Vulgarian Christmas (5 of 8) – Bulgaria

Melting Snow, Muddy Slopes

The ski slopes are useless, but at least the pub is open.

27 December
Ergh

Feeling a bit grim, when I mumble how the Drill Sergeant is going to miss breakfast, the delightful Dave offers to bring some to the room. Ah, nice boy! But Drill Sergeant recoils somewhat. I eventually surface, still go for a HUGE walk up the mountain – only to find a very depressing mudfield where the snow used to be. The Catapult Bungee lads do their best to entice me for another go, but I decline and take in the horrendously disappointing vision a’front me. I don’t even bother getting the chairlift to the top.

I make a slow descent, stock up with fluids and decide to have another non-day, playing cards and re-hydrating. I’m shortly joined by Julie, who invites me to join the rest of the gang, including the man we’ve affectionately nicknamed, "Roger-Me-Senseless-Big-Hands," since Dave thought his name was Roger. What is it about this guy and people getting his name wrong?!

Anyway, it seems fitting enough as I constantly tell Dave, "Look at his hands. I dare you!" Dave is sick of hearing this. Oh, to have a girly travel companion who’d completely understand the need for this "incessant babbling," as Dave equally incessantly puts it. I’m feeling particularly ropey and decline. The truth be known, I’m still a bit embarrassed to see him again. After all, a couple of days have now passed and we still haven’t even managed a meagre hello.

Dave joins us and says, "We’re all gonna get some taxis and head down to Smolian." "Oh. We ARE, are we?" I reply with an accompanying look that says – that means – with "Big Hands" doesn’t it?! Equally knowingly and smugly, Dave just grins. Oh, feck it. It’s a group sitch, I can finally face the music. I quickly change into my "same bloody jeans" again, given that I’m not wearing ski gear during the day, I’m a tad sick of them, and join the group. We find taxis, and I conveniently end up with Louise and, erm, "Robert". We make jokes with Spuz, our good-humoured, typically-friendly cab-driver for the 20-minute madness, driving on, well, whichever bloody side of the road that’s available! Seemingly, either is acceptable!

Although I can still barely make eye-contact, it’s actually quite comfortable, though I’m not at all sure what he’s thinking. We arrive and arrange for Spuz to meet us again in a couple of hours. A quick look around suggests that 10 minutes might’ve been ample. We wander around this very bleak, grey, poverty-stricken, depressing town that is Smolian, take a few snaps for the sake of it, and have a bit of a laugh.

Our "excursion" ended up in a "funky as Smolian gets" little café, where a round of 8 drinks costs us 5 lev (about £2.50!). After all my rehydrating, I need to use the, erm, facilities. This should be interesting, given that the waitress, although again very friendly, doesn’t speak a word of English, but she does understand essential things like "one beer please".

Mind you, Dave (Joanne’s brother) Mr. "I’m not trying to be difficult," naively orders, "Erm, a cheese-and-ham toastie please!" Jesus!

Anyway, the waitress knows precisely what I mean and leads me to, erm, well, a doorway which leads to erm, "a brick shithouse". Literally. I feign a smile, say "Blagodaria" and walk in. Well, I walk as far as I can until I realise it’s pitch black inside! As much as I’d like to close the door, it’s keeping the only remaining bit of grey light coming in, and I hover over the at least porcelain, but albeit seatless, pedestal. I’m thinking "spiders, broken glass, diseases," and make the necessary bladder relief as quickly and painlessly as possible! Ergh. No soap, but alas, a faucet. Ni-iiiiice. I shudder at the thought of how I’ve just enhanced my already toxin-ridden body and slink back into the cafe, wearing a telling expression.

With the slight lubrication, the return journey is even more amusing, chattier and light-hearted, and I crack jokes in my inimitably "not very funny to anyone else" way. Do I care? Nope. Lou (the Australian truncation habit has already worked its way) thinks it’s a great idea to have a sauna and jacuzzi to build up an appetite. Well, my appetite could do with some enticing, and at this price we may as well take advantage of such luxury!

I’m up for it, as is Dave, but Rob is reluctant as he says, turning to me sheepishly, "I don’t have any shorts!" I don’t know how to respond, except than not with what I’m thinking, which is along the lines of, "and the problem is?!" The poor boy heads off to actually buy some for the occasion!

Oh bless.

When we’re told only two of us can fit into the jacuzzi at once, and Rob decides the last thing he wants to do is bathe with another man, he jokily-blokily says,"We’re gonna go drink beer!" And rightly so, as Lou and I share a sauna with a rather large, sweating, grunting, erm, gentleman – a little disconcerting when we don’t know what he’s muttering.

Simultaneously opening pores and selves, we have a great ol’ chat, mainly about how crap Irish men are (here, here!), then jump in the jacuzzi. She’s pretty "’out there," and we have a few things in common and a quite similar outlook concerning travel, our independence, etc. Mr BH (Big Hands) returns mid-bubbles. Aaaaaargh – cover my bits! Seemingly, everyone wants to go out for dinner, but I’m still feeling particularly paranoid, so I think not. I shower, change – and chill. Dave returns, saying they’re waiting for us in the foyer. Ooops. I recall that BH was starving at the cafe in Smolian, so I do feel a tad guilty for a) keeping them and b) declining when I finally make an appearance. I tell them I’m staying in, and pirouette. As I do, BH says, "Oh, okay, enjoy your dinner." He seems surprised, but I try not to notice.

It’s all too weird. I eat, feel reasonably awful, and head straight to bed, hopeful for a night off this time. Dave returns, saying, "Your boyfriend was surprised to hear you were unwell, and seemed disappointed." Ha ha.

Well, I just can’t do alcohol tonight. My throat’s sore, my glands are swelling, my eyes are yellow! Besides, I’m doing a controlled experiment to see if it’s the food or the grog. Mehopes the former, so I can get back to the latter!

As Dave leaves, he jokes about sending BH and/or my barman up to my room. He asks if I’d like them both or to be staggered. I tell him I’ll squeeze BH in around 11 and have Nicky "for breakfast"! I have to say, I am sorely tempted to go out later, and Dave’s parting words, "See you at Dak’s at about 12 then?" do nay help but, I need to test my will. The crap television adds to the challenge, but with a fair bit of sleep and no strangers at my door – or sadly, in my bed – I prove I am not yet an alcoholic!

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