone in a mysterious van, the bus gone, what next? A car pulls up; they load it with passengers and drive off. About 10 carloads later Kerry and I follow suit. We are brought to the border where our baggage is waiting, unattended. We walk though the Bulgarian side of the customs, like lost puppies we follow the other passengers with our baggage down the dark road to the Greece customs building. It turned out to be about 2 km. Along the way we find many people struggling with their luggage. Like a good volunteers we offer to help. My shoulders regretted this move for 2 days. Loaded with my backpack and two large and incredibly heavy bags I begin the slow walk to the Greece checkpoint, relief came when Kerry's carrying party required breaks. We make it!

We clear customs with no problems, still clue less. We find the other passengers of the bus and proceed to wait another 2 hours in the crisp night air for a bus. We come to learn, in this case at least, the busses do not cross borders, in theory there is suppose to be another bus waiting for you at the border. To avoid paying some tax, the driver is obviously given money for, he arranged to have us shuttled by car to the border. Can you imagine how much this tax must be? Let us count- at least 2 custom officials, the driver, and 3 other people all a part in this scam.

So, about 3:30 am, well rested we finally board another bus, wow this one is much nicer!!! AC w/o asking, no smoking - Welcome to Greece!

ATHENS

Our 9:00am arrival time turned out to be noon. No biggy. Let's find that hostel. In the rain, we don our gortex raincoats and head off into the city of Athens. We finally find a hotel nice enough to give us a map of the city, Xeroxed of course, but hey who cares, it was free. And I got to use a bathroom!!

We find the hostel, get our room, take a quick shower and catnap, the rain has stopped and we head out to the old town, the "Plaka". **%$, everyone is so nice here, the streets clean, oodles of restaurants and shops to choose from. We find a gyro stand, the first of many on this trip, and continue to wander through the town. Dinner, wandering, sleep.

The next day we get up early to head up to the Acropolis, what were they thinking, this place is huge!! Not to mention a pretty penny to look at. It was amazing to see, I never thought I would have the opportunity. But there we were on top of a hill, with the city of Athens extending in all views, to one side all the way to the sea, the rest to the far of hills. We were standing on the grounds of some of the greatest accomplishments of Greek construction, grounds where few Greeks ever stood. This was holy ground and few were permitted here. A portion of our time was spent following an English guided tour, learning interesting random facts and laughing while contemplating the outrageous cost these people were paying. Later, in the intense sun and ever expanding blue sky I broke out my hack! And began to put on a brief but cool hack demonstration, I had to hack at the Acropolis! I hacked until I kicked it into a roped off section. After retrieving it we decided it best to leave.

We continued around town. Gyros stop. Headed to other old sites, checked out the national gardens, became lost in the winding trails finding our way out in time to retrieved our bags from the hostel and head to the port. Time to hit the isles! We arrived at the port by metro and purchased tickets to Paros. By the way, at first look you need to by in the metrostation. Don't, venture out and find one of the other ticket offices, much cheaper!

We boarded the ferry in shorts and headed to the top deck. About an hour into the trip one thing kept going through my head, "**%$ it is cold!" The wind was blowing; the sun came in spurts when it found the opportunity to break through the patchy clouds. Hey, no one on this deck but a couple of drunk Germans, time to put on some pants. We eventually headed in doors. Watching- as various islands pass by. The boat first stopped at Naxos, we were to return later. Next stop Paros. About 11 p.m. we disembark in Paros, not knowing where we would stay. We had no worries, they would find us.

PAROS

As forewarned the descended on us like vultures. "Need rooms?, My place is very nice,....right by the beach...." One man stopped me as three others were approaching. They respect each other's finds, the others drifted back into the night as the man showed me his brochure. It seemed nice, we bartered for the price, and it's a deal! We got in his Van as he requested us to wait a few minutes for the next ferry. OK. No takers, we were off. 300m down the road we find ourselves at Hotel Mario. Nice place even had a double bed, he checked to see if that was what we wanted, &(*$$*# yes. We had been sleeping on two twins pushed together since we arrived in Bulgaria!!

Clean room, balcony, nice host, big courtyard; what else could we need? Gyros! Off we went, every restaurant along the way, "please, come, sit, eat, drink" everyone is so nice! We find the gyro man, ummm good, cheap!!

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at the bar that offered us a free shot with a drink. Yep, as I guessed the first words out of her mouth, "Tequila OK", "uhhh NO, what else ya got" We ended up with two generous Kamikazes and two glasses of Ouzo. Wow, Amstel, I'll have a beer. Never liked it in the states but after that Bulgarian &^%$#@$, **%$, smooth! Off to bed.

