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London - St Goer PDF Print E-mail
Written by Peter Smith   
Sunday, 23 September 2007 00:00
Article Index
London - St Goer
St Goer - Prague
Prague
Prague - Vienne
Vienne - Budapest
Budapest - Cluj-Napoca (Romania)
Cluj-Napoca - Brasov (via Bucharest)
Bucharest to Kazanak, Bulgaria
All Pages


Day 1: Sunday 23rd September: London Embankment - St Goer (Germany)

early morning on the embankment Embankment - early morning I awoke with a start to Chris's banging on the door, of a blackout bedroom, with the time and a cup of tea. Thanks to Chris and Jo we made it safely across London to Cleopatra's Needle, the bus and the awaiting media from the BBC. After introductions with Mark, Andrew and our fellow travellers we were interviewed for the One Show with our backs to a beautiful emerging dawn across th e Thames illuminating, of all things, The Festival Hall. Ironical that our bus journey should start with our backs to the building where Grenoside danced in 1951 to celebrate peace. Our journey is destined to end in Boston dancing with Grenoside.

The trip down to Dover went smoothly, caught an early ferry and France passed by unnoticed. After a long journey past Brussels, Brugge, Aachen and Trier we arrived at a very quaint campsite in St Gaor on the river Rhine at approx 6.45pm. When I walked into the bar the owner's wife, a celebrity in the area, threw her hands in the air exclaiming I was Joe Cocker. I didn't know whether to take it as a compliment or an insult. My 25 years of teaching surely hasn't had the same effect on my face that the bingeing on drugs, fags and beer has had on the ex gas board plumber from Crooks. However, the river, site, food and accommodation all lived up to expectations: and for an extra 2 we upgraded to a caravan.  All in all, a very pleasant first day passed as we skirted by the birth places of two of my favourite historical figures: Charlemagne and Karl Marx.

The travellers The Ozbus Travellers With very little ceremony we enjoyed a hearty menu consisting of a tasty salad starter, pork, peas and fritz and peaches and ice cream all washed down with copious amounts of passable German wine and excellent larger. Afterwards we experienced a surreal session in the night club situated under the restaurant which brought back memories of a similar occurrence in the Ecuadorian Amazon. On this occasion instead of UB40 singing 'Red Red Wine' Hermie the campsite owner played a selection of umpah music through an enormous box of a speaker, while equally as loud, some opera singer stood with arms under her breasts singing Wagner on the TV advertising Rhine wines. This site is obviously on the backpacker's circuit because the ceiling of the club is covered in beer mats containing messages posted by previous travellers and revellers. Just as on Facebook Lucy Allen dominated with a message for all of us that the first bus is better than ours.

Marking sending us off Mark the boss wishing us a good journey This appropriately leads me on to the crew and our fellow travellers. Simon Caudel's observations in the Independent that the trip could become big brother on wheels is a lot closer than even he could imagine. The bus consists of, at the moment, 35 travellers and three crew members. The crew, strangely enough, seem more normal than those sitting behind them. The bus is being driven by JonPal a coach driver from Brugge, Belgium. Over a beer last night he told me the story of how he came to be here. Earlier in the year he was fined 750 euros for breaking some EU driving regulation and was so pissed off that he handed in his notice. His boss asked him if he would reconsider his decision and drive his coach to Calcutta. After being convinced that the boss was not taking the piss he jumped at the opportunity. After a day and bit of driving us I'm very glad he agreed to because he's a very steady driver and a thoroughly nice person. However, I can't pluck up the courage to ask him what the offence was for just in case it changes my opinion of him. The backup driver Marcus is a Kiw i returning after working in Edinburgh. However, normality stops with the leader of the bus Layton an Irish -Pakistani, ex PE Teacher, with striking dark eyes and a very strong County Down ascent. Simone and Mac having a last drink in England Last drink in England

On the other hand the travellers are something very different to a normal coach party and I use the term 'party'  very wisely because a certain small section are intent on doing exactly that all the way to Sydney much to the annoyance of Leighton who is at the moment adopting a similar approach to another of my heroes (three all in one day) Napolean. Just as the great fig ure attempted to bring France in line after the Re volution Leyton is trying to steer the bus from anarchy and chaos. At the moment the trip is more Animal Farm than Big Brother, although I suppose they are similar. I am convinced that violence is more imminent here on the bus than up the road in Iran and Pakistan. I just can't wait!



Day 2: Monday 24th Sept 07: St Goer - Prague

 

Day two started very early with breakfast in a kind of garage area under the restaurant. I attempted to jog up and down to get warm and was complimented by Simone who approves of personal fitness. It was at this point that I noticed that the couple in the caravan next to ours were still asleep and fearing Leighton would carry out his much promised threat to leave anyone not ready to go I gave the door a good rattling.

The drive during the morning up the Rhine Valley was beautiful even though it was through the bus window. It had not occurred to me before that we would be seeing the world through glass and this would also affect the quality of the photos taken. If we had been driving in our own car we would have been stopping every few minutes and it would take 12 years not
weeks to get to Sydney.

We did stop at Heidelberg and were allowed two hours to sightsee and take photos. The weather was beautiful and the old university town looked magnificent. I hoped to see students' walking about promoting facial scars from duels fought but the place was a picture of fine architecture and calm and tranquility.

We arrived at our next stop, a campsite in Prague. As we made camp the cooks began preparing the evening meal.  After the meal we settled down in a circle and began singing and playing. Leighton had brought a guitar which was a great improvement on the travel guitar I'd bought especially for the trip. The party gang set off into town to find the night life. The rest of us had a good sing song.
Heidelburg alt alt alt




Day 3: Tuesday 25th Sept 07: Prague

Day two started at the now regular time 7.30am with the most beautiful sunrise. Those from the drinking party who managed to emerge briefly for breakfast very quickly disappeared back to their pits. Ben climbed out of his sack at 5.00pm and missed Prague completely.

After the now typical 10 minute breakfast of cereals, toast and a lukewarm cup of tea we set off into the centre. Parked behind the palace I disembarked in shorts and tee shirt overlooking a sunny skyline. As the coach slipped away back to the campsite the sky turned grey and then black. Within 60 minutes it was pouring down. We spent most of the day in two bars with Gordon, Ted and Mac. We'd been driven into a bar come pizzeria by the weather and had an omelet and the first beer of the day. Had the second in the Café Monmatre (once the haunt of Franz Kafka) and the second, third and fourth in the old communist bar. After a very short look around the wet and cold streets leading from the bar to Wenceslas Square we were forced back to the bar by the cold and my prostate. I did manage to find an internet café and check my mail before surrendering to the weather. It had gone from autumn to summer and then winter all in a day. I was totally unprepared. We had a further beer in the communist bar to wash down a perfectly cooked sirloin stake in a cream and mushroom source accompanied with potato scallops and French beans wrapped in ham. Finely before returning to the tent we retreated to a fancy wine bar and had a couple of palatable bottles of Cabernet Sauvignan from the Morava area. We arrived back at the campsite to find no bus. JonPal had taken it to have the thermostat replaced. Not a good sign after only three days.

All in all, despite the weather we had a very rewarding day. The inclement conditions afforded us the opportunity to get to know more about our three travelling companions. Mac was taking 3 months paid leave from his job as an engineer based in Dublin. He's been doing the job for 15 years and spends most of the time travelling the world installing turbines. He's not touched alcohol for three years but didn't reveal why.

alt; Gordon sleeping his way into Prague Gordon is outgoing and far more revealing than Mac. After gaining a degree and getting his ideal job as the Cultural Director of a theatre in Glasgow he was sacked because he claims he was not up to the job. I admired his honesty.  Glasgow for him was a return to his family roots, his father had left the city, as many Scots did, to work in the steel mills in Corby in Northamptonshire. Later his father was made redundant like thousands in the rolling mills in Sheffield after Thatcher had weaved her spell on the industry but was lucky to find employment with the post office. We agreed we would have a party if she was to die while we're on route in homage to Corby and South Yorkshire and Scotland. The conversation made me think of my song about the effect of Thatcherism on Grimethorpe.


Grimethorpe

You dug to survive like a mole underground,
risking your life just to keep the bills down
And what spare cash you made well you spent in this town
You were born and brought up in this place

Chorus

There’s a hole in the ground where the money came from
there’s hole in this town now the old mine has gone
and the shop fronts are bordered from despair and fear
With no chance of work and no signs of the old winding gear

One man knew a decade before,
that the mines would be dead along with king coal
and it's time to stand firm, don’t give into the dole
Remember your sons and your daughters

Chorus

So you fought like a dog to keep the old ways,
for the nurses the workers and their rights to a say
But the times have little changed as back in old days
Betrayed by all trades and their leaders

Chorus

And the Grimethorpe band played the miners’ anthem,
as a tribute to halcyon days
Sing follow the horses oh Johnny my laddie
And the miners were forced out to graze

There’s a hole in the ground where the money came from,
remember your past and the things you have done
And don’t ever forget your part in that year
And the name and the faces of those who shut the old winding gear


The third Muskateer, Ted, is much more reserved and less forthcoming than the other two. He's taking three months unpaid leave from his job as a programmer in Dublin and is very quietly spoken making it very difficult for me, with my failing hearing, to follow much of what he said.  But I already like him, his soft Dublin mannerisms embrace a warm sense of sincerity. Here's a person to trust.


 

Day 4: Wednesday 26th September 07 - Prague - Vienna


Thank goodness the rain had not returned during the night but there was not enough sun to dry things out: everything was wet and damp except our spirits. The breakfast crew had the food on the table and cleared away in 30 minutes. I had to run from the toilet to get on the bus for Vienna as the engine hummed for take off. Leighton's remonstrations about lateness made every body conscious about being late.

The journey started with one of Leighton's usual morning briefings.

'Today is a short journey, passports out in five seconds'.

He starts the countdown immediately but everyone has them in the air in no time at all except Anne and myself.

'All things are what?' he shouts

Coach in chorus.

'subject to change'

Finally he informs us that four new members arrived late last night. He announces the family is now complete and invites each in turn to introduce themselves as we have all had to do. Along with our names each had to give reasons for picking Ozbuz, favourite mythical creature, place most looking forward to seeing and finally plans after Sydney?

The first up was Fergal a 26 year old doctor heading to take up an appointment in Melbourne. He was the first one to get an applause for his occupation but I can't help feeling it was out of relief. It's always good to have a doc on board even if so young. He's followed by Paul a construction worker who gets a loud cheer from Leighton who sees the potential if we need to dig the coach out. Next to take the mic is big Geoff a farmer from Ireland who delayed his start to the trip to play in the final of a Gaelic football competition. Unfortunately for him they drew which means he will have to fly home for the replay. He must be good because the club is paying for his flight from Turkey and back. Last up but by no means least, is Andrew an Australian who's been working for an advertising company in the Big Apple. He arrived in London with sufficient time to catch the bus but overslept in his hotel and by the time he got to the Embankment the bus had gone. He's returning home to Sydney to get the necessary qualifications to become a lawyer. We have something in common he's also looking forward to seeing India.

After a short drive the coach pulls in to a small supermarket to stock up with food for lunch. Panic sets in when it becomes apparent there are no toilets. Sue finds a corner behind the shop, the young party group head down the road to the next supermarket. Anne notices a sign for a restaurant with parking and toilet symbols and a large group of us make towards it. We all feel guilty at using the clean free toilets and so a mass order is given for soup and beer. The garlic soup was memorable and will take some beating especially for the princely sum of 15 koruna or 40 pence. We arrived in Vienna at about 2.00pm.

