Sofia to Istanbul And The Lesson Learnt: Caution Required When Choosing a Travel Partner

At breakfast the day before I planned to leave Sofia, on the way to Istanbul, I met a young Canadian girl about to book a train ticket in the same direction, but wanting to save money. I invited her to join me on the road, just to get to Istanbul, stopping over in Plovdiv. I came to regret that decision, before we had even left.

When inviting her, I figured she seemed nice, and at first glance, was kinda cute, which theoretically should be helpful in thumbing a ride. A few hours later, I had realised a few flaws. First, she wasn’t cute, it was the low cut top she wore to breakfast, resulting in me not really looking at her face (just being honest). Second, she was kind of a bitch. Third, she was 18 and had the maturity level of a 15 year old, thinking she was amazing for being the only young girl travelling solo in Eastern Europe, yet marvelling/questioning how so many men confused her for a prostitute every night when she would walk around the streets alone. Finally, she just would NOT shut up. Ever. To avoid naming names, I will henceforth refer to her as “She”.

We had planned to leave the next morning. 30 minutes after I had woken up, eaten, and finished packing, I was ready to bail on this girl and do the trip solo. Since I had already started regretting inviting her the night before, the concept of leaving without She was only ignored by my wish to avoid bad travel karma. 90 minutes later, and 4 almost bails later, She was finally ready.

Sofia is a sprawling city. While not huge in population, it took a bit over an hour get out of the city to the hitch hiking spot recommended by my previous CouchSurfing host. About 40 minutes of waiting later (Apparently having a young girl with you doesn’t always help) we were picked up. The driver also picked up another hitcher, Boris, who was heading the same direction. Turns out Boris had been tending at the Amsterdam bar when I had been there 4 days previously. It was at this point that I REALLY started regretting inviting She. In the 90 minute drive to Plovdiv, She wasn’t talking for about 20 of them. I was concerned the driver was going to throw us out, She was talking so much. Also, while I was admiring the landscape (there were some seriously beautiful stretches of forest landscape on the way), She was complaining that everywhere reminded her of BC landscape (British Columbia). Bitch was ruining my landscapes!

All said and done, when we arrived in Plovdiv, we happily checked into a hostel, and split our paths for the night. Gave me a nice breather from She. Plovdiv, as a town, was alright. Nice enough Old Town, but I felt I saw enough in that afternoon, the highlight of my finds definitely being this random abandoned house on a hill.

Sketchy Stairs, heading up

The People in The Walls, Plovdiv Abandoned House

Day 2 saw rain in the morning. Not at all ideal for hitch hiking. The rain let up at 11am, so She and I threw on our packs and set off on another hour long walk out of the city, past some ghetto neighbourhood, some midday prostitutes, and some roadworks, before arriving at the recommended hitch spot. At least today She wasn’t so talkative… and She had bought snacks. Tick in the positive column. Were on our way 20 minutes later, and much to my surprise, She was even more quiet. I realised this was a result of her not understanding the driver, and he and I conversing over the little Croatian/Bulgarian language similarities, and some Thai, surprisingly. Were dropped off after 40 minutes, and waited another 20 before being picked up again. This time, a Turkish trucker.

Projects, heading out of Plovdiv, just after the Prozzies

I personally was stoked. I had been hitch hiking around Europe for a year, and had never caught a ride with a truck. I had taught friends to hitch hike, and been there on other friends maiden hitches, and all of them had caught trucks before me… So for me, this was a big deal! Let me just say, trucks are grause. Comfy, spacious, and Mustafa (yep), the driver was a top bloke, who spoke no English, and kleine Deutsch. As a result, She was again benched from conversations with the driver, which unfortunately limited She to talking at me again and again. Admittedly, I only speak kleine Deutsch myself. We stopped for chai at a Turkish diesel station inside the Bulgarian border, and I learnt how to eat a pomegranite. Then 3km from the Bulgaria-Turkish border, we hit the truck line for customs.

Farewelled Mustafa, and started the 3km walk to customs. As we approached, She started complaining about how customs agents always question her and hate her and ra ra I stopped listening. Actually, I stopped listening to her the day before for the most part, just grunting when I thought She expected an acknowledgement… About an hour later, we were on the other side of the border. Walking to the first petrol station, we were offered a ride to Istanbul by the first truck pulling out. Ripper. Now this guy spoke no English, nein Deutsch, and no other language which I knew enough of to ask if he spoke it (Not that many). By this time it was about 6pm and starting to get dark. After 2 stops, we were dropped on the side of the highway on the outskirts of Istanbul. She had no money, so I shouted her for public transport into the hostel She had chosen to stay at. Under what I was fearing would be poor judgement, I decided to go to the same hostel, a decision based on price and the fact it seemed closer than the hostel I initially planned to hit up.

My first taste of Istanbul. Empty markets at midnight.

Despite the presence of She, Mavi Guesthouse turned out to be one of the best decisions of the last 2 months. Mavi Guesthouse, Ali and Vale, and the other guests there, were a big reason for me spending 2 weeks in Istanbul. Well, there was a certain guest there for my duration who we didn’t enjoy. We’ll call her Scammed. But no need to discuss her just now.
To finalise, She left after about 5 days. She never paid me back the 5Eur she owed me (That’s a lot of money to me), but I was willing to cut my losