Thursday, September 16, 2010

Plovdiv and the road to Turkey

Plovdiv and the road to Turkey.

Quote from Famil Fortunes-

Name something you take to the beach? – Turkey

Something you wear? - Turkey

Something associated with Christmas? Turkey!!!!

Its not totally correct, but its close enough!

Right what can I say about Plovdiv? Its a tiny place with quaint little streets, cobblestones, painted buildings and great views from the top of the hill. But its also in the middle of the town/city of Plovdiv, which is like any normal eastern European city, with a main shopping street and a square with a fountain and cafés and bars. Then around a corner you will walk past an old Roman amphitheatre or see another one under the main shopping street itself. Its a really great place though – We sat on a tiny and quiet square for an hour, just watching the world go by and the dogs sleep – unaware that the main street of bustling crowds and shops was just 50 yards behind us.

As for the Ozbussers, we arrived mid afternoon after a short journey from Sofia and everyone immediately liked the place – apart from the walk up the cobbled hill to the Hostel!! It was a bit of a trek, but worth the effort as the Hostel is located right in the middle of the old town, just a short walk from the hustle and bustle. After settling in and checking the net, everyone had a quick wander round in the sunshine. It is now starting to get hotter – probably about 30c this afternoon, which was why me and the ladies sat in the square for a while just chilling out in the shade – whilst some of the others had a much odder experience, such as finding a woman in the street – doing a 'number 2!!'

At 4pm, we met back at the Hostel for our official walking tour of the town, led by a local guide called Angelina. She was lovely and as well as telling us about the history and legends surrounding the town, she also told us a bit about what the vandalism and graffiti that spoils it a little for the visitors. She was a really good host though, even when she was asked some awkward questions.

The tour ended about 6ish and a few of us decided to sit in a local bar and enjoy the sunshine with a drink – The prices were outrageous – a large beer cost the equivalent of 80p!! I liked Plovdiv even more!! The drinks ended up turning into dinner, which was also really cheap and rather good – Then discussions turned to the toilets, which had automatic lights – but they went off if you didn’t move, so everyone had to wave their hands or dance whilst using them to prevent ending up in the dark.

We sat there a while just chatting, drinking and eating, with great service from the waiter, who seemed to be running the place on his own. He was very humble when we left him a large tip for his hard work. I think Lana may bring her next set of bussers to the same place for dinner.

It was only a short walk back to the Hostel, but we still had some Levs (Bulgarian money) left, so we decided to put it all in the pot and sat at another bar until the money had gone.

It was then off to bed for us all after yet another nice pleasant evening out.

The next morning – Thursday, we all managed to make it back down the cobbled hill and to the bus in one piece – even though a few of the girls were a bit worse for wear – Some hadn’t slept because of noise, while others had been out clubbing in town till the wee hours. We all clambered aboard the fun bus and headed off towards the next country – Today is Turkey and the start of a 3 day stop in Istanbul – We are all excited as the scenery is beginning to change from the normal green grass and modern building of western Europe to browner dry grass and older, eastern buildings – the people are more Mediterranean and the roads are getting worse! But even with all the excitement it didn’t stop most of the bus from getting their heads down before we even left town.

After a while people started to wake up and chat. It also became apparent that we were lost – again! The new road to the border was not yet open but all the signs were already up and telling us to go that way. The satnav kept telling us to turn around and we were following a country lane with the new road temptingly running alongside. After overtaking a few horses and carts it became obvious that we had to finally turn around, so after getting directions from a local, Dennis, turned the bus about and headed towards the town of Harmanli. When we got back there we immediately spotted a sign pointing us in the correct direction and started that way. We all needed a little break, so Dennis pulled up in a truck stop to use the facilities. However, most people just stood and stared at the locals who in turn stared back at us. This was a proper eastern European truck stop, with dogs lying around, rubbish all about and broken windows. There was a restaurant with 30-40 year old furniture and other shops that hadn’t seen a customer in years. It was a great opportunity for the camera buffs to get some authentic pictures of the people and the place as well as old shoes littering the ground. Everyone eventually braved getting off the bus – even Laura who was still in her Pj's!! After a short break we were back on the bus – sweets, crisps and biscuits were passed around as we headed towards the border at Svelingrad.

We eventually arrived at the border about 1115ish. It didn’t take long for us to get off the bus and through customs to leave Bulgaria, but then there was a 20 minute wait on the bus before we could get off and use the toilets in the food hall in no man's land. It didn’t last long however as it was a 'pay to pee' and nobody had yet got Turkish lira – so we all about turned and wandered disconsolately back to the bus. Then we waited again for about 40 minutes to queue for the visa cash office, which had no one inside. A bit of dancing, a little bit of singing and a lot of sitting down later, we all finally had our visas – even the Irish contingent who had been told at first that they didn’t need visas.

It was then back on the bus and we moved about 5 feet, before the Turkish border guards started to go through the baggage in the hold of the bus and they even checked the toilet. This was the first time its been checked, so its a good job we weren’t smuggling any Chinamen in there. Its now 1251 and we are still sitting on the bus, discussing the ever increasing hot weather, tans, fizzy water and going straight to Koh Samui, instead of all the travelling between now and then. Lets hope we are off soon!!

More about the trip to follow tomorrow!!

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