After an excellent lunch of salad, sliced meat loaf and chicken followed by a fruit salad we headed off into the capital for some high culture. As we congregated outside the entrance to the Natural History Museum Das and Barry climb onto the back of a bronze statue of an elephant. Some much for culture. After a good hour in the natural history museum we headed towards the opera house and St Stephens church. Lastly we dropped into an Australian bar recommended by Leighton to find Scooby, now firmly established as the leader of the lets get drunk brigade, and the rest of the gang downstairs going at it as though they were entering dry Iran tomorrow. It was obvious they had been there since leaving the coach three hours earlier. I finished up having two pints of a delicious local wheat beer and a very tasty beef burger. At about eight we joined the party gang downstairs who were by then in full flight much to the delight of the pub's manager and the amusement of the two Ozzie waiters serving them. In the middle of the table were two glass towers of beer, with pouring taps at the base. One was a 1 metre and the other a 2 and with all the screaming and shouting, laughing and guffawing, pushing and shoving it was a microcosm of what I imagined Babel must have been like just before it fell. When we left at 9.15pm to get the coach the lads were in heaven and Babel was still in tact.

We finished the night off sitting in the campsite kitchen drinking wine and hot chocolate. Although we went to bed reasonably early many found it hard to sleep for the noise being made by a group of Ozzie campers. I heard nothing.


 

Day 5: Thursday 27th Sep 07 - Vienne to Budapest

The day started very early at 6.00am and by breakfast 7.30am, the lads had slept for a whole two and half hours. Scooby and Co left the Australian bar at 5.00am having paid a drinks bill totalling 500 euros. This was after (Barry) had negotiated a special deal with one of the waiters, who did not charge them for bottle beers and provided a free tower. The bar management must have thought Christmas had come early. I have to say my first thoughts were for the poor unsuspecting Australians this lot is staying with on arrival in Sydney but Fe then told me later that she couldn't get into the campsite launderette, the night before, for very drunk, ozzie teenagers who had also thrown everyone's clothes out of the tumble dryers. This gang was also staying on the site while travelling around Europe with a company called Top Deck. If it's a competition then it’s Top Deck 1 Ozbus 0. I found out, even later still, from Viv, that the bar manager had approached Leighton about bringing future Ozbus partys' to his bar. Ah well, so much for my comments as we headed into the capital about high culture. In this world profit always takes precedent.

Breakfast finished and cleared away, bags all stored on the coach everyone's attention turned to the topside of the site where Sue was banging on a camper van and a tent and screaming in German at the young Aussie occupants who had kept them awake until 3.00am. When one of them emerged from his tent to investigate the din she threw the contents of her coffee mug in his face. All of this was done to clapping and cheering from the others whose night sleep had also been destroyed but did not have the bottle to strike back. Well after two meetings between us and Top Deck I think it now stands 1 nil to the Brits.

Later, at about 12.30pm, we arrived at a rundown looking campsite in Budapest. We quickly set up camp and headed in the centre. Budapest is no different from every other city, because of the traffic, it took an hour to negotiate our way to the slots besides Elizebeth Bridge. We then spent a short hour perusing the market while Leighton went off to source lunch.

We finally had dinner at about 4.00pm, everyone was very hungry.  We had a reasonable meal of Goulash soup, chicken paprika and a beer. This was followed by a further pint in an unusual bar called For Sale. The roof once again like Hermies was absolutely covered with messages of kind written on beer mats, business cards, cigarette packets etc, etc. The whole place was designed to be different and bohemian but the waiters were especially unwelcoming. After just the one drink we all headed for another bar where the staff was completely opposite. The barman asked me where I was from and when I told him he then said that McCabe(of Sheffield United fame) had attempted to buy some Hungarian team. The rest of the time we spent drinking and talking. I bought two glasses of Unicum for the group to taste and with the exception of Ian (Kwok) who knocked it back in one all found it foul. Strange that tastes can be so regional. After a trip up to the Citadel to take photos looking straight down the river and finding the battery in my camera was flat (no shots) we headed back to the campsite to park the bus and go for some more beer down by the river just a few minutes walk away.

