Sunday, February 27, 2011

How Does One Use This Toilet?

The train arrived early in Sofia. I was glad to be off of it. We walked to the bus station a few feet away and found the booth that sold tickets to Veliko Tarnovo (there are an amazing number of booths in that bus station). Our youngest son had spoken highly of Veliko. He had been there twice, the second time was specifically to have Boyarski Kavarma, which he claims to be the best stew ever made. So of course we had to check it out. By the way, he also really liked the town.

At this point I should mention that the bus in Bulgaria is the opposite of the train. Luckily our son had told us that in Bulgaria you take a bus, in Romania, the train. Hence I was able to bear the thought of travelling further into Bulgaria other than by the dreaded train. The bus was beautiful and modern, complete with washroom, however it remains one of the great mysteries of our trip as to how one would use it. Have you ever seen one under the seats, at the stairwell for the back door? There is a door to it, under the seats. How does one get into it? Do you open the little door and park your butt while staring out at everyone? I was almost relieved when someone said it wasn't working. No need to figure it out!!

I have done a number of Google searches on the subject and cannot find out how one uses those toilets. I would appreciate some instructions! Can anyone offer any?

I did search on Google images and found these pictures of bus washrooms that are somewhat like the Bulgarian bus had, but these doors are really tall compared with what our bus had.

Here is an obviously shorter stall, but still taller than ours. I blurred the guys face in case he doesn't want to be shown here. Sure hope its okay!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Midnight Train to Sofia

After an overnight stop on Larissa, Greece, to visit a friend of a friend, we were off to Bulgaria. We caught the midnight train out of Thessaloniki. Within about 30 seconds of the train starting to move I realised that my camera was not with us. Panic! To jump off the train or not? I envisioned myself doing one of those leaps that they do in the movies. It was tempting...the train was still moving very slowly, but Gary was in the washroom and I wouldn't have had time to tell him what I was doing as making the jump would have had to happen immediately. Can you imagine his surprise if I simply wasn't there when he returned? Okay, its funny to think about now, but the pain of pulling away from the train station, knowing that your camera may be there somewhere...or not....almost would have made it worth it.

However, cooler heads prevailed and I remained on the train, heartbroken.

If you are considering taking a Bulgarian train, you should think twice. Yes, a night train is a good way to get from A to B, and in fact is the only train from Thessaloniki to Sofia, but.... 

We had sleeper. I was on the bottom. I must have been right over a wheel cause it was really noisy. I don't think most trains would be so noisy. My theory was that the rails were laid with a bit of space between them, resulting in a loud clackity-clack sound every few seconds.

Then there were the stops at the Bulgarian border for passport control...around 3:30am.

But the worst was the washroom....which still turns my stomach at the memory of it. The first trip to it was only mildly unpleasant. The one in the middle of the night was seriously revolting. A previous user had a problem that they should seek medical attention for. Their ability to spray the inside of the space is not normal!!!!! From the early '70's I have memories of Turkish toilets that one needed to wear boots when attending, but none came close to the Bulgarian train toilet. Okay, I gotta leave this subject alone. Dinner will be soon.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Few Pics From Our Village - Neochori

Beautiful stonework all over the village

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Further Exploring Around Stoupa

From late September / early October:

Stoupa itself had nothing to explore. Its just two beaches, a lot of restaurants across from the beaches and some vacation homes. This town seems not to have existed for long....its one of those towns exists because of tourists.

On the plus side, due to the tourists (at least I assume that is the reason), there is a beautiful wide paved path along the water to the next town of Agios Nickolaos. Finding the start of the path in Stoupa was a real challenge. People would send us off in the wrong direction, but this is not the first time I have found people to be unable to give directions. One must get a little closer, then ask again. And again. And again. I have seen taxi drivers in their own country do it this way. On the plus side, since taxi drivers are usually men, I have actually witnessed men stopping and asking for directions!!!!

Back to the walk.

a gorgeous display of brugmansia in Agios Nicholaos

No shade is available. Better do it early in the day!

We went to a small town to the north of Stoupa for dinner one night. It is called Kardamili and is where Nikos Kazantzakis (author of Zorba the Greek) knew a man whom he modeled Zorba after. The owner of the restaurant we ate at was a real character. Could he be a relative of that man? If I remember correctly, his name is Gregoris and I promised to send him prints of the pictures I took of him with our family. Unfortunately, my camera grew legs and disappeared at the Thessaloniki Train Station. The only picture I still have is this one that my daughter uploaded to her Facebook page. The restaurant owner is the one in the striped shirt. We had a delicious meal there!! Also, Gregoris was helping out a young Albanian, by giving him a job. Nice guy.

Kardamili really caught my eye. If I return to this part of Greece for another holiday, I would prefer to stay in this village over Stoupa.