We awoke to a gorgeous day, 11:00 am; hey we're on vacation. We headed off to find some breakfast. Kerry ordered a lunch item and was pleased with the response, "I'm sorry, I don't think our kitchen is prepared for lunch yet, it is still morning", it was in fact 12:30. Ahh, life on the Greek isles, morning lasts to mid-afternoon, the perfect place. We ate and contemplated this concept. With breakfast done......

Next mission- find a scooter. I love bartering, need some work, but fun. We got a scooter, stopped at a market for some picnic supplies.... "Oh my God, look at all this cheese!, wow Philly Cream Cheese...." (we had been living in a two cheese society for a year now), off we went to find a nice secluded beach. Along the way we found a quaint fishing village. Naoussa. We explored the small alleys formed by the tightness of white buildings, looked in shops we couldn't afford and mounted the scooter again We were burning daylight. You know, those scooters really hurt your ass when ridden by two people, anyway...

We found a beach formed within a small cove. In the distance we could see the peaks of the mountains on the island of Naxos, the sun was out, we shared the beach with just a few others. The sun was hot, the breeze cool. I decided to take a dip. OHH COLD it was like Superior, **%$ El' Nino! A few hours pass, I open my eyes to realize it was beginning to rain, best get going. As we mounted the scooter, the rain fell heavier; the cool breeze turned to cold. Shirts and Shorts are not cutting it. It was one cold 1\2 hour ride back to town. We made it.

Took a hot shower while the other showers passed. We put on some warmer clothes and decided to head to the "Butterfly Valley". Up a mountain we forced the scooter, stopping to check out a monastery and some good views. Ah, finally here we are "Butterfly Valley". "Kerry what does that sign over there say?" "Closed, opens June 1st" "How the &(*$$*# do you close a valley?", oh well, on the scooter again, what the &(*$$*#, lets go to the
other side of the island for dinner. Got 3/4 of the way there, as the sun began to set. It was a bit chillier at this point and eventually we decided to turn it around not wanting to ride this ass killer back for an hour in the dark. Ahh, back in town, Gyros.

We started to explore the area and came across the coolest of places, the old town. How had we missed this? Endless small white alleyways filled with small shops, pubs, etc. Every turn leading to a new area, you could get lost in here, never caring. We decided to stop for a drink, cool bar, owned by a Canadian, he summers here and winters back home. I think he's got it backwards, but who am I to argue? A little more exploring and off to bed.

Another day, another island! We bought tickets for Ios, the famed and legendary party island. Upon docking at the island we realized, "you know we can't really afford to experience this island like we are supposed to", that is drunk from sunrise to sunset. So, we remained on board to the next destination, Santorini.

SANTORINI

As the ferry approached the island I was amazed at the view. Small white towns were built high above the sea, atop magnificent colorful cliffs. This island is home to the only active volcano in the area. This same volcano, centuries ago was responsible for an enormous tsunami that destroyed an entire ancient city over a hundred miles away on Crete. Some theorize it may also be responsible for the disappearance of Atlantis, others think Atlantis may have even been on Santorini. Of course, if this is true we will never know for over half the island now lies scattered at the bottom of the sea.

We dock, disembark, and wait for someone to find us, offering a place to stay. Not here, all the islands are different. We begin searching for a room in the many tourist companies, no luck. Trying to keep within the price range we think is appropriate is proving more difficult on this island. Finally, "Hey, you, do you need a room, only 5000, great location, seaside view, large terrace, ONLY 10 minutes from down town Fira." Perfect, just what we were looking for.

"Got any pictures?" "No, they will show them to you on the bus", sure yeah. We figured what the &(*$$*#; we will check it out. We did, sea side view, no, but if you peer out the window over the chicken pens and to the left you can glimpse the sea, that is - if you have someone to hold your feet so you don't fall out while trying! Large terrace, not quite, just a wide walk way leading to the rooms, 10 minutes from down town Fira, well, if you are one of those speed walkers you may hit the edge of town. But the lady that ran the place was nice, she introduced us to her mother who ran the restaurant down the street, her brother drove the bus..... So, we decided to stay.

