So… Alone through the mountains… People who sincerely believe in me and fully support me are counted on the fingers of one hand. And, as much for myself, as for them, I think it’s time for the mountain goat (Capricorn) to use his horns rationally!!
My first real adventure is just about to begin.
You can also fallow the trip in Polarsteps and not to overload the post with pictures, most of the photos you can find at the end of it divided into galleries.
The route, apart from being quite long and not easy, especially for the first attempt, also has a symbolic meaning for me. If I succeed with it, I will deal with everyone in the future!!
Many people asked me why I had not take a travel friend with me. The reasons are two: Firstly – there aren’t that much crazy people with this particular mental illness! :)) And secondary – I didn’t ask anyone (after the girl from whom the idea started).
Because, yes, it will be difficult for me and I will stay awake at night in the tent, BUT... if I don't do it alone, I will always be haunted by another, even bigger fear - that I will not be able to do without a "companion"!! This would become dependence and I prefer being independent!!
Departure early tomorrow morning. Yes, I know – “it will rain”! It’s not like I don’t care, but… the forecast is for raining by the end of the month!! Do I have to abandon everything because it’s raining?! Of course, I’m worried about these rains every afternoon for 2 weeks ahead, but at the end of the day, I can always catch a bus, train, camel, unicorn… 😁
Right. Today, final preparations, tightening the backpack – this time 100% along with the filled water camelbak, throwing on the back and… Shit!!! There is no way to be carrying this!!! I put it on the scales – 24 kg. Double shit!!
What now?! Not that it surprised me. Although I spared the laptop, I roughly expected 22-25 kg. But I also expected to be able to carry it! Once again – everything out and rearranging from the scratch. The food – out! I will figure out something on the way. Tripod – out (I will probably regret at some point, but otherwise I will regret every minute!). Spare clothes will also be waiting for me at home. In the end, I brought it down to 21 kg. Next one is the camera, but no, I won’t leave it! I am going to announce it for sale, however, to get a smaller and lighter one…
Who would have guessed that the time would come to count every single gram?! So, the challenge turns out to be much bigger than expected – we have extra weight and plenty of rain!
Well, at least “it will go on water”. (it’s Bulgarian saying, that means “will go smoothly”) 😉
The sunrise greeted me with a cloudless sky and fog in the distance, as a promise of a wonderful day! The backpack, the road, the train. Of course, I collected all the attention, at least because I could barely walk through the doors with that huge backpack…
At the train station I met wonderful and responsive people. The first one pledged to keep my backpack (not that anyone could run away with it!) while I was wondering where to leave it for a while.
Then talked to a nice lady who turned out to be the curator of the museum I was going to – the museum of Kolyo Ficheto. She told me the whole his story, told me about Dryanovo and its story, took me to the museum and walked me around it. A really great company!
After what she told me, I could not miss visiting the surviving legacy of the Master.
I was just getting ready to photograph the Tower when a passer-by stopped and told me about its history, also did show me the first relief map of Bulgaria (which I could not photograph because turned out that I hadn’t grown tall enough).
Wonderful people! Of course, there is some persons from the other model as well, but they somehow do not matter – those who are smiling and responsive are the people who make the day sunny!
Finally I arrived at the campsite after the first 13 km of my adventure. At last – a hot shower, hot coffee and a soft sleeping bag in the tent – an idyll!
Well, I didn’t meet the sunrise today, managed to escape! I dipped my head into the sleeping bag, trying to figure out how to kick myself on the behind, when every part of my body hurts.
Since I could not find a satisfactory solution to my dilemma, I finally decided to crawl out and at least make some coffee. On the new gas stove(!). I even cook the breakfast – I won’t light the stove twice – the gas doesn’t grow on the damn trees! She doesn’t eat breakfast… Now will have a breakfast! She may not have lunch, but will have breakfast, come on!
Eehhhh, after the coffee I already saw the sun, the day somehow brightened!! At least my fears of “wet dreams” turned out to be unfounded – woke up completely dry and frozen! I changed my mind about kicking – I could survive without extra painful procedures.
The lady (70 years old), who takes care of the campsite, turned out to be an incredibly helpful woman. When she found out that I didn’t bring much food, she invited me to share hers many times, and despite all my refusals, I still got a bag of juicy strawberries!
