Sleeping in Trains, Airports, Anywhere in Bulgaria!!!

Plovdiv Travel Blog

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Overnight trains… Ahhh, the joys. But this one wasn’t so bad… I had only booked a seat for the night, cos the sleepers are more expensive, so I was just hoping that my carriage was going to be empty so I could try to get some sleep without that gnawing thought that you get in the back of your mind that you might wake up without all of your worldly possessions… I mean, when you carry everything you own in your bag, the last thing you want is to lose it, true?

As soon as I got on the train another guy got in the same cabin, but he was cool… Only about my age, he was from Macedonia but his girlfriend is working in Romania so he had come to visit when he had a few days off. So we got to talking about everything, travel, life, you know, standard sort of conversations, telling him all about my trip and the people I’ve met and all of that. For a few hours we just had random conversations before the sun went down (great sunset btw…) and then we both stretch out along the seats and tried to get some sleep. He was out in a minute or 2, I spent the next 10 hours trying to convince myself I was going to get some sleep but it never happened. After a few hours I was getting restless so went for a walk along the train and then went back to tossing and turning on the seat. I don’t know why some trips I can sleep like a baby and others I’m a complete insomniac no matter how tired I am, but the train trip seemed to last for 3 days of darkness. When we finally got there I was completely scattered, and still hadn’t actually decided where in Bulgaria I wanted to go. All I knew was that I didn’t want to stay in Sofia, so it was either Varna on the coast of the Black Sea, or Veliko Tarnovo, or Plovdiv. I decided that Varna was too far away since I had a flight only a few days later, and when I got to Sofia I saw that there was a train to Plovdiv only half an hour later, so decision was made. I went to try to buy a ticket, but Bulgarian is such a difficult language to understand. I’m getting to be a pro at reading Cyrillic, the letters are all making sense to me, but a conversation in Bulgarian is a whole other story. I can try to ask for tickets but unless the answer is yes followed by handing over some cash, I am completely lost. I had no idea what the woman was talking about (not helped by the yes and no confusion that every foreigner deals with here… in case you’ve never been to Bulgaria… Well, they nod their head for no and shake it for yes… makes everything just that bit more perplexing when trying to hold a conversation in another language!!! Anyway…) So luckily the Macedonian guy sees me and comes to my rescue, turns out I’m at the wrong ticket booth. So I get my stuff together and rush to the other one where I don’t have the same trouble, get my ticket and I’m outta there.

The train to Plovdiv is about 2 and a half hours, and what do you know I finally get some sleep. I slept for most of the journey usually waking up when the train jolted to a stop at the stations along the way. At one point I woke up at a station and couldn’t see any signs. I almost put my head back down until I realised that it was a really big station, asked the girl near me (thankfully she spoke English!!!) where we were, and when she said Plovdiv I grabbed my bags and ran and leapt out the doors just before they closed. There was a bus that went right near the hostel so I was trying to get that but couldn’t figure out where to get the tickets. I asked some adorable little old ladies who spoke no English at all (of course I asked in Bulgarian, bless my phrasebooks, what would I do without them!) and they couldn’t answer in English… So one of them runs into her little booth and grabs a scrap of paper which has written in very bad English “ticket on d bus”… She was so sweet, she must get asked the same question daily by dumb tourists so she actually has it written down so that she can help instead of just shooing people away like most would. Got the bus, found the hostel and had 3 much needed cups of coffee to try to wake myself up!

Ran into one of the guys there that I had been hanging out with in Prague the first time I was there, caught up with him and then met a bunch of Aussies on the same path as every other Australian is at the moment, making the trek across to Turkey in time for ANZAC Day in Gallipoli. I really wish I could be headed in the same direction, unfortunately I just don’t have the time, so I’m glad I went and saw everything there at the start of my trip. So for the first time in a while I hung out with some Aussies for the day, drinking beer by the amphitheatre, climbing to the top of the walls at the peak of one of the hills and sitting in the sun, and just generally hanging about town in the sun.

Went back to the hostel where we had a few more beers before they had to all leave for the night train and all of a sudden it was peace and quiet for the night. Had another couple of beers and stayed up talking to the few people that were there until everyone went to bed at about midnight but I stayed up until 2 when the hockey started, Montreal Canadiens vs Boston Bruins… Did I mention that ice hockey is my new obsession? Anyway… Stayed up until probably close to 4am watching when the stupid internet connection dropped out and I couldn’t reconnect. It was probably best that way, I eventually gave up and went to bed.

