Climb to Melnik

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In this odd hot springs campground of ours, a big growling German shepherd guards the what was possibly the grossest bathroom I’ve ever used.. We packed up camp quickly this morning, but I stalled a long while, trying to delay getting my face bitten off just for the chance to use the icky facilities.

In either event we did eventually leave, heading out to the main highway. We were easily on the road by 8:30 and only had 30 kilometers to go to the nearby tourist town of Melnik, which required us to navigate from memory since the roads we needed aren’t in the GPS. My memory wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, so on a gamble, we stuck to the side roads and somehow actually found our route without too much drama. The ride was however, pretty much all uphill and the early sun was out with force. The landscape had slowly transitioned back into golden yellow and scrubby (Ben’s least favorite) and the day slowly melted us onto the pavement. By the time we start getting close to our destination, I was positively dripping with sweat.

Though the ride kept me in good spirits, my legs were dragging as though we were moving underwater, I suppose still unaccustomed to riding a loaded bike every day. Worse, my hip was groaning its low, dull, worrisome ache. I was moving way too slow for Ben and I could tell his desire to speed up and get some wind in his face was testing his patience for putting up with my speed. (Still, he didn’t complain a single word!) I tried to speed up, but I was already giving everything I had. Like a creaky old train, we proceeded up the hill until we finally reached a tree filled nook in the hills and the old style white village of Melnik spilled down the canyon.

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Tucked into a little family owned guest house, we rested and worked until evening when we set out to explore. Aching hip in tow, we trundled through the village, now dark with cloud cover, poking around side streets and and climbed a bunch of 13th century ruins which provided us a lovely view of the city. Then, we stopped for dinner, eating yogurt cucumber soup (served cold), garlic bread (amazing) and sharing the chef’s specialty, which included a mix of grilled meats and vegetables served with fanfare right on the cooking stone, still sizzling on the table.

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Back in our room a while later, Ben fell positively in love with the sirene (cheese) stuffed pastry we had purchased to share at the market. His normally easy going nature turned up completely missing when he commandeered the whole thing and all but inhaled it, only sort of stopping to pause and make sure I didn’t mind if he ate it all. (When I asked him if he had anything to say for himself, he told me, “You didn’t even stand a chance.”) He was so thrilled over the dirt cheap snack, I don’t know why we bothered with dinner at all.

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