Veliko Tarnovo to Bucharest : The Sunflowers
Ruse Travel Blog› entry 178 of 268 › view all entries
As I sit on the early mini-bus, chuntering along the road from Veliko Tarnovo north to the Bulgarian border city of Rousse (Ruse) I gaze, lazy-eyed out of the grubby window pane, fields of green cob stalks and wild grasses and turned, dried brown earth zipping past me. Still they stand, but seeming to head in the opposite direction. When all at once the landscape explodes in a profusion of yellow and gold. A crowd, an endless host of sunflowers are suddenly rushing past me. Stretching like a gilt-embroidered carpet, threaded with the suns very rays all the way to the visible horizon line. The sun itself is already on high and beating the best shades of fire from their countless flame-like petals. They turn their heads in obedience to Nature‘s laws.
But today will not be a good day despite this early morning cheer. No, today, in short is my first unadulterated failure in the art of journey-making. A logistical write-off. One to forget. And, as it will later in the day, my thoughts at the time recognise this as an almost apt reflection of my mood today. ’I feel crummy, therefore crummy things are more likely to keep happening’. Nagging doubts. Small forms of unhappiness and travel malaise maybe. The sunflowers sadly do little to lift my humour.
So, it being a bit of an ‘off day’ I thought I may as well take the opportunity to do a little spot of self-analysis at this stage in my voyage du Monde. Let’s take a look at the state of play.
But first the failure. I step off the bus in Rousse. Nowhere yet to stay. I refer to The Lonely Plonker’s Guide to Eastern Europe [see yesterday’s entry for explanation] but unfortunately it doesn‘t have a section on Rousse. I make a few enquiries about options for when I need onward transport to Bucharest. Where to stay here though? No kindly old ladies proposing cheap private rooms as in Veliko Tarnovo. No probs. I trudge into town and do have vague knowledge of one emergency option, the uninspiring sounding and expensive ( 16 - 20 Euros although apparently cheapest) The English Guesthouse.
It’s devilishly hot today which is unfortunate as after sweating my ass off around town for nearly 3 hours with no map and a 70 litre backpack and a 15 litre day bag I am just about ready to throw my sweat’n’ tears drenched towel into the ring. It’s f**king hopeless here! (Or maybe I’m hopeless?) I have the address of The English Guesthouse (all other options have proven waaaaaaay more expensive!), I even come across a directional sign post for it at some point, but after asking 15 different, all very helpful locals, for refinements on which way to find it, it still has not presented itself! Unbelievable! All phones in this city are card operated only. “Baba Tonka Street?… oh this way”. “Baba Tonka Street?… oh that way”. “Baba Tonka Street?… ah, you mean back that-a-way!“.
Yes, you heard me! “I GIVE UP!”. For the first time in memory. I just give Rousse the big ol’ “Oh f**k it and f**k off!”. I’ll see you another time. This is the longest I have ever had to trudge with the full weight of my possessions. A fact that when reunited momentarily with the Danube - creating here as it does the natural border between Bulgaria and Romania - I am tempted just to chuck it all in the flowing brown waters.
So I haul my ass, bag and heavy black mood all the way to the train station and buy a ticket straight on through to Bucharest. A two hour wait. Grafitti on the side of a stationary train carriage declares 'The crowd, the world & the grave [...] step aside for the man who knows where he is going'. But where am I going? Reading, eating junk chocolate for the first time since I don’t know when and thoughts along the lines of “Why?” and “What’s it’s all for?” beginning to creep out from the corners of my mind.
Like those scenes in teen-shows or bad soap operas (are there any good ones?) where the director needs to visualise the central character thinking; succumbing to memories; confusions; doubts; guilt; remorse; regret or any combination of the above a circular orbit; a halo of disembodied heads of friends, loved ones and strangers are circulating in my mind.
And the mind wanders down the path of least resistance to its inclinations and least appeal. The one bestrewn with shadows and negativity today. I’m tired, sweaty, smelly and unshaven.
I dunno what it is. Just an ‘off day’ as they say. Come on, there’ve only been one or two in over 10 months travel. To be expected. But it feels a little more entrenched right now. The “What’s it all about?” kinda doubt. Gravitational Pull. Am I a Lonely Plonker? Wandering lonely as a clown. Maybe it’s just ‘cos I’m sleep walking through Europe? Familiar territory. Still bummed at Iran’s refusal? I dunno. I think I need to get to Istanbul pronto and get my travel - and my travel-writing - mojo back. This mood will prevail off and on for the best part of a week actually. A walking tourism coma. Am I wasting my time, money and heart? I know I’m not. But sometimes ya just feel blue.
Blue skies vaulted high above. Three passport checks later and the train is trundling and my heart is grumbling but I’m on my way to Romania. Crossing the bridge over the Danube that marks the border. Fields of green cob stalks and wild grasses and turned, dried brown earth zipping past me again. Romanian soils and land this time though. White clouds in those blue skies hang in the way that forces the sun to throw veritable lazer-beams of light through their petticoats down onto the landscape from where they attempt to conceal him. And fields of gold…
‘One thousand and one yellow sunflower heads begin to dance in front of me. Oh dear!’
… yes fields of gold as here again in an attempt to save my mood, a crowd, a host of golden sunflowers have congregated in vast hordes to smile at me with all their glittering worth.
‘I’m knitting with only one needle, Unravelling fast it’s true…’
Rows and rows and fields and fields of them. Smiling. Smiling. Smiling. One of my Aunty’s favourite flowers. “Missing you! Sending you lots of hugs down the phone!”. Smiling always smiling. Trying to lift my mood. But…
‘It finally happened…’
Arrival in Bucharest. Even less idea of where I can stay than earlier. What do I do? Two monstrously sized currency notes from the ATM force me into McDonald’s where I have to purchase some McPoison just to break ‘em down. But in this final act of fatality for the day I am saved.
‘OhYes, it finally happened…’
I unashamedly accost this poor Ozzie and beg to borrow his Guide for 3 minutes. I show him my Lonely Plonker’s Guide to Eastern Europe in return. I furiously scribble down a couple of Bucharest hostels and addresses. Struggle through the usual pains of getting your head around yet another new public transport system and find my way eventually - and just as the heavens open (yes, reflecting my mood as I mused earlier, Romania brings me rains) - to the Central Hostel (formerly The Villa Helga) which has about as much atmosphere as a city morgue. Which again, seems fitting for today.
‘…I’m slightly sad. Just very slightly sad.’ *
* After ‘I’m Going Slightly Mad’ by Queen.