And today, realizing that I was staying another night, she just put me in the car and took me for a shopping! And that’s not all!! With the forecast for rain last night, she did prepare the hut next to the tent and hand me the key!! I took partial advantage – only me and the sleeping bag spent the night in the tent – all my luggage was in a dry and safe place.
Who said the good people are gone?!
Today, however, I am at a standstill. A leisurely walk around the sights and the monastery nearby. Then back to the soft sleeping bag – it weighs more than the tent, but I love it! The plan for the day is – laziness and thinking about where to head off tomorrow.
Uff, I think I’ll stick to the laziness…
Deciding that I would get up early so that I could get to Buzludzha in one day, I lay lazily in my tent. After 864 754 phone calls, I forced myself to crawl out into the real world – at least to brush my teeth before going to sleep.
Hear someone calling me. I look around in surprise. The camping neighbors who had come a little earlier were waving at me and I was invited to their table. Petya and Todor were interested in how a women decided to go camping alone… We talked for hours – another great people whom the life put on my way! And Toshko – what a delicious fried livers does he makes, mmmmm …
Besides, since I refused to drink, he still decided that he would not leave me on the water (and pork livers!). And would open a bottle of wine. Without tools, he still managed to fight it! How to refuse a glass of red wine after so much effort?!
I didn’t feel like going to sleep any more, but knowing what awaits me on the next day… And the livers were running out, so I slipped out before they realized why and take my plate away. :)))
I wonder now, whether from the comfort of the hard wet ground or the red wine, I slept so deeply that night that some could easily lift me straight up with the tent (assuming he was daring enough). I even dreamed!
And after all, I got up at 4:30 am (this time the sunrise was left with a finger in its mouth) – fresh as a radish!
Did I mention that I’m looking for a donkey to carry on my backpack?! Correction in his job description – in addition of carrying it, we are adding arrangening as well!
After getting up early, I finally left the campsite at 7 o’clock. I just couldn’t understand why the things, collected and arranged in the backpack, refuse to do the same once unpacked…
So – at 7:50, after my thumb almost stiffened from sticking out, my luck smiled in the face of a fellow stranger. There was a chalga (kind of not prestigious BG music) in the car. But the intelligentsia listening to Beethoven passed me by for more than 40 minutes, didn’t they!! We can talk again on the topic of chalga one day…
They left me at the beginning of Gabrovo, where, after another 40 minutes in the already burning sun, I realized that it would not happen that way and continued on foot. I chose another place about 1-2 km forward and to my surprise, the third car stopped. The girl herself was not afraid to take a hitchhiker, something so scary for the brave persons of the opposite sex!
The girl took me to the center, very impressed by my explanation of where and why I was going.
A few hours and 7 km later, a Plovdiv resident, a former mountain orienteering instructor, “envied” the volume on the pile of my back and took me to Shipka. He even got out of the car to put my backpack on my back. Thanks!!
Coffee, a packet of nuts and to Buzludzha! This time it was too much – for the last 2 km I raised my thumb again, before I sent into oblivion all the beauty of these 21+ kg on my back! And here the luck was on my side – for the whole time on this route 3 cars had passed, but when I decided that I could not do more, the fourth appeared and saved 21 kg of nothingness!
Almost 18 km this time! So I crossed the limit that I had set for the allowable kilometers per day, which only convinced me that it is good to believe in my judgment and stick to the decisions based on it!!
In advance I had arranged with the hut’s keepers to pitch the tent next to the hut. I didn’t even think about it!! I didn’t want to see a tent or pegs, even my favorite sleeping bag was in disgrace!
So needed hot shower! Hot pacha (kind of soup), wonderfully prepared by the hut’s chief. With a loooot of spices! I think any self-respected dragon would envy my breath at this point!! And a bed – I don’t even have the strength to write in my diary…
Buzludja – day two
After a warm welcome in the hut and a delicious dinner, this morning at 5:30 I was already on my feet and while waiting for someone to come downstairs to open the kitchen for a coffee, I finished the last day at Polarsteps.