Don’t really know why, but I was up again by 8 the next day and out enjoying the sunlight. More roaming aimlessly around town, there was not a lot I wanted to see there just keep on being my boring old self hanging out in beautiful big parks and enjoying the sunlight. I figure I might as well enjoy it now because very soon I’m going to be back in Australia just in time for winter to slowly kick in.

In the afternoon Max was arriving, one of the boys from Beograd that I had kept in touch with, so went back to the hostel to cool off for a little while and see if he was there. Perfect timing, he got there a few minutes later and after settling in we headed back to the town for icecream and more walking in the sun for the next couple of hours. Sat in the square to have a beer and hide from the sunlight for a few minutes when the wind started going crazy, knocking over glasses, umbrellas, tables, every the big solid glass ashtrays were flying off the tables and shattering. It was crazy, felt like being at home for a while, the weather changing so suddenly!!! Clouds were coming fast, so we finished our beers and went back to the hostel just in time to avoid the rain that came. More beers and socialising that night, although the hostel was really quiet, not many people staying that night.

Next day I said my goodbyes and headed back to the train to get back to Sofia. I was still tossing up whether to get a hostel for that night of sleep at the airport since my flight for Malta was leaving at 7am, so I had to checkin at 5... It seemed silly to get a bed somewhere when I wasn’t going to get any sleep anyway, and would then have to get a cab at about 4am… So I decided to just sleep at the airport. Leaving Plovdiv, the weather was great, so sunny again that I was tempted to stay and enjoy the weather, but flight is booked so I had to make sure I made it in time, I really couldn’t afford to miss another flight and I wanted to spend the afternoon seeing what little of Sofia you can in only a few hours. The train trip was fun… I spent the first half hour or so deep in conversation with a lovely Bulgarian woman… Neither of us really had any clue what the other was talking about, I was trying to understand what she was saying through her gestures and mannerisms (I know, it was interesting!), and I was trying to communicate back with my phrasebook. I did manage to understand that she thought I was 20 years old and a student, and tried painfully to explain that I am maybe a little (lot) older than I look, and we talked about where I have been, she was trying to ask about Australia and why the heck I would be in Bulgaria, and she was shocked when I told her how long I had been travelling, but went back to wondering why Bulgaria. When we had stopped talking and I was reading my book she could see how tired I was and insisted I get some sleep, she would wake me when we got to Sofia (still all in Bulgarian)… And so I did! But every time we got to a station I automatically woke up with the jolt, and she would send me back to sleep with a few hand gestures to tell me that we weren’t there yet. She was absolutely lovely, I wish I could have had a proper conversation with her. But she came through and woke me up a few minutes before Sofia so I could get my luggage down and shoes on and all that. Sweetheart she was!

But by the time i got there it was insanely cold and miserable. The rain was absolutely bucketing down, far too much to get out and see anything, and I was ages away from town. So I put my pack in storage and went to have a cup of coffee and figure out what to do. In the end I got a cab to the airport at about 9pm, had another coffee, and settled into my new home for the next 10 hours. The later it got, the quieter the airport got, and I had a look at the schedule only to see that they had no flights departing between 10:40pm and 4:40am… Started to have a little mini-panic that maybe they would shut the airport and I would be stranded outside in the cold. I know dumb thought, but you know how silly things get in your mind… By midnight there was nobody in sight but then another guy about my age appeared and curled up on another bench near me to get some sleep and I felt a little reassured. Tried all night to sleep, even a little, but the most I managed was a couple of 15 minute naps which just made me more tired. People started to appear at about 3am, and then finally at 5am I went and got changed, cleaned up and got ready for my flight. Reality started to set in that this was it, my very last stop… No more wandering the continent, doing as I please… No more living completely carefree, having nobody but myself to worry about… After this, it’s back to reality. Work, friends, family, routine (ok, no, there will definitely be not more routine…) but back to real life! It’s an exciting and petrifying thought that I am going to suppress for as long as I can from here. So, next time you hear from me, my trip will probably be over L L L

But until then, I’m gonna have a blast in Malta, can’t wait!

See ya there.




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photo by: anywien