There is something special about encountering people. Getting to know them, sharing thoughts, feelings, opinions and ideas. Even some fast passing encounters can be full of power and magic. These three stories are dedicated to those that made our trip a great journey.
Spontaneous night at the NAVY commander
After three days in the Danube delta we made our way out of the reservat again. We were now hitchhiking south along the coast of the Black Sea towards Bulgaria.
Now in winter time, the days are short. The early darkness can make it hard to continue hitchhiking as well as finding a place to sleep. Usually we look for a good spot out of the towns to not be seen. When we walked through the little village this time I thought: “Let’s just ask someone if we can put up our tent in their garden and see what happens.” At the next house we heard some people talking and called them over to the gate. A middle-aged man in camouflage clothing walked up to us. “Do you speak English”, we asked him. “Yes I do!” was his instant answer. So we asked him if it was okay to put up our tent in his garden. For a second he was examining us. Then he asked secretively: “Do you know what happend here just one year ago?” We refused and wanted to know what happened. But he was not answering, instead he asked where we were from and how old we were. We answered his question and he said: “Okay guys, come in!” and opened the gate. While we were walking to his garage he added: “… and forget about the tent!”
This guy was a NAVY commander and finally told us the story about what happened just one year ago: Pretty much exactly one year ago there were also two guys calling him to his gate and asked for a place to sleep. He invited them to eat and sleep in there garage. So it was like a deja vue for him. I had the impression he was looking at this like it would be fate and his duty to host us and give us some company. Proudly he introduced us to his family: his wife, his 14 years old daughter and his 11 years old son. I was really surprised how open and welcoming the whole family was towards two complete strangers that just knocked to their door in the darkness.
After we tried his home-made schnapps we offered to cook for all of us. Whereupon he replied that his wife is already about to prepare something for us but anyway we can cook. He was curious about how we are doing this. “Just do it the way you are always doing it and don’t get distracted by me observing you.”, he said and watched.
After we finished the cooking and had another round of his schnapps they served the really delicious food. Fresh fish, salad, rice and more. It felt so good to eat all this together with the family. The atmosphere was very welcoming and I had the impression that it was not only for us an adventure.
The next morning we had to get up at 6 o’clock since he and his family had to go to work early. It was my birthday and I enjoyed being up so early to use the day. A day without big attention yet adventurous standing on the road just when the sun was rising and thumbing towards Bulgaria.
The first car that stopped took us right to the border of Bulgaria. The driver was actually on the way to his work but still he was driving us even further than he needed to go just to drop us of right at the border. By foot we crossed the border and on the Bulgarian side we started our breakfast the family gave us for the way.
Dating a fantastic girl under the stars
Since we were on the road so early we reached Varna, our next destination, before midday. Here we could stay for three days in Tara’s flat. Tara was a German student in Varna and she suggested to go to student’s party in the night. As it was my birthday I really liked this idea and I could even convince Tomek to join. After a long day Tomek and me hit the hay for a while before going to the party. At around 10pm Tara and her Polish friend Carolina were waking us up and trying to motivate us.
After sitting together for a while we made our way to the little club where the party was taking place. I really enjoyed the atmosphere and soon we meet some Erasmus students. On the way to the wardrobe I saw two girls sitting on the couch and said hello to them. Tani and Desi were two Bulgarian students and I quickly noticed how much they love their city. I think it is the best to spent time at place with people that are in love with their place and have a certain connection to it. So I suggested to go dancing and even though there where not so many people dancing yet we had lots of fun. From time to time Tani went up to some people, grabbed their hands and took them to the dance floor. Like this soon it was much more crowed. We laughed all together and enjoyed the fun atmosphere until the club started to close.
We thought about going somewhere else but actually we were already a bit tired. So Desi suggested that Tani and me can sleep at her place if we want. Desi was a calm but cheerful person. At her place Tani and me cuddled together on the couch. The next morning we said goodby to Desi who really seemed to be such a kind and hearty person.
Without any sleep we went into the fresh morning air. We walked through a park and to the beach. Except of some waking up swans it was pretty empty. Here we laid down in the sand just enjoying the morning sun. Tani told me about her life and I listened. Eventually she said: “I have a gift for you!”, grabbed a hand full of sand and filled up a little pocket in my jacket. “Now you have to take that all the way around the world until you are back home, so you will not forget us sitting here at the beach!”, she continued with a big smile in her face.
We went back to the park and after a while I had the feeling that I should go back to our host’s home. At a crossing back in town we said goodbye. While walking away she turned around winked at me and then disappeared. At around 11am I arrived at the flat of our host Tara. Being dead tired I just fell in the bed and slept at once.
The next morning Tomek and me made plans on traveling to the Balkan Mountains. When we were exploring Varna’s old town Carolina told Tomek about this mysterious monument in the Central Balkan Mountains. After he had seen pictures he was instantly fire and flame for it. We had a new plan.
The next and last day I asked Tani if she wanted to meet up in the evening. She was in and we went to a little bar with some live music. She ordered water and told me that she drinks alcohol only every few months, what I liked. Soon the bar became a bit too loud for us and we decided to go to the beach. It was already dark and also a bit fresh. We were just talking about swimming in the sea when she asked: “Do you want to go swimming now?” My first answer was: “Yes I would but I doubt that you dare to do that.” Then she told me about some mineral hot springs and that we could go there.