I drink my coffee thinking about what to do. A second night in the hut wouldn’t fit in my budget, but at the same time I feel the protests of my body after yesterday’s overload. It is not a good idea to repeat the exercise right on the next day. I have to solve it quickly, as if I leave, I have to be on my way by 8 am…
Meanwhile, enthusiastic cyclists, who arrived later yesterday, are pouring in for breakfast. Fun boys with a schedule of about 70 km a day on rough terrain. Well, I can not do that!! I waved them away with admiration for their enthusiasm and strong will!
The coffee is over, my dilemma too – the hut’s keepers offered me the second night for free! I think they linked the fact that I hadn’t set up a tent, and until the end I couldn’t tell them if I would stay another night, despite yesterday’s marathon. Amazing people! Thank you so much!!!
Rest doesn’t mean lying down, so the bag on my back (A little one with only water and a raincoat!) And into the woods! On the way back, reaching the hut, I was worried that I hadn’t walked enough and checked the meter app – if it shows less than 3 km, I am going back! Hmmm, only 21 kg difference and you can’t notice 7 km, what to say…
Meanwhile, approaching Buzludzha monument, I see a herd of wild horses right at my direction. I want to take pictures of them, but… should I risk getting closer? I step hesitantly and see one of the horses pull forward a little, looking at me intently and not moving. After looking at each other for a while, I decided it was better to accept the warning.
As I walked around them in the distance I saw little horses and (probably) their mothers in the middle of the group. The other horses stood in line, looking in different directions. I don’t even want to imagine what the guard saved me from..!
As I was leaving the monument for Hadji Dimitar’s grave, I noticed Shipka in the distance. Ooooover there and I came all the way from there yesterday…!
Noise of footsteps, creaking of the door, footsteps, rustling of blankets and… healthy snoring!! I almost laughed out loud at the idea that I was supposed to sleep, didn’t I?
I look at the time – 4:30 am. If I get up now, I’ll probably wake up both of my cellmates, who showed up late yesterday (one was already angry with the whole world), and I disguised myself as if asleep. After an hour, my disguise wasn’t worth and I took the risk of being anathematized.
I returned to the room at 7:00 o’clock and prepared my backpack (21 kg can make a lot of noise). Surely I won all possible curses from the mature ladies who was partying until dawn! I apologised with the clear awareness that there was no way I could be forgiven in this life, and I continued to pack. By the time they drink their coffee, I will be somewhere in the woods, so I can live with that guilt.
I said goodbye to the hut’s keepers with a promise to meet soon again, and I took the road. This time down the hill. But very down! I was almost tempted to roll under the pressure of gravity.
Today most of the road was through the forest – I sway leisurely (without rolling over) and enjoy. I love the forest!! And the forest loves me! It offers me branches to stick to and roots to step on the steep cliffs. It serves me wild strawberries and ice water! And keeps me safe!
I walk and think – everything hurts, I don’t know where I will sleep, I only have a pack of walnuts for lunch, but I don’t care! Still I want to continue with this!! I asked for help from an old acquaintance in Gabrovo, but I did not receive it. The same happened with two in Kazanlak. Damnit, I can’t cheat at all! I will have to do it all by myself!
Somehow the air changed, the aroma of the forest became different and I realized that I was already at the end of the Balkan. It greeted me with sunshine and ripe cherries.
Have arrived in Krun. So far so good, but now where to? I asked a lady about the accommodation options and she directed me to the only guest house. Did not work. Another option only in Enina or Kazanlak. What now?! After 14 km really steer descent, my shoulders burn with pain, my legs compete with them, and I have to walk another 3 km to Enina…
Dammit! I need a coffee! So I found the town center and saw the place from a distance. I order, ask again for an overnight stay (with the same success) and land with relief on the chair. Another dilemma. I think I’m getting used to it. Right now, though, I’m not having fun.
At the next table sits a gentleman – a great solution to my other dilemma – how to enter to the WC with this enormous backpack. I just ask him to look after my luggage and I went. When I return, I thank him and ask again about the accommodation options – just like that.
“Well, the only one I can think of is inviting you home…” I almost jumped out of that luck!!!