I was last off the bus and found Mark cuddling Lucinda who was crying. As I made for my tent it became apparent that the tents had been broken into and possessions stolen. I was relieved to find ours was still in tact. Immediately there were shouts, flashlights in the wooded area of the site and the sound of people running. The 'party gang' led by Barry from Nevin who was brandishing a rather large torch had disturbed the culprits and were now in full pursuit without considering the consequences. I certainly would have thought twice about following a group of thieves into a dark wooded area late at night armed with one large torch. Amazingly and to their credit they quickly found Lucinda's case with the belongings scattered along the path. Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately they got away with Ted's rucksack which was locked. Mac lost his supply of condoms but not the wad of dollars he pulled out of the tent. The boys spent a good hour scouring the site for the sack. It became apparent the thieves were going through all the bags in the safety of the tents and left with Ted's bag because it was locked. Thankfully all they got was clothes and no one was injured in the pursuit. Ted, Leighton and a few others still went to the pub (now 11.50) to try and cheer Ted up but surprisingly the heroes' of the night turned down Leighton's offer of a drink instead going for a shower and a bit of boy bonding. I think the bridge between the Neven boys' is reducing. Whilst we were searching the area for the bag I asked Barry why he'd brought such a large, heavy powerful torch. 'I didn't' was his reply. I had to spend all my spare useless Czech money on something before heading into Austria.' He happened to see the torch in the supermarket the day before. While we were eating that beautiful garlic soup Barry was making the purchase of the trip so far and with the look on his face he new it. Barry 1 Leighton 0.

Before we managed to get into bed the heavens opened up and quickly this was followed by our first storm of the trip. I found it very easy to go to sleep even though Anne was worried about the lightning and our position under the trees. I was more concerned about having to pack a very wet tent away for two or three days. Even though the good news was we were spending the next three nights in Romania and Bulgaria in hotels it was spoiled by tonight's incident and poor old Ted's loss. This was the first night that the whole party went to rest feeling a little down. I can only hope that tomorrow and country number six has better things to offer, especially for Ted.


 

Day 6: Friday 28th September 2007 - Budapest to Cluj-Napoca (Romania)

 

Not seen the sun since the second day, our first in Prague. Today no different, awoke at about 7.00am to the rain on the tent and mud on the ground for the first time. Thankfully, not too bad but perhaps a little taster of things to come.

This weather is seriously testing my lack of organisation. Need to plan everything well in advance or be exposed by the elements. I spent the night in Prague freezing because of the sudden weather change. Usually find that whatever I want for the day is in my rucksack somewhere in the luggage sections. My camera battery is still flat, the only consolation is the weather is reducing the scenery to a wet cold English type scene.

We left late at 9.00am because of the incident the night before. Took an hour and half to get out of the city because of the rain and traffic and slowly made our way to the Romanian border and the unknown. Arrived at the border at 2.20pm, It was still raining. Heading for Cluj-Napoca and a hotel bed, a beer festival and the furthest point east we have ever ventured. My first impression is one of poverty and large open expanses of farmland waiting to be utilised.

Arrived at the Hotel Cluj-Napoca also the name of the town about 9.00pm. The last kilometre was spent following a paid taxi. This section seriously tested the resolve of the group. Passed through the Romanian border with little fuss, in pouring rain, and headed for Cluj just 127 k down the road, so not one of the long sections. Just down the road came to a small junction with a diversion sign and a petrol tanker blocking our progression. After a toot on the horn we followed him to the right. Our first real mistake, over two hours later we came back to the main road with 97 k still left to do. We had taken a long winding road through an impressive Mountain range rising to 1790 metres. We didn't see much of the scenery because of the weather. The driving rain was the significant feature of the whole section. It was great to see the wooden, horse-drawn carts plodding along roads but there was so many, returning from the field, that they seriously slowed us down. Although the journey dragged on it was made easier by playing games and listening to some good music: Snow Patrol, Bob Marley, Neil Diamond, Clash, Bob Dylan and finally the Beatles. We entered Cluj to Lucy in The sky With Diamonds.

After being allocated room 414 along with Noreen from Ireland we were given 15 minutes to clean up and get back down for dinner. No one complained, we were all very hungry. We devoured a goulash soup exactly like the one in Budapest but unfortunately out of a packet. This was followed by cabbage and tomato salad in a very nice sweet dressing. Main course consisted of boiled potatoes served cubed and a pork and chicken winleshinzel.

