Sunday, October 8, 2017

Three Seasons in One Day- Shipko Pass

It was still raining hard when we got up. What are the chances that it keeps raining at this pace for over 24 hours with no sign of stopping?

I spent last evening and this morning trying to dry my clothes and shoes with the hair dryer. All are dry except my shoes.

I seem to have broken out in itchy hives. Graham and John have not. I’m not quite sure what I’m reacting to.

There was a huge breakfast buffet at our guest house this morning; cucumbers, tomatoes, a homemade Bulgarian type  donut, a homemade flaky pastry with Bulgarian feta, cheese, bread, a variety of salami and cold cuts, Balkan yoghurt, tons of fruit, lots of home baked sweets and more.

The streets were so wet that water ran down  like fast flowing rivers.

Fully nourished,  we left Veliko Tărnovo and headed for Plovdiv. After driving through more wooded, winding roads interspersed with a few meadows and towns, we stopped at the Ethnographic Open Air Museum. Fortunately it stopped raining while we were there.

This attraction was a Bulgarian cross between Toronto’s Black Creek Pioneer Village and an Artisans Market. We enjoyed the village exhibits and watching the artisans at work. We bought custom made and fitted (as we watched) leather belts and watched the silversmith create his beautiful jewellery.

We stopped in one last exhibition centre. A man was chatting away in Bulgarian for quite awhile before I realized he was speaking to me. I started to say “I don’t speak..” before deciding that he would understand better if I just said “English”. Unfortunately it came out sounding like “I don’t speak English”.

This got a reaction from Graham because I still haven’t lived down the time I mistakenly said “ I don’t speak English” to a man in Berlin in 2012.

Leaving the outdoor museum, we continued our journey by winding roads, up the mountains and into the clouds.  We were in the Shipka Pass. In the blink of an eye, the landscape turned white and the still green, leafy trees were weighted down with heavy snow. During the short drive from the museum, the temperature dropped to 2 degrees. 

We stopped at a small parking lot at the top of the pass with a restaurant, small shop and stairs leading up up up through the woods to something. 

A lone, skinny dog walked forlornly around the parking lot; tail firmly planted between his legs. He approached us with such a sad look in his eyes. It broke my heart but I didn’t pet him in case he turned into Cujo (that vicious, killer dog from a Steven King novel).

Graham and I weren’t thinking and we left the car wearing inappropriate footwear; me in my only pair of dry enclosed shoes and him in a pair of Sperrys with no grips. At least John wore hiking shoes.

It was perfect packing snow. Heading towards the stairs, I gave into temptation and threw numerous snowballs at the guys until Graham turned around and womped me with a big one.

The snow was ankle deep but we continued to climb the stairs. Those stairs went on forever, rising into thick cloud. We passed a large tree that creaked threateningly like it was going to fall over at any second. Big snowball like chunks rained down from above every time the wind blew. 

We finally gave up and turned around before we got to the top because visibility was getting worse and worse. The walk down was slushy and slippery. Graham’s and my feet were soaked and he said he couldn’t feel his toes.

We returned to our car. The dog watched us as we left to begin our descent down the other side of the mountain. As if a line was drawn, we were out of winter and into a sunny, fall day. Colourful fall foliage painted the mountainside.

By the time we reached the valley, (under an hour), the temperature had risen to 17 degrees.

We passed fields of harvested lavender and many herds of sheep. At one point, our journey was slowed by a herd of cows on the road.

We stopped at a quaint restaurant with a panoramic view of a small town dominated by an imposing monument at the base of the mountain. Stunning!

I had a bowl of tripe soup and used the internet to inform our Airbnb host in Plovdiv of our expected arrival time.

While driving down a back alley in Plovdiv, looking for our accommodation, we passed a large group of feral cats hanging around a trash compactor...searching for treasure I presume.

We found our apartment, no problem. While waiting for our host, we met another couple from Australia who were also staying on our floor. 

We quickly dropped off our luggage and went out to get a taste of Plovdiv.

What a charming and lovely city. Our apartment is close to the old town with its cobblestone streets.

We found our way to the beautiful fountain in  the square of the pedestrian walk. Many people strolled around, enjoying the autumn evening.

We went out for supper before heading back to our apartment. 

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