It’s Stoyan. He carried my backpack and took me with the car to his home nearby. And we sit and speak till late. We have a dinner and a glass of beer. I promise, it was just one glass – every single time the same glass!
My host took care of the coffee in the morning, then took me to Kazanlak and went about his business. I walked through the rose garden, visited the museum of Chudomir and even went to the Thracian tomb, which turned out to be locked.
At least I drank coffee in a pleasant atmosphere in the park.
Then I took a brisk walk to the Museum of Essential Oils, which is outside the city, just to find that I had no cash with me for the ticket. Well, some other time…
I continued my leisurely walk to Kran. There is something that impressed me in Kran – the trees. Each street has two dense rows of trees. All of them fruitful! Everyone can take a break and try – cherries, sour cherries, plums, mulberries, etc… Soon I arrived at “home” to prepare a modest dinner to thank at least a to my host about his hospitality.
Thank you, Stoyan! Thank you for the hospitality, trust and pleasant company!!
What a day was today…
A nice and peaceful day. Tomorrow the dilemmas will continue, but now – goodnight! 😉
Stara Zagora – Haskovo
Getting up early, packing the backpack, coffee and off to Stara Zagora. My host escorted me far to the best place to hitchhike, equipped with extra coffee and something to eat.
As he guessed, I didn’t wait long. After about 10 minutes I was picked up by a boy traveling with his colleague to work and I pulled 10 km forward. Where I got off, however, it was not convenient for the car stop, so it was pointless to try and set off on foot.
I kept walking and raising my thumb prophylactically. After about 3-4 km a car stopped about hundred meters ahead. I hurried a step, not sure at all if it was for me. At least until the driver got out and waved at me. We loaded the backpack in the trunk and continued to Stara Zagora. With Stoyan…
Getting in the car, we start a conversation that flows from a topic to topic, interrupted by jokes and laughter. Great company and time passed imperceptibly!
Upon arrival in Stara Zagora, it turned out that the hostel to which I was directed did not work. After 2-3 minutes of reflection, I decide to continue to Dimitrovgrad, instead of looking for the impossible – a cheap night in St. Z. So, I asked Stoyan to leave me in a convenient place for the purpose and we got back in the car.
Well, we found a convenient place only in Haskovo! 😆
The few hours spent in pleasant conversations and laughter just flew away. I hope to have the opportunity to meet him and his wife at the end of the week. When I did ask if I may write about it, the answer was “Absolutely, you may write whatever you want. As long as you don’t invent anything! 😆”
Thanks!! For the transportation, cherries and most of all for the great company!
Since I was in Haskovo at noon, I found a cheep hotel and had enough time to walk around the city and see it. Besides, that day I covered the most kilometers with the least steps – I had to save the situation and make these 4 km at least 10! 😜
Haskovo sent me away “by water” and with the scent of blossoming lindens. Even before I left the city, the sun was very hot and I began to worry if I would have enough water.
Pointless – I couldn’t even drink it all, I was in Kardzhali before noon, accommodated with a good friend.
This city is my weakness. The only place I keep coming back to again and again. The Turkish language that sounds all around and usually irritates me, now made me feel unreal, made me feel as if my long-awaited journey had already begun.
And maybe it is!
The first stage of my first trip is over. Successful! I’m happy with myself. Although the muddy and rainy weather required a serious deviation from the original plan, I learned a lot those few days.
The main thing is that I want to continue doing this and I will find a way to do it!
Thank you for being with me and supporting me in this experiment! 😁
The next day 10 km walk to keep fit and a coffee with the first friend I found here 13 years ago. Tightening the backpack (to keep fit 😆) and another 5 km carrying it for the night at the friend in question.
Meanwhile, interesting meetings, evoking memories and reflections. Coffee with my other friend, whom I often want to beat up, but I love so much – Tanya. She will not escape, though – the next transfer of the backpack will be in her direction. 😁
Walk and coffee with nice company. Thanks, Vigi!! And next time we should take a pictures for a change… 😆
Carrying the backpack again and take advantage of the hospitality of a faithful friend. 💝 A new walk and some digging of old memories. In general, this time, the references to the past began to pour in as soon as I arrived in Kardzhali.
I hope for good!
