Woke up early-ish so I could get in some writing time before having to get ready to go out. Aren’t I a good little writer? Quickly scarfed down some popcorn and took my donated lime Red Bull to go, which was surprisingly nice, if not very Red Bull-like. The weather was good again so I was back in shorts and my pineapple tank top, though I’d prepared with my cardy on hand too since we were going to be going a way up the mountain. We met up with Emi and her parents and got into her dad’s car from round the back of their building.
Driving round the outskirts of the town was really good because we got to see a lot more areas of Bulgaria that way. Emi pointed out the parts where her nan lives and also the area that’s apparently at war with where she lives. We went from roads to cobblestones to crazy steep off-roading paths up the mountain. My car definitely wouldn’t have liked it. Emi told her dad that I have an MX-5. He was very impressed, woo! The drive up was nice though, if very bouncy and possibly mean to the car. It was very green and woody and there was a little river and waterfall running alongside the road.
The monastery that we were visiting was set quite high up the mountain. We were lucky to have Emi to translate the history for us. Apparently it was originally destroyed during the Turkish slavery reign and then re-built again. We couldn’t go into the actual monastery as nuns still live there, but we explored around it and found the pretty little cemetery that’s attached. I made friends with a very fluffy German Shepherd whilst we were there. I also got to experience what Emi called a typically Bulgarian toilet, which she was very gleeful about. I quickly learnt why once I found out that it was basically a porcelain bowl built into a hole in the floor, with a railing on the wall to cling to. I took no chances and took off all the bottom half of my clothing and only kept my shoes, just to avoid any quite horrible mishaps. Thank you Romans for inventing proper plumbing.
We went into the little chapel part, where Emi reckoned there was a good chance she might get struck by lightning. I figured that could work out well because she might get super speed. She suggested I could then somehow fall into a vat of nearby acid if I wanted to become a supervillain, but I declined and requested instead to be the goofy sidekick that makes a lot of well-timed stupid comments. We were all in agreement that it made sense since that’s basically my life, just minus the actual sidekick part. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on which way you look at it, there was no lightning and no need for clichéd superhero hierarchy. Instead we bought and lit mini candles to place in the fancy holders in honour of the living. My candle just had to be crooked. Typical.
The drive back down was slower for safety reasons and nicer too – I spotted views that I hadn’t noticed on the way up. You could see all of the city in the distance, with snowy mountains behind them. Emi’s parents dropped us off at a subway station so we could get back into the city centre. We had gigantic slices – more like slabs – of pizza from one of the vendors and sat to eat them in the park. I then entertained myself feeding the crumbs to the pigeons and making them race and skid for it. Oh no, I’m turning into Kel.
The weather was even warmer in town, so we were perfectly happy to just meander round in the sun, whilst Kel and Emi took tourist photos. Emi’s the native and yet she looked more like the tourist with her giant fancy camera. I paid my first ever busker because he was singing a Simple Plan song that I love and it sounded cute, especially when I’m not sure he was even English speaking. I grabbed a little pineapple juice carton to-go during our wander, which was yummy but Bulgaria, why you like room temperature drinks so much? I was also mildly terrified by the woman who served me. Emi had already explained that Bulgarians aren’t happy people and they don’t like it when people ‘pay big money for little things’, as she put it, so I received absolute daggers when I had to buy my seventy cent juice with a ten lev note. I’m sorry, I gave all my change to the cute busker boy!
We had another ice cream stop at Ice Cream Kingdom. I swear, ice cream back home is really gonna pale in comparison after this hat trick. This time I swapped the blueberry for vanilla with eclairs. Very nice and creamy, but I nearly gave myself brain freeze when I bit down on an eclair that was deceptively full of a chunk of very cold ice cream. After that we got the subway back and parted ways to have time to freshen up and things. All of the Red Bull at Billa was all bloody room temperature again – seriously, Bulgaria – so I was forced to pay six lev for it from the hotel fridge. Still only about two quid, but I liked paying less than a pound for it. Cheapest Red Bull in the world!
Drank my Red Bull in the room. Did some writing, watched some Fullmetal, then decided again to shower earlier rather than later. Still had a little time before we had to get ready, so I got a bit of packing done and started listing some ideas for my final part of Superfreaks. I wanted to get a couple of fruity ciders from Billa to have and share at Emi’s, which I succeeded with at the cost of having to wait a bloody age to pay because I somehow have the inherent ability to always pick the duff, slowest-moving queue. Then cue the internal dilemma of ‘do I move to this next queue when I’ve just seen three people come and go who I know joined after I did, or do I stick this one out since I’ve already put so much time in?’ That’s another damn British trait.
Emi’s mom insisted on cooking for us again since we’d steered around her offers to treat us to a meal out. This time we had zucchini boats filled with mince meat and then feta cheese with chilli and oil and a garlic yoghurt sauce/dip thing to go with it. I discovered very quickly that I don’t like zucchini. The taste and the texture are both just urgh. I managed to eat the one because I didn’t want to seem rude by leaving things on my plate, but I couldn’t hack all of the second and had to just scoop out all the filling to eat instead. I had to have two chewing gums after to try and neutralise all the garlic I’d consumed. Still very yummy though, if we don’t count the zucchini. I had a cherry Carling with food and then a berry Strongbow I’d bought to try after. Why isn’t cider so cheap at home? It’s one of my many weaknesses.
I think we were originally intending to watch a film, but instead we ended up talking all night. We got onto story talk and then that was it. I mentioned that I wanted to try bouncing some ideas off them that I’d been coming up with earlier, which then turned into more than an hour long conversation, followed by much talk about Emi’s ongoing project Phoenix that we already knew a lot about from her last few visits. They gave me some great ideas for Superfreaks. That’s the best thing about having friends who are also writers. But at the same time they also came up with some rude suggestions regarding my favourite character that I’ll never be able to unthink. Thanks a lot for ruining Ollie for me, guys.
When we realised it had gotten to half twelve with us just talking we conceded that we’d have to leave as we still had packing to do. Emi promised to come see us off from the hotel in the morning, so it wasn’t goodbye just yet. We always had to cut through an underpass to get from Emi’s apartment block to the right side of the road that we needed to be on, and for the first time it was closed off, which totally threw us. We’d just watched a dog impressively cross the very wide road that we needed to get across (dogs here are super street smart – they know exactly how to wait for the traffic and everything) so we basically followed where the dog had crossed. Kinda feels like it should have been the other way round…
To make things even more confusing all the traffic lights on the walk back seemed to be on the blitz. They were all just constantly flashing orange and nothing else. Kel suggested it might have been from a power cut, whereas I reckoned Emi was trying to sabotage our attempts to leave. Kel messaged her about it once we got back to the hotel and had wifi (just to ask what was going on; not to actually accuse her of interfering of course) and apparently all of that just happens after midnight. Huh. Guess it’s a free for all on the roads in the early hours of Bulgaria.
Kel then went in the shower and I did the majority of my packing. I really hope the mass of notebooks I bought don’t make my case too heavy! Packing to go home is always a sad process. We managed to get the majority done besides things that we’d need in the morning, and the toiletries that we left out to dry (praying we don’t have a second shampoo explosion on the way home) and were able to get into bed at a reasonable-ish-but-maybe-not-entirely time. Looks like we’ll have to skip breakfast again. Way to kick me when I’m down: take away my food options.