We arranged to meet later in the lounge before going to look at the town. I met Scooby on the stairs as he was going for the lift. He told me the hotel wouldn't exchange his dollars for Lei (the currency) and so I loaned him 50 euros. He immediately set off to the bar to buy beer. Later saw him and the rest of the party gang with crates of beer. Told me they had another crate in the cooler for later and they'd been given 30 euros change.

Set off in the torrential rain to see the main town square with Maz who was, once again, guide and leader. The September Beer Fest lay in soggy ruins in the square with St Mathias  and his party gang (fine statue) looking down sympathetically. Talking to Maz I learnt she actually worked for a month in Cluj on a teaching exchange. Conversation came about after she'd stopped two young women and asked directions in Romanian. Then made our way into a bar called Deizel. Very pretentious establishment which sold very expensive canned beer, for Romania, which we washed down with canned music that played for over an hour without changing tempo, melody or rhythm. By far the worse bar so far.

When we returned to the hotel we found the lads partying in style. They were down to the second crate which they were sharing with anyone. I stayed with them until just gone 3.00am. This was the best part of the whole day even though their Language was constantly loud and very frequently foul but they were fun to be with.


 

 

Day 7: Saturday 29th September - Cluj-Napoca to Brasov (via Bucharest)


Today the journey is a week old. I awoke early feeling queasy, may have been the dish of sausages cooked in beer that I had last night. Didn't taste too good when eating them and then spent the first hour of the morning repeating on me.  Spent my first night not sleeping with Anne. It seems for some reason, probably poor communications, Leighton thought we wanted to sleep apart. I said we would be happy to sleep apart if the room equations didn't workout. I wasn't well pleased!

My new sleeping partner, Gordon, drew back the curtains to let in a beautiful hazy blue morning. At last, the weather had turned. Breakfast was good, mainly because of the presentation but I didn't feel like it. Forgot totally about my stomach as we boarded the bus, even before numbers were counted it was clear that Ben was missing. It emerged very quickly that he was about at 3.30am, in the hotel, sitting very drunk trying to play the grand piano in the lounge. It was obvious that he was sleeping off the beer alone somewhere in the hotel once all the young women in the group had been counted in. Just as we were about to leave, as Leighton threatens to leave every day if anyone is late, Ben comes staggering out of the hotel assisted by Jeff who had found him asleep in the cellar. On being awakened by loud and desperate shouts of 'Ben' he opened his eyes fearing the worse. He cried out to Jeff 'I thought I was in prison. I want England'. The bus passengers were very quiet in anticipation of forthcoming ranting from the boss. I suspect he was just relieved to see him safe and well. He was eventually hauled out to the front: his penalty coachyoki or miming with headphones on to a song from Leighton's Ipod. I think his punishment might have been swifter and more severe if our leader had not clashed with the party gang in some way most days over the last week and Sue and me in the last twenty four hours.

We spent a very enjoyable morning at Dracula's castle. It was very touristy. I bought a little chanter pipe for 35 lei about six pound. We then carried on with our route through the Carpathian Mountains. The scenery is absolutely incredible. I can see why people rave about Romania and this particular area. Valley after valley with few houses and little sign of people. T main mode of transport still the horse drawn cart and the Romanian equivalent of a Renault.

Eventually got out of the mountains and on the road to Bucharest. Had to have lunch at a service station, the local feral dogs feasted on the groups' leftovers. Our first view of the capital did not inspire me, the main road was one long testimony to concrete. One block of awful flats after another stood as the consequence of misrule and earthquake damage. After a few times round what looked like a poor man's version of the Arch de Triumph we arrived at our campsite.

