We were among the first people awake at the hostel this morning, almost surely thanks to the fact that we were some of the first to bed (at 12:30, which is ridiculously late for us!) We ate breakfast and then headed back out for a bit more city touring.
We’d been told that a street market near one of the famous churches sold art and artifacts from regimes past but it had been closed when we’d been there last night. We headed across town, thinking we might also go inside some of the churches and see the city come alive during the day.
The market was in fact, selling an incredibly odd assortment of things. If the place had a theme, it was most certainly, “things you might find on your grandfather’s nightstand.” There were military badges, old jewelery and watches, display of 80 year old cameras, and a well loved collection of musical instruments. At one point a couple of local guys picked up a tuba and accordion and gave an impromptu concert on on the corner while other shoppers danced enthusiastically.
One particular booth had a particularly rich collection of WWII war artifacts that we poured over. The residual smell from years of use coated the old military issued flasks and many of the compasses were still operational, with beautiful designs. We browsed through the items for a long while until the shop owner went positively crazy, covering the whole display up with a piece of fabric and shooing us away. My attempts to keep browsing were met with a snarl!
Perplexed as always, we walked away laughing, amused by the both compelling and odd assortment of things and by all the strange human behavior we had just witnessed. Then, pointing back at the hostel, we poked through churches, and got quite lost before finally arriving at the 16th century mosque.
I really wanted to go inside, but couldn’t find any real indication that it was open to visitors. Neither though, did it look entirely closed, so I nervously opened the door and stuck my head in to see if anyone was inside. I was surprised to be met by a construction crew instead of a congregation, but they welcomed us inside, handing me a green elfish robe to wear. The two women behind me donned the same green production, looking very uncomfortable, meanwhile Ben and all the construction men walked around unadorned. Despite my thick uneasiness in my new attire, the mosque was beautiful and the construction work very interesting. We stood around watching the big hydraulic machine they were using until the desire to be free of my much-too-warm-for-the-weather costume won out and we headed back to the hostel to pack up and head to the train station. Our intended destination: VelinkoTărnovo, an old town with a cool fortress further east where we will sight see and then depart toward Romania for a long stretch of bike touring through the Carpathians.
The train ride was long and slow, and the air in our crowded compartment was bloated with humidity. We chugged along, watching stunning gorges and wide hay fields fly by, all the while wondering if I would be any more sweaty if I was actually cycling. Still, the people crammed in our train compartment sort of bonded, one younger girl kindly giving us each one of her fresh cherries and everyone waving goodbye as they got off at their stops.
Finally, we arrived at Gorna Oryahovitsa and set off to find groceries and a campsite. Groceries was an easy task, but finding the campground required some assistance from a helpful bunch of English speaking locals outside the store. A quick ride, and soon we arrived at Trinity Rocks Camping, set right up against the river and housing millions of annoying bugs. Just then, a monstrous cloud rumbled over the valley, bringing with it huge gusts of wind. We hurriedly set up and packed everything down into the tent. Once we ready for the storm, I headed over to the shower block just as the rain erupted.
I had just managed to get good and wet in the shower when the building lost power. In the pitch dark, I stood there a minute, trying to imagine the layout of the foreign bathroom and where I’d set my stuff. The shower water slowed, then stopped. I slowly maneuvered around the room, feeling for my towel. About half dry, a camp host came by, pounded on the door, and offered me a torch, which assisted me in dressing. Then, I sprinted back to my tent in a downpour streaming from the sky twice as fast as my shower had. By the time I got back into the tent, I was wetter than when I had begun.
I crawled in, dried the big drips from my hair, and read until rain, darkness, and the rumble of thunder lulled me to sleep.