I was determined to find another place in town though. We would stay this night but only this night. Kerry of course, felt bad, after being in Bulgaria hospitality and a smile promotes some sort of loyalty in her. I on the other hand, said, hey they lied, 10 minutes my ass, and where is the seaside view? So, we began the hike into town. 20 minutes latter we arrived. What a view, Fira, the capital extends all the way to the cliff edge where numerous hotels and restaurant have set up shop with a view worth the price. Although not a price we could pay. From here you can see the small volcano coming out of the sea and the island extending around it 3/4 of the way. We continued to wander through the town periodically checking prices. Nope not there. We were set at 5000, no more. This is of course only 17 dollars, but we knew we could find a place for this. Besides we only make 4 bucks a day. It was still the off season, prices are 1/3 the normal cost. The hotel we stayed in on Paros charged us 5000, on the door the posted price for off-season was 6400, as of June first to September first they charge 15000. What a difference a week makes.

This was obviously a much wealthier island then Paros, lots of quality Jewelry stores and art galleries. We realized if we work back from the cliff prices get cheaper. BINGO we found a hostel!! The young man operating it was from Sudan; he arrived 7 years ago and never left. I don't blame him, if paradise had a name... He told us, if we promised to show, he would hold a room that was opening up the next day! Not to mention a happy hour from 5 until whenever -Big Amstel only 350!! DEAL. Gyros. Bar. "How much?" 1200 dr for two beers! I can buy 30 in Bulgaria for that! "Oh well, I'll take two." We headed off on our long 10-minute
walk back to our hotel.

Sunrise, nice day. &&#@@&, shave and shower- lets get out of this dump. We arrived at the hostel at noon as promised, got our room and headed for the beach. The black sand of the volcanic beach in the town of Kamari waits. Hot black sands, cool sea breezes, surrounded by high cliffs, the day can pass right by! It does. "You know, that road as well as that trail probably lead somewhere cool!"

So we checked it out, after a frappe at a beach side cafe we started the steep climb up an ancient road. Along the way we found a cave, interesting - full of goat &&#@@&. Next an old church, similar to most other Greek isle churches, large enough for about 15 people max. Cool, another cave behind the church along with a stone table, sacrifices? "Man, why the &(*$$*# did they make this trail, it is strait up and to put a church here?" "On ward and up ward, is this worth it? What is at the top? Ahh %#$&%&$ it, the wind is strong, the view is only getting better, not to mention we have come this far, lets move on!" "Happy hour will wait" "I hope so, we can't afford it anywhere else" Hostels are cool.

The trail ends at the road, the road continues upward hairpin after hairpin. We finally reached the top, uhhh a turn around, this was worth it. "You know it is a nice view and all but I really don't think worth all the work to create this road!" Back down the cliff we go. We arrive at a Gyro stand about a half-hour before the bus arrives to take us back to Fira. Good time for a beer!

We arrive back at the Hostel, power shower. Must take advantage of the cheap beer, dinner can wait! We meet some people, engage in various travel stories. "Ah you were in Kamari, did you see the ruins" "Ruins? What ruins" "Yeah, they are amazing, you go to the top of that winding road and continue past the turn around, up the trail" "&&#@@&, are you telling me
.... **%$, you mean we need to do it again!"

So the hours passed, happy hour turned into happy night. 11:30, we realized it was time for dinner. We headed next door, to the amusement of our waiter we ordered in our wasted state, the student special, to split. We ate and we headed off to bed.

We woke to another wonderful day, the sky was a deep blue without a cloud in view. On the way to the bus station we stopped at a stand and got some breakfast, spinach/cheese pie for Kerry, cream pie for myself. We boarded a bus.

After a half-hour ride along a twisting and winding cliff edged road we arrived in the town of Iao (ee-a). We begin our walk through the winding narrow white streets eventually finding the "main" road. The road ran the length of settlement, meters from the cliff edge, with a history 5 times that of the states. At the end of the road and the tip of the island, are the remains of an ancient fortress. From here your mind can take in the vast beauty of the island and its multicolored cliffs, edged by shades of blue and green water, random fish vessels anchored just off shore. From here you begin to appreciate the sheer force of the ancient eruption that
took place on this island. In fact, it is difficult to image what the island was like, for most of it is gone. What remains of the island is actually the edge of an ancient crater, miles across, the eruption that took place is simply unimaginable.

We continued to wander the town, checking out various shops and taking advantage of pristine picture opportunities. The view of quaint fishing villages at the base of the cliff, the vast sea extending beyond view behind the deep blue roofs of the classic Greek isle church, etc. In one shop we learned the blue color as well as suns are used to ward of evil spirits. Who needs evil spirits? We bought a blue sun!