Jazz Fest! I was at Buzludzha when I received the invitation and decided it would be a great final for my little adventure! In fact, it was more than that. Unfortunately, the friend we usually party with had another commitment, and I went there alone. As soon as I arrived, I encountered nuances from the past. I smiled to myself – I can’t change the past, but I myself am radically changed…
The festival ended as announced. The lady who had been seated at my table left, and I began to wonder if I should do the same. I didn’t like the idea of sticking out there just like that. I was eager to dance, the evening would not be completed otherwise. But everyone held on tight to their glasses, with no idea of change.
Except for a girl near the performers. She was with her boyfriend (I guess), but she danced all alone and was doing that with passion and pleasure! That was enough for me – I moved closer to the table and silently joined the party. I don’t know her, but I’m glad that I still managed to thank her – she saved the evening for me!!
The girl left soon, but I had already gained momentum. I knew that I was the center of attention (everyone “culturally” sucks their drinks, only I spoil the picture), but I didn’t care. I’ve been the center of attention since I left ten days ago, I’m getting used to it.
There were many familiar faces, but few of them were smiling. I could feel their gazes, I could feel their thoughts and condemnation… and I smiled more and more – it had nothing to do with me. Their prejudices, their attitude, their reality! Not mine!!
Thanks to the unknown girl, the evening turned into a dance marathon and have passed one after midnight, when the music changed and I realized it was time to leave the stage and at three in the morning I was safely in bed!
Thank you!! Thanks to the lady who kept me from dropping like a sack of potatoes when I slipped and my leg got caught in the chair! And thanks to the unknown girl who had a lot of fun and reminded me what we are really there for! A worthy end to my little adventure!
Enough laziness in Kardzhali, it’s time to continue the journey. Incredible humidity after yesterday’s rain. My clothes were washed in the evening, in the morning they are even wetter. So they have been attached to the backpack to dry on the go.
To the moisture is added the heat and the uphill climbing for getting out of town. After 5-6 km my hair is like after a shower. What a sticky shower, though! 🙉 My premonition from the previous day is justified – the people of Kardzhali are not inclined to stop to a hitchhikers.
A truck driver from Turkey stopped (with his personal car, not the truck) and I pulled about 20 km forward. From there I was picked up by another driver – another Stoyan!, who took me all the way to Plovdiv. I forgot to ask the first gentleman about the name, I suspect it was Stoyan! 😆
Conclusion – 90% of the people who are taking hitchhikers on board are professional drivers, and 90% of the professional drivers are called Stoyan!
And once again I enjoy the hospitality of a good friend! Thank you, Tony! 💝
After an unequal night fight with three mosquitoes, there was only one left at sunrise, but my desire for sleep melted away. I packed a small backpack for a walk and after some unexpected vicissitudes, my hostess and I went to the forest.
The expected rain fell anyway, but we still had a great time.
The scent of pine and wet grass, the beautiful views and the bubbling of fountains, fully justified the wet shoes. And to end the day – gozleme and Turkish tea at Bai Isa. Great day with great company! Thanks!
My departure tomorrow is postponed by one more day, as I have to do something unplanned while I am here – to pay a visit to my dentist. 🙊
Today I was not allowed to “carry this backpack on the roads“. This time the “hitchhike” took me from an address. Actually her own address.
While I waited for the appointed time, I decided to get an extra bottle of gas, as I plan to be in a tent. And here I came across an interesting case – there are no such bottles. I toured half of Plovdiv, found some at 2 places, but large ones (actually perfect, if you don’t have to shove them in the backpack with the rest of the arsenal) and in one place the exact size at double the price.
Now I’m making a tea on the fire! 😜
I was taken to Zhitnitsa, where I had previously received permission to set up a tent by the river. My first wild (or almost) camping, my first horseback riding (it was a bit scary at first, but so exciting!!) And the first rain in the tent, which did enviably well!
Oh yeah, and walking by the river with uncovered arms and legs, I did understand that my homemade repellent works perfectly. Proven!
After the rain stopped and a friend calmed me down and convinced me that the earplugs were wonderful for sleeping, at about 11 pm I finally took the risk of falling asleep, ignoring the danger of flood.