As soon as I got of the bus the camp had a great feel about it with a central area with tables surrounded by brightly painted chalets some with pointed roofs like those in the Alps. Everyone relieved not to be camping. Once again the allocation of rooms lead to conflict and yet again it was between me and Leighton. The argument did not quite lead to blows but it did bring things to a head. After a 10 Euro meal consisting of coke, plain salad with no dressing, some kind of schnitzel and six chips - on everyone's plate - followed by almond ice-cream and an half hour show of traditional music, dance and song we assembled outside on the restaurant patio for a meeting to clear the air. Pleased to find it wasn't just me and the party gang that had grievances. A wide range of issues were exercised and changes promised with regards to allocation of rooms (Emmett to arrange for one week), more information about length of journeys, lunch breaks in the countryside not garages and by the road in towns and finally Leighton to improve the tone of briefings. Things could have been much worse. General consensus was that Leighton was taking on too much responsibility and needed to delegate relieved. Many felt they were being treated like school kids and I have to say some acted like they were. Meeting ended in congratulations and hugs all round. We had travelled through France, Belgium, Germany, Czech Rep, Austria, Hungary and Romania safely and on time and mainly due to the skills of a 26 year old from Naven. I do think if anyone can get us to Sydney then he can. However, we are aware that the easy bit is over and the next 9 to 10 weeks are the real test.

After the meeting we all headed back to the campsite, to sit, drink and have a good old sing song. Maz had brought a brandy flask and a bottle of Polinka to the table and Daz seemed to be taking most advantage through innocence and in an attempt to forget the bad day he'd had. He'd broken his camera and was feeling a bit homesick after speaking to his mum and girlfriend. I think he may regret his actions.


 

Day 8: Sunday 30th September - Bucharest to Kazanak, Bulgaria


Best nights sleep so far in our little blue chalet. Anne awoke with a start thinking she could hear the bus engine running outside. Went for breakfast to the restaurant we'd visited last night: sliced bread, a tomato and two types of reconstituted meat; both not to my taste.

Arrived back at the chalet to see Scooby and Barry trying to awaken Daz by thumping the side of the chalet. This went on for some time with little response from the inhabitants. A few minutes later I opened the door to see Daz starkers, except for his money bag appropriately placed in front of his bits and pieces, staggering around and gibbering. I think the healing lotion had worked.

Set off for Bulgaria at about 9.05am with the intention of calling into a supermarket to buy food for a picnic lunch somewhere rural and use up everyone's Leis. Bought two nectarines, two kiwi fruits for Barry, two bottles of water, some small plasters to supplement our first aid kit and four hot chicken legs for Barry who is diabetic and needed something to eat.

Passed from Romania into Bulgaria without fuss or cost. We crossed the Danube for the last time and I couldn't decide which country it is in because of its proximity to the border and the length of no-mans land. According Simone's Pocket World Atlas it is the border.

Next part of the journey took us through the beautiful Balkan Mountains with all the hills covered with deciduous trees. Once over the top we descended down an amazing gorge and into our destination. At one point two gorges crossed each other at 90 degrees, the second consisting of old houses built into the cliff face high above a fast flowing river. Unfortunate the coach was moving too fast and I didn't even have enough time to get a photograph. As we approached the town Leighton gave us some basic information about the place. Kazanak stands at the entrance of the Shipka Pass and has a long tradition of growing roses but has prospered since the WW2 making weapons including Kalashnikovs. He made the observation about 'guns and roses'.

Kazanak lays in a very wide bowl of a valley and although of Roman origins we only saw evidence of Soviet architecture of the high rise type. Coach stopped to ask the way to the hotel and she (Daniel) climbed aboard to direct us to it. When we arrived there was some confusion about whether it was the right hotel. The 3 star Hotel L3ophuua stood on a hill overlooking the town and consisted of white buildings laid out more like a Roman villa with patios, verandas and a pool which alas was empty. We arrived just in time to witness a beautiful sunset over the mountains. Made our way to our room with some trepidation after the last two nights capers. The rooms were already allocated in advance and we were gob smacked to enter a suite with double bed, couch, chairs, TV, mini bar, phone, a beautiful marbled bathroom and a red rose on the pillow. Jackpot! This was luxury by our standards. After a refreshing shower we had a good dinner consisting of a bowl of fresh salad sprinkled with goats cheese, followed by a very tasty meat stew and fresh fruit to finish. Consumed two bottles of a very well balanced Bulgarian Merlot with Simone and Noreen while Anne, Fe and Viv stuck to a rose. Night finished off with beer and dancing to a duo who somehow managed to do impersonations of Bob Marley 'No Woman No Cry', Sting Message In a Bottle' and La Bamba with Spanish accent and all.

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 November 2014 18:13