Leon de Leeuw
Klisura: One of my first trips in Bulgaria
It was late in January 2015. I zipped up my backpack with just a toothbrush and a shawl in it and left for the central station. I took the slow train to Karlovo, which proved to be a huge mistake. Bulgaria doesn’t have that many inhabitants but it surely has many train stations. We stopped everywhere, even in fields with just a pavement beside the tracks. No passengers getting off or boarding. A few hours later, we passed several long tunnels and I arrived in Klisura. A small town in Central Bulgaria. I wanted to walk to the vacation homes just outside the village and spend the night there. It was one of my first trips into the country. As the town is right beneath the mountains and the snow had started melting, the streets were full of water. My Nike shoes proved not to be water resistant and within seconds of leaving the train station, my feet were wet. The water was cold as ice and I realized how unprepared I was for this trip, even though it was just an overnight stay. As I walked towards the center, a woman who looked about 30 caught up to me. She had apparently been on the same train.
We talked and in my broken Bulgarian we agreed to have some tea in a local cafe. I had tea and she had vodka. She was from another town nearby and had come for a date, she would be spending the night in a vacation home as well. Her name was Petya and she had large earrings with dark purplish hair. She was a big woman yet attractive in a way. She kept laughing as I was with my socks on only and had put my shoes by the fireplace to dry. My socks were still spongy. She had at least three vodkas and said she would meet the guy in the same cafe. I asked the waitress if by any chance they sold shoes nearby, so I could at least enjoy the rest of my day. “No, not a chance” she said. I walked uphill and could walk across from the stream of melt water that came down from the mountains. My shoes still got wet and I was cold and tired. It was only one in the afternoon. When I got to the vacation park, I got the keys to a little house and directly put on new socks, then spent some time in the restaurant having tea. Eventually, as it was impossible to do any walking with wet shoes, I just took a hot shower and got into bed. I had exchanged numbers with Petya and she texted me that her guy was late. Eventually he would come, she thought.
I spent a couple of hours in bed, thinking about how my first winter in Bulgaria had been and how I had failed to bring some sturdy shoes. I thought about the time coming in this country and as often, I was overthinking if I’d made the right choice or not. It’s not always easy being in another country alone, it can be downright hard sometimes. It was the first time I was a bit sad but meanwhile I was cozy and comfortable. The curtains were wide open and I sat straight up in bed, looking outside the window towards the white mountains. The small heater right next to my bed was the single source of warmth in the entire home. Apart from that, there was an corner couch and a tv on the wall. There was also a scale right next to the couch. I got up and weighed myself, then directly got cold and slipped back into bed. I enjoyed the silence but felt a bit homesick as well. Eventually, I enjoyed the time spent in bed and I had to let go of the thought of always having to do something. Now that I couldn’t walk through the town or the hills, I still had to make the best of it. As the clouds passed by the window and I listened to the wind speeding past the corners of the little house, I fell into a deep sleep and woke up when it got dark. My shoes, that I’d placed by the heater, had dried up and I felt fresh to start moving again. I got dressed, locked the door behind me and walked towards the restaurant.
As I sat down and ordered a nice beer, I looked across the restaurant. Several couples, young and old. In the corner I saw the two lovebirds, Petya and her guy. I was glad he had come and I saw what looked like the start of their first kiss. When she saw me later on she winked and I nodded my head. I was the only one who was alone in the restaurant, as it was often. I was always satisfied in places alone and felt good observing and thinking. I looked into the fireplace and to the decorations on the wall. A small porcelain deer, some hunting trophies and even a gun. Because, as I said to myself, you’re only lonely if you feel that way. I enjoyed a quiet evening with good music, later some rakia and above all my dry shoes. What a joy was that.