I am going to be going out of chronological order with this one but I am just dying to post about it.
Yesterday afternoon, I took a bus from Sofia to Belogradchik. I got picked up at the bus station by the owner of the guest house I was staying at (Drakite Guest House). For a whopping $19 usd, I had a very nice room with private balcony and a shower so big that you could take every shower I have had to so far on this trip and fit them all inside.
This morning I am up so early go to see the fortress. I cannot wait. I pause to take a morning photo from my balcony.
Then off I go. To get to the fortress is a very strenuous walk uphill. Up many hills. But the walk features GOATS!!
I make it to the entrance and it is only 7:45. Good, I have fifteen minutes to recover. 8:00 comes. No sign of life. I Google and find out it opens at 9:00 DAMMIT I AM HERE TOO EARLY.
I take some pictures around the entrance.
I wonder if this is really Belogradchik’s post office?
Then I go return to sitting and waiting. The next thing I know, a cat comes out of nowhere and starts rubbing all over me. I hate cats. Get OFF me. It will not leave me alone.
Then the bees come. BEES. I am so scared of bees. I have never been stung so the anticipation of what it would feel like has grown so big over the years. As an added bonus: when I was very young, I saw my sister take a drink from a can of soda that had a bee floating at the opening. She swallowed the bee, it stung the back of her throat. Her throat completely swells up and off to the hospital she goes. I am still traumatized by this. To make it even worse, after telling this story for literally three decades, someone points out the obvious to me. That she probably was allergic to bees and went into anaphylactic shock. Since she is my sister, I probably have the same bee allergy. WHY WOULD YOU TELL ME THIS. I am so scared of bees and you tell me THIS?
So now I am up here an hour early with a cat and some bees. The bees will never go away. I try and be nice to the cat (which really just amounts to me no longer telling it to go away) thinking maybe it will kill the bees. It doesn’t. It just keeps purring all over me. Yuck. More bees come, more freak outs. No matter what I do, I cannot escape these stupid bees that keep flying all over me. I am FREAKING OUT at this point. If there are cameras up by the entrance, then there is video of me looking completely insane battling these elements.
Then I look down and see this:
Clearly it is a Rorschach of a headless woman. Is this a sign? Am I doing to die up here from anaphylactic shock? The next thing I know, THIS appears:
It just sits there, staring at me. For a good ten minutes. Just sitting and staring. I am so going to die up here oh my god.
FINALLY people start showing up. I feel better knowing that there is someone around to call 911 (or whatever the number is in Bulgaria) should I lose my head, go into anaphylactic shock, or get my eyes gouged out by a black cat.
At 9:01, the ticket booth isn’t open yet. But this is Bulgaria, where the people are the nicest people on planet earth. I am told by someone who works at the booth next to the ticket booth that I can go in and then just pay when I am done. Honor system.
I walk in and take the same picture every person who has ever been here has taken.
While hiking to the top, it worked well for me to spend every moment gripped with fear that I was going to fall and die. I was so focused on that, that I didn’t even really feel the physical part. When I actually got to the top, I was surprised that I was there already.
At the halfway point, you have to choose to continue up stone steps that are all uneven and scary as fuck. Or you can choose the metal steps, which seem too narrow. I pick the metal steps. As I walk up to them, the four workers that had been sitting there say something to me. I don’t understand Bulgarian. I point to the steps and do sort of sign language asking if it is okay for me to go up. I get two head nods and two head back-and-forths. You know, because in Bulgaria, they move their heads up and down for no, and then right to left for yes. But to make it more confusing, Bulgarians will also change and do it the “correct” way for foreigners. So when I ask if it is okay for me to go up and I get the different reactions, I still don’t know the answer. I just turned and went back to walk up and this time, no one said anything.
Once at the top, I took 832473298467329874 pictures and admired the insane beauty of the world. I had so looking forward to being RIGHT HERE and now I am. It was just completely exhilarating.
Here is a small fraction of those pictures.
Afterwards, I took a train back to Sofia. I got to use my first squat toilet in the train station. It was quite the exciting day.