We walked back through the park along a dark path. Suddenly she look at me with a cold expression: “You don’t know me, you don’t know where we are…” and said something about kidnapping. For a second I felt a strange feeling in my stomach and the situation occured strange to me. Actually I was aware of the fact that a girl I don’t know is leading me to a place I don’t know. In this moment two creepy looking guys appeared around the corner… and Tani was so horrified. Appearantly she was acting well enough to get scared her own. I started laughing and said: “You know, for your little sins you will be punished instantely.”
Some seconds later we arrived to the beach. Right at the sea there was this pool where hot mineral water was passing in. In the dark of the moon we got rid of our clothes and entered into the hot water. We could hear the sound waves around the pool and the hot mineral water was balm for our souls. It was a clear night and under the stars we enjoyed the beauty of the night. It can be surprising how open people can be that know only for some hours. When she asked me about my best travel experience I said: “Great moments are often connected to people. Meeting people and sharing moments with them for me is one of the greatest things about traveling.” This was such a moment. We stayed there and enjoyed the whole night. When it was getting too hot we just went out of the pool and refreshed in the cold sea.
It already began to dawn when two creepy guys came to the pool talking to us. That was when we decided that it was time to leave now. We used my t-shirt to dry ourselves and called a taxi. When we arrived at Tani’s place she asked me if she could keep my t-shirt. I had to laugh but it was okay for me. When we said goodbye I wanted to cheer her up a bit but she interrupted me: “It’s okay… I just want to hug you and it will be okay.” After that I wandered through the awaking city and again arrived in the early morning totally tired at Tara’s place just hoping for some hours of sleep before hitting the road again.
Unforgettable family with a big heart
Meeting Alexander and Maria was a memorable time for me as well as for Tomek. They were shining with a mixture of a happy calmness and a mild sense of adventure. Tomek and me, two completely strangers, were hosted in their family with such a warm-hearted way that I will remeber it for a long time.
After three hours of sleep Tomek woke me up in the morning at 10am. Terribly tired I was struggling to get up. Today we planned to hichhike south along the Black Sea. An old bus dropped us of at the motorway entrance. After some unsuccessfull hours Tomek suggested to try it just on the motorway. I was sceptical but we tried and Tomek was right, it was definitely a better spot. About 100m in front of us two local hitchhikers also were chancing their luck. However, after half an hour I did not believe in our luck anymore and preferred to find a place to sleep somewhere around here before it would get dark. Tomek was okay with that but insisted in continuing a little longer: “Okay give me ten minutes.” and indeed, these 10 minutes influenced our whole trip in Bulgaria. Two minutes later a Bulgarian webdesigner called Anton stopped and took us to small village. He was on the way to pick up his son from a friend’s place and he was sure that we could put up our tent in their garden. I was a bit surprised that he was just inviting to strangers to sleep at his friends place but also curious about what would happen.
We drove down the highway to a very small village, more a collection of some houses. At the end of a gravelly little path we arrived to the gate of the last house where a vital Golden Retriever was louldly barking for us. A smiling man with grey hair came out of the house to open the gate. Despite his peaceful nature you could see in his eyes that he somehow was an adventurer. The dog did some high jumps on us and we went all together in his house.
We put down our backpacks and sat on the table. There were three young boys playing around but not getting distracted too much by us. They were communicating with us as if it would be the most normal in the world that there are two guys from the street in the house. One boy came to the table and gave me and orange which I was supposed to peel for him. The dog was totally excited and Alexander told us that it was there good luck dog. They had found him weak and sick in the forest, took him to the vet and then integrated him in their family. They had been looking for a suitable house for years and almost had given up on it but just some days after they adopted the dog they received a phone call that there was a house that might suit them. The same day the signed the contract. That was just some weeks ago and by now the do looks very healthy and full of energy bringing a great energy to the family. Only the cat was still a bit shy and unsecure – except of some moments.
Alexander explained us that he still had to talk to his wife but we could probably also sleep inside the house if we want. There were a little room with two empty bed. Half an hour later his wife Marisha came home und Alexander introduced us. First I felt a bit strange just being here in her house as a stranger but her open and warm-hearted way made me feel welcome instantely. Soon we felt more like friends and not like a stranger.
The next day we discussed our trip through Bulgaria with Marisha and Alexander. It happened to be that they knew interesting people all around Bulgaria where we could stay and get hosted. So after some phone calls we had places to sleep all around Bulgaria and also the contact to the mountain guide Vesco who help us to enter the monument of Mount Buzludzha.
In the afternoon they asked us if we felt like going on a short trip to the southern most coast of Bulgaria where the mountains reach all the way into the sea. Of course Tomek and me were in for this, so we packed our stuff and the went in the car. We were all together six people, Marisha was driving and the youngest boy was sitting in the back on Alexander’s lap. When he started crying Marisha explained us with a twinkle in her eye that we are about to experience the most natural contraception. We drove along a scenic street and after half an hour on an exciting dirt road we arrived to the remote little village Emona at cape Emine. This cape marks the eastern most tip of the Central Balkan Mountains. From here it was falling sharply around 60m down where hundrets of little rocks jut out of the water.
Tomek and me liked this place so much that we decided to camp here tonight. Alexander and Marisha offered to pick us up here the next morning to drive us to a well located petrol station where we could continue hitchhiking. Then they unpacked the food they had prepared. Four fresh and juicy peaces of meat, vegetables and we also had some rice. So everything the heart could wish for.
Read what happened in the night: The attacking jackals