We didn’t make it to Romania. It would have been nice, but we didn’t have time with all the other places we wanted to see. Perhaps it was a bit of a bad decision in the end, as Varna was rather disappointing, although it did give us a chance to see the Black Sea. It wasn’t black.
We spent 3 nights in a cute little town just on the edge of Varna, the name escapes me but I managed to take some photos of the funny little old lady inhabitants. As soon as I find a computer that lets me copy off my pictures I’ll upload them and share them all with you, my loyal readers.
Actually, the best thing we saw in Varna was a local football match. The owner of the hostel took a few of us to a game and we got to see a near-riot, and that was just due to celebrating… before the kick-off. Thankfully, the home team won the match convincingly so only one plastic chair was set on fire and the flares and smoke bombs were only ignited in a pleasant way. I took videos of the crowd, it was fun.
We took an overnight train back to Sofia from Varna, it was rather uneventful but Emily failed to get much sleep, as trains don’t seem to do it for her. We had to kill an entire day in Sofia and it rained inconsistently, preventing us from simply sitting in a park and waiting. As soon as our train arrived that morning we thought we’d be good and organised and responsible and purchase our ticket to Belgrade immediately and some scummy little bastard led us around showing us the ticket offices and pointed us in the direction of a net cafe before demanding we pay him for his guidance. I threw some coins at him in disgust as I knew it would happen but we were too dazed from the overnight train ride to tell him to clear off when he first approached us.
It turns out the ticket we bought was only for the sleeper carriage, not for the journey. We discovered this 5 minutes before the train departed from the non-English speaking conductor. Basically we got ripped off not only for the price of the sleeper but also because we didn’t even get a ticket from it. With a little translation help from other passengers we managed to buy a ticket to the Serbian border from another conductor on the platform and then we would have to buy a second ticket once we got across the line.
In the meantime, an apparently possessed, psychotic, potentially violent, drunken woman kept looking at me as we discussed tickets, then followed Em and I into our sleeper carriage, all the while holding a glass bottle of some vodka pre-mix. At first we thought we were just having a ridiculously, pathetically, unlucky day. Being the kind and tolerant souls that we are, we quietly lay on our bunks, waiting for the nutbag to go to sleep. We changed our minds when she started examining her breasts in front of us in-between demented stares. I sent Em off to find the conductor while I lay nearly frozen in fear, attempting to protect our belongings. She got kicked out of the cabin and gave Em one of those smiles that simply say something along the lines of “I really like you, you’re nice, now let me cut your eyeballs out”. The door stayed locked the rest of the night.
I failed to fall fast asleep at all, half in anxiety and half in expectation of the quiet knock on the door from a Serbian ticket collector. He arrived and unfortunately he wouldn’t accept Bulgarian money, only Euros. I managed to scrape just enough together by trading currencies with the Bulgarian conductor and then we finally got some sleep, more than expected as the train was 2 hours late. We didn’t mind.
What I did mind was finding out that no one outside of Bulgaria will exchange Bulgarian currency. This was and still is very frustrating, as we now have the equivalent of 30 Euros that we cannot spend. Now we always exchange before we leave. Bastards.
Belgrade was worth the hassle, at least. I liked it. It reminded me of Sydney, kind of like how Zagreb reminds me of Melbourne. I don’t know why, they just do. Our hostel was very quiet but nice enough, apart from the mosquitoes. I’ll extrapolate in my next post, this one is long enough. Just to keep you all up to date, we afterwards went to Zagreb and now we’re in Sarajevo (I love it). Soon we’re going to Mostar before re-entering Croatia and hitting up Dubrovnik. Stay tuned.