Gyros. Bus back to Fira. Laundry times. Happy Hour. Time to pick up the wash. "Ahh my God, look how white everything is, ohh the softness, the smell, **%$ everything actually fits again." Hey, after a year of Bulgaria and its so-called washing machine one can derive simple pleasures. The hours pass in conversation with other travelers. Billy from New York, two young women and a man from New Zealand, and various others who stopped to
join our conversations. It was suggested by Billy we return to the top of Kamari to explore the ruins there. We agreed.

The next morning we woke and boarded the bus back to Kamari. We began the long hike up the road and decided it best to hitchhike. Cool got a ride. At the top we followed the trail passed a guardhouse, it was amazing. The remains of an ancient capital, how did they build this? The amount of stone they must have moved. The grounds were immense, continuing to all sides of the mountain top, from cliff edge to cliff edge, but unseen from below. Built this way purposefully as protection, hiding the town and its inhabitants from pirates and invaders. We were walking on 2000-year-old marble roads, standing on the site of the city market place, ancient temples, churches, and homes.

It quickly came time to head back down so we could get some food before heading back to Fira and the next island. On the way down we stopped to gather some pumice, I figured it good for carving, passing some time in Bulgaria, it is! We wandered the town searching for a place that would take our American Express and one that would not break the bank. We settled on an Italian place with a large outdoor shaded patio, for the sun was unbelievably hot. The owner came and greeted us with menu's, a smile, and free ouzo. The food was excellent! It had been so long since we had real Italian cooking other then our own, which is pretty **%$ good by the way. After we were finished we sat stuffed to the gills awaiting the bill. As I asked for the bill the waiter brought a huge plate of fresh fruits and a special Greek dessert. My first thought was, I'm not paying for this, got no room for this. Time passed and we indulged in the fine treat. The desert was complimentary as well, what a place! We paid and hurried to the bus stop.

We made it back to Fira in time to gather our bags, at the same time many others were also departing, Billy, the New Zealanders, etc. We boarded the bus to the port town, it must have been 115 degrees on there, you would of thought the island was being deserted as they packed the bus well beyond any safety standards would allow, the A/C was no help.

We got our tickets, boarded the ferry and headed on our way. Three hours to Naxos, it was time to read. The first stop was Ios, most of the younger crowd departed, we still did not have the money, so we said goodbye to our new friends and continued on to Naxos. Mykonos was our first choice but our Italian feast caused us to miss that ferry.

NAXOS

We arrived after nightfall. The accommodations lady wasn't to helpful so we grabbed our Let's go Book and headed into town. Just past the gate to the port we were bombarded by an old short lady and two younger women, at first we thought they were all pushing different places. In fact it turned out to be the hotel we were heading for, a small place with free breakfast and an unbeatable price. Let's go! As stated in the book, the hotel was run by as very friendly and warm elderly lady, Anna Legati, whose hospitality and warmth makes up for any shortcomings of the hotel. We never saw her again after the dock!

We got our room and headed out to find some dinner. Kerry had been searching every where since we arrived in Greece for this chicken soup that was served at a Greek restaurant she once worked in, to no avail I might add. Again we searched the menus, this time along the waterfront of the port town of Naxos where each establishment had tables along the water and their kitchens on the other side of the pedestrian strip. Restaurant after restaurant we searched, I was beginning to think she had made this soup up. At one small place the owner approached us as we read the menu, requesting us to sit. Kerry asked him if they had this mysterious soup, his response - "No, but sit we will make it for you". So, we sat. He was quick to bring us complimentary ouzo as his son took the rest of our order.

We ended up receiving a huge bowl of soup for two, I must say it was **%$ good. After dinner we made the slow progression back to our hotel wandering the narrow alleys of the old town, window shopping along the way.

We woke late the next day, ate the free breakfast at our hotel and headed out to explore the town. It rained intermittently all day, ixnaying the idea of heading to the beach. So we wandered, browsing the shops throughout town, checking out the old castle, and the Portara a huge marble gate to an unfinished temple for Apollo. In one shop we picked up a great, all wood, hand made, travel backgammon board and a silver ring for me, in another we got a blue wrap with the suns that Kerry liked so much. Unfortunately we never had time to explore this magnificent island, it is huge, comprised of rolling hills, formidable rock formations and many archeological sites. The day quickly passed into night and it was soon time to head to a "quality" restaurant, one in which I could get good seafood, this would serve as our one year anniversary dinner. Hey, we even dressed up. If memory serves, it was called the Flamingo. We ate on a covered terrace overlooking the sea, watching as a brilliant thunderstorm approached the island.

