More from Veliko Tarnovo

So I’d stubbed my toe, made a mess, got back to the hostel, didn’t cry.

Feeling kind of cranky, I took a nap. I went out to the lounge to ask for dinner ideas, and one of the guests (who had earlier been cooking toast and insisted on giving me one of his two hot pieces before putting new ones in the toaster, so I didn’t have to wait) told me about the restaurant he’d gone to the night before. When I asked for directions, he described them, but then said it’s about fifteen minutes away, why don’t I just walk you there.

Which he did. But the funniest, nicest thing, rather than one of those awkward hostel dates you never intended to be on, but get caught on sometimes, he walked me to the restaurant, said I hope you enjoy your dinner, I’ll see you at the hostel, and went off to find the post office to buy stamps. Nice guy.

I sat at dinner for an hour, felt like such a tool for ordering the “Mexican Salad” in Bulgaria, but I can’t describe how amazing this salad was. Lettuce, cucumber, baby corn, onions, chicken, ham, chili sauce, an egg, bread…
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Just as I was waiting to pay, a couple I’d spent time talking to at the hostel arrived at the restaurant for their dinner and invited me to sit with them, as well as Alex, another hostel guest. Bill and Barb have been married for over 30 years, traveled everywhere, from Australia.

Barb, dental assistant in Sydney, Australia, once did dental work on the woman who was the voice of Barb the dental assistant in Sydney in Finding Nemo.

I ended up being at at the restaurant for three hours total, talking to Bill about volunteering, charitable efforts, the mindset of American youth versus Australian youth, and adults as well, with regard to philanthropy. The topics went from Teach For America to No Child Left Behind to the poor planning of many cities in Australia and the United States that make them so unfit for tourism and pedestrians.

It was a very smawt sounding conversation. Hours later, Bill would circle back after goodbyes to tell me I have a bright future ahead of me and to call them if I ever need a place for me and even friends in Sydney. Anyone?

The next day, rather than taking the day train to Bucharest as I planned, I spent the day walking the town looking for the secondhand English bookstore. Hours walking. I didn’t even like walking to class a year ago. Oh, and in an adult clothing store, I walked out with a pair of XXL shorts…because that is what fit. Europe, you crush me sometimes.

Later, as we drank iced coffees (the ones that come with ice cream!) Tristan, originally a Sofia friend, would say “Don’t feel bad, maybe it stands for extra extra little.”

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Catching up

Do you want to hear about the fortress light show? Or me busting up my toe alone at the top of a citadel? Or the night spent bribing Bulgarian train conductors…

Here we go.

The Veliko Tarnovo hostel was fantastic. Super homey, close to the fortress, a short walk from the old city center, the terrace in the back had these amazing gliders to sit and read or write in, chat and have a few beers in, and watch the hostel’s messenger doves walk around. Weird, pretty birds. Apparently only messenger by title though… Don’t be expecting any live postcards.

The hostel is fantastic at getting people to meet each other. This one served a full breakfast and dinner each night, pouring glasses of beers for the guests, going around the bedrooms to encourage people to join.

As seen in the posted pictures, Veliko Tarnovo has an incredible fortress. The city used to be the ancient capital. Most nights of the week during the summer, there is a massive light show on the walls, and I just caught it the first night I arrived. Walking up to the fortress with three guys from the hostel, I sat on the wall of the main entrance bridge and watched a show better than any light show I’d seen before. Again, like Disney, but real. Take a peek (skip around).

In bed at midnight, I was the first one in the dorm asleep. I’ve been fighting a cold (I have a slight cough and raspy voice right now), and have felt foggy – one of the reasons I’ve been slow to blog. No focus.

The following day, up the fortress I went. I love the line “I’m a student” – so handy when you look like you could still be a high school student, I don’t ever have to show proof.

I passed the warning sign three times. “Make sure you have water.” I wasn’t worried about my hydration, I’d drank plenty that morning and was only making a quick trip to the top and down, no walking along the walls. Also, regardless of the sign, there was nowhere readily available to buy water.

And I climb, climb, climb, it’s becoming a theme of this trip. And even when there are steps, it still feels like slippery, die at any moment climbing. And I reach the top, feel fantastic, take the MySpace- style photo of myself to prove I’m not just downloading these photos from Google. Up here alone. Feeling invincible.

Second step on the way down, I slip. Stub my toe. Nail is broken. Blood. Lots.

I’m at the top of a freaking fort, and I don’t even have water.

My favorite line from a hostel friend later: “Didn’t you cry????”

No, because then I’d be the crying bloody mess at the top of the fort, and no one needs that.

I survived. It was a long climb down.

On to a new post…