Sunday, August 18, 2013

Into the Woods, Version Bulgaria

 Fulbright Training, Free day

Six of us decided to get out of dodge. Life in a resort grows stale faster than the normal toils of everyday life. We wanted to walk, especially to try and get into the mountains just across the lake from where we're staying for training. A hike, if you will. Someone got directions by land marks to a trail. "Just go to the monastery in town. There is a trail right behind it that goes 5k." Got it.

Town is a solid mile walk, within sight from our spot on the lake. We made it into town around 10:30, walked towards the hills. No monastery. Huh. No sign for one either. It's early Sunday morning so no one was around to ask. We kept going, kept heading for the hills. After a while, there was a small path going off to the right. It was clear by the poop everywhere that it was a foot path used to herd animals. We kept going, me and Sarah taking turns pushing through the bushes in the woods. We found our way to creek. Kept going.

Then the trail just stopped.

We turned around. The day was moving along as it was and we were already two solid miles away from the hotel. But then we realized that on the top of a steep bank opposite us, several Bulgarian style brick houses marked the end of the woods we were in. A car went by. A road. Sam had abandoned his flip flops by this point and was barefoot. A road sounded like a good idea. I lead us down to the creek again and across. Scrambled up the bank.

Then we had what Sarah called "the 'Homeward Bound'" moment of the trip. There was a steep drop between the top of this bank and the edge of the woods. Whoops. I ran along the edge of the ledge we were on and found a brick shed.

Then stumbled into someone's back yard.

The thing you should know about yards here is that they all have fences. And gates. No one was in sight and it seemed too difficult for the six of us to get down. So I walked to the gate.

It wouldn't open.

Then Sarah joined me. Then Morgan. We couldn't get the gate open.

Then we saw the dog. The really big black one.

Then I heard a car coming. I did the first thing my body wanted: I ran. I ran back towards the shed, trying to get everyone to hide, making sure the passerby didn't see us fighting to get out of a yard.

This was dumb. KC was at the back and said she felt like she was spinning from our crazy rush backwards toward the ledge. Sam brought us to our sense. "No! Stop! What are we doing? We're completely innocent! Just walk out!"

The passing car wasn't passing. It stopped and a man got out, very surprised to see a group of people emerging from behind the shed and meeting him at the gate. Then the owner of the house came out. The dog saw us and sprinted towards over, eager to make new friends rather than rip our limbs off. The owner was also surprised. We all started laughing and trying to apologize and explain in broken Bulgarian that we're just Americans and were walking in the woods and got lost. Turns out the owner didn't speak much English and was Austrian. Eventually, he got the picture, grinned and explained in rapid Bulgarian to his neighbor, the old woman passing on the road, and his wife who we were. KC, who has the widest language experience, said he said, "Never in my life have I seen something like this." At this point, we were laughing cheerfully at how absurd we looked and felt. He let us out of the gate and onto the road, pointing us up the road for further walking or back down the hill towards Pravets.

We arrived back at the hotel at 12:50, a solid 3 hour hike.

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