We drank, once again ate great food, and enjoyed ourselves on this last night in paradise. Watching the lightning from the storm over the distant sea. Tomorrow our travels back to Bulgaria would begin.

We woke, packed, ate, and headed to the beach with our bags. A few relaxing hours passed before time came to hit a gyros stand and get on board our last ferry. A six hour trek back to Athens, time to read.

The ferries travel from island to island, along the way you are privileged to view gorgeous white towns nestled in coves and along cliff edges, the sea on all sides extends beyond view and merges with the brilliant blue sky. A few adventurous sea gulls travel close behind hoping for some food, while to hum of the motors lull you to relaxation if not sleep.

We arrived in Athens at dusk. We headed to the center, found a Wendy's, and began to search for an open grocery store. One does not return to Bulgaria without visiting a real grocery store. No luck, they are the only businesses closed on Sunday nights. **%$ it, no cheese for me. Our search for the train station began. We figured we could catch the overnight to Sofia, yeah. Well, we found the train station, found where to buy tickets and shortly after that began the travels from &(*$$*#.

MAY HELL BE YOURS

At the ticket window we requested a sleeping car, no luck, we requested first class, again no luck. We secured two second class tickets, should be no problem, we are in Greece how bad could it be? The tickets we got were only to Thessaloniki, located in northern Greece about 3 hours from the Bulgarian border, there was nothing direct to Sofia. This was fine for us, we had heard there were always buses waiting at the train station in Thessaloniki, direct to Sofia, a mere five more hours. We should arrive in plenty of time for me to make my Tuesday conference.

Well, we boarded the train about 10:30 p.m. in Athens. The people were morons, we thought the Bulgarian method for boarding trains was ludicrous but this was beyond belief. For starters, everyone had a ticket, on this ticket was the car number and a seat number, so what was the problem? Rather then boarding the car with the matching number they chose any old car and worked their way through the crowded cars and doorways while others attempted to find there seats and stow the luggage. It was as if we were a heard of cattle fighting to get through a gate while another herd was trying to get out. This is of course how it normally is in Bulgaria but that is where the problem stops. Eventually, those getting off the train are off and the new passengers are on. In this Athens case the freaking train started empty, again what was so difficult?

Finally we found our seats, remember the comment "how bad could the train be? After all we are in Greece," well, yeah. In all my years of uncomfortable seats these were without a doubt what all uncomfortable chairs were modeled after. So, there we sat facing each other, luckily the window on our side and not the isle, headrest ya know? As we adjusted to the area that was to be our bed for the next 10 hours I cringed with that same thought, 10 hours! Our legs, intertwined like contortionists, for there as only 1.5 feet between opposing seats, recline levers- purely ornamental, only there to jab you in the side, there was no reclining, the body of the seat designed in such away that if you shifted to lean on the window the armrest would become your personal torture therapist. In fact, we had one choice, sit straight up. Come to think of it I believe I saw these same seats on display in Amsterdam at the Museum of Torture.

The night passed in intermittent periods of sleep between long agonizing bouts of claustrophobic, muscle spasm, needing to stretch, mind numbing torture. Relief from the darkness and pain came about 5:30 am as the sun began to rise, at least now I could take in the countryside. We reached Thessaloniki about 7:30 a.m., very chipper!

"So were is this **%$ bus, only five more hours". We headed outside the station, nothing. We found the bus schedule, 2:10 p.m. next bus to Sofia. We figured a train would put us in about the same time. The train scheduled showed a direct train to Sofia leaving at 8:20, great we're on it.

The ticket salesman decide it time for a coffee break as we got to the window. Finally, 8:05 we get our tickets "shouldn't be anymore then 8 hours. We should be able to catch the 5:00 bus to Gabrovo." We buy some snacks and board, right on schedule; we even found our own cabin! Immediately, we sprawl out and go to sleep.

We woke once, to the conductor checking tickets, then at the Greek border. That stop took about an hour while they checked passports. Finally, the train was in motion again, then it stopped. We had traveled to a location near the border, then we were unattached from the rest of the train and left, left to wait for our next engine. An hour passed then two. Finally, there was a subtle bump as an engine attached to the train. We were moving!