The feeling is wonderful! 💝
Wet. Muddy. Congratulations to the Chinese, they did a good job with my tent! I was able to see the puddles under the bottom and slapped in them, but I stayed dry!
Well, I didn’t sleep much, despite the earplugs. At 5 in the morning I was already sitting in front of the “door” sadly staring at the mud around. It meant only one thing – I would not be able to leave on time – I had to clean and dry the tent. Another question to consider…
It was after 10 o’clock when I took the road. Too late for walking at the heat, but… shit happens.
My GPS is usually very accurate, but as usual, when I get the chance, I ask a person for directions. So I won some 2-3 km, because the gentleman I asked was worried that I had to go through the fields and decided to take me to the main road. Thanks!!
There, ignoring the horns and gestures of the drivers (without even trying to hitchhike!), I enjoyed the scenery, the plums and the wind, which stole my hat and made the heat bearable. Somewhere in the middle of the road, an elderly gentleman stopped and drove me to the center of Hissarya.
Accommodation, shower and a walk before it rains. It’s not raining, though! If I was in a tent, it probably would… 😈
Every day since the trip started, I am up at 5:00 – 5:30 in the morning. Today is no exception. I pack the backpack, coffee, some food for to go and on the road.
After a few kilometers I went up to a pickup of a former mountain guide. He drove me ten kilometers ahead of his own destination just to get me to the main road to Kalofer. Thank you!!
We talked about mountains, hikes, people and customs. It turned out that my stop ticket was my backpack with its dignified appearance.
I walked ahead, stopped in the field for a “breakfast in the grass,” and continued.
Not long after, a car stopped not very far in front of me and started an hazard lights. I was sure it wasn’t for me – such expensive cars don’t take hitchhikers, and I slightly increased my pace, just in case. It turned out that they were waiting for me.
And my shocked expression changed with a wide smile as soon as I opened the rear door – there were two neat backpacks and four hiking poles! 😁 Another great people in my life! Thanks!!
I was left at the entrance of Kalofer, where I met an old friend from my London’s life. And the day (as well the evening) was decided. A handful of walnuts for lunch were replaced by coffee and a plate of amazing homemade banitsa!
Great walk on one of the hiking trails nearby – a wonderful place! I just didn’t like one of the signs there (No tents allowed)… 😉
Nice company and sunny weather. Thanks, Bicheva!! 💝
The sky is covered with clouds, the forecast is heavy rain in the afternoon and tomorrow, and the feeling is somehow strange. It’s time for me to arrive already – with this forecast I can’t enjoy the last kilometers, so I’d better get ahead of the train station and finish as I started – by the train.
Of course, this does not mean from the bed directly to the station! By noon I have enough time to walk and enjoy the final chords of freedom and beauty. As I move along the train path, I can decide at which station to give up walking. Well, I didn’t expect this to be Kazanlak station! 😆
Back in Kalofer at the beginning of my walking, a lady stopped next to me completely unexpectedly and said that she was in the direction of the rail station and offered to take me if I was on the same route. I don’t know when I will stop being surprised in such situations…
From the station I continued by the road to the next village on the rail line and just before reaching it I raised my thumb again. After 2-3 km, an very nice couple traveling to Kazanlak, stopped and took me. I was not going to go back there at all, but why not!
The gentleman turned out to be a pilot traveling to the airport on business. I was offered to go with them and I readily accepted the invitation. One day I’ll probably be not that scared to fly myself…
From the airport to the rail station in Kazanlak and by train to home. My first (of many) travel trip, which only purpose was traveling, is over.
To get from point A to point B we learn while learning our first steps, but we fail to enjoy the process. And it can be an amazing experience. It has its difficulties, inconveniences and challenges, but they are a low price for the emotions, impressions and freedom that it gives in return.
I will need some time to process everything I have experienced, but what I am sure of, for more than two weeks, is that I want to keep doing it!!
Thanks to those who were by my side in this experiment of mine! To those who had my back and gave me strength in difficult moments! Thanks also to all the wonderful people I met on my way and who have become the reason I did something which, until recently, I thought was impossible!
The balance is 20 days on the road, 540+ km traveled (according to Polarsteps), over 200 of which - on foot (with a 20+ kg backpack).