We cross the border into Bulgaria, the custom officials came around, collected the passports and disappeared. About an hour later they came back dispensing the passports. "Finally we can get moving." As we waited for the train to start up, minutes turned to hours, we hadn't moved. About two hours into the wait a man comes to our cabin asking if we wanted to change our drachma into leva. We refused, angering this gentleman, who proceeded to explain that the Mafia in Sofia would give us a horrible rate and it would be best if we changed now. Do we look stupid? What the &(*$$*# does this guy think he is, he is the Mafia, offing rates that only a moron would except, in actuality he was offering a change rate about 1/3 that of the change bureaus. My mind raced, was this the reason we are still here, so this &&%%$$&& can swindle people?

No! I couldn't wait any longer. "Hey, conductor, what time will we get going, why the wait?" "About 17:30, we are waiting for an engine" "What!!!" **%$, it was only 13:00. We soon realized we were stranded in the same station where our trip began. On the other side of the building is where just nine days before we stood bewildered in the darkness as our
luggage drove away in the mystery van. Perfect.

There was no possible way of catching our bus now. Not to mention no real food. How the &(*$$*# could they post a train schedule for a train to Sofia when in fact this train did not arrive until the 1:30 from the same **%$ train station in Greece came to hook up with it? We could of explored Thessaloniki! We checked our options, buses, nope, taxi, yeah if we wanted to pay 150 dollars, **%$, stranded.

We slept, read, &&#@@&, played backgammon, the hours passed slowly. Our home was a 7 x 5 cabin. Finally, the train began to move and our only thought was, our bus just left to Gabrovo. In fact we still had 5 more hours on this beast. By this point we had been traveling back to Bulgaria for approximately 28 hours, ferry time included. We were tired, sweaty, sticky, stinky, cranky, frustrated, moody bastards who only wanted two things, real food and to be home.

We finally reached Sofia at 10:00 p.m. This is not a good time to be in the train station. We thought over our options. We had one, to get to Gabrovo; I had a conference in the morning. There was a train leaving at 10:45 for Gorna Orjiahovitza. "That's it, our only choice". This train would bring us within 1.5 hours of Gabrovo by train. We purchased two first class reserved seats, we knew there would be limited people but we wanted to ensure a cabin, a cabin where the chairs could be pulled out into makeshift beds.

We had some time, we figured we should find some food. We headed up some stairs to a restaurant, as we approached it was obvious it was closed, we quickly turned tail as people emerged from the shadows, not the right place to be.

We headed down stairs and to the only operating cafe. We ordered some fries. What we got was some mush in the shape of fries, drenched in oil, yummy! It was time to hit the head. Kerry waited with the bags in the safety of the cafe.

I entered a nearby restroom. For a train station it wasn't to bad. I walked in to a large room with 5 urinals on each wall, I was the only one. Just as my little friend was about to do what we had came for quite the unwelcome guest joined us. In a room with 15 stalls a man enters and chooses one 2 down from my own. No problem. As I am studying the pattern within the tiles in front of me I begin to feel uneasy. I glance to my right to find this man staring at me, well not just me. That was not all he was doing! At that time my choice was made for me for my little friend had walked off stage. I rejoined Kerry, choosing to forget the matter, I didn't need to pee anymore, that was for sure.

Time came for the train, we found our car and our cabin, and we were alone! We quickly arranged the seats and went to sleep. We had set the alarm not wanting to wake up in Budapest. Periodically we would wake to the sound of the screeching brakes to check our location. We arrived in Gorna, 3:30 a.m., freezing. After 34 hours of heat from Hades kitchen, we were freezing! The night air in Gorna was unusually chilly.

We checked for connections to the next town that would put us closer to home, nothing until 5:20 a.m. Even if we waited we would be lucky to arrive by 7:30; there were still two more trains and two more connections. "%#$&%&$ it, we'll cab it, how much money we got on us?" "$10 and 10,000
lev" "what ever it costs it will be worth it!"

Outside the train station were three cabbies. One glance at us and they were thinking $$$. We asked how much to Gabrovo, we had a rough idea, they quadrupled it. We talked, we bartered, we settled on a price and headed off to Gabrovo. Even if he had demanded more it wasn't going to happen, he was getting all we had available. I tried to make small talk while Kerry slept, it was obvious our driver was thinking along her routes as well. Not wanting to end the trip in what most surely would have been an accident resulting in a really cool med-a-vac story, I forced myself to stay awake, amusing our driver with my wonderful Bulgarian skills.

4:30 a.m., "here is fine, thanks a lot, be safe". We were finally home, just under 40 hours of traveling, what took 15 on the way down. Welcome back to Bulgaria!

Through our door we dropped, tossed the bags aside, set the alarm for my conference in 4 hours, crawled in bed and drifted off to sleep. We woke 9 hours later.


Page created: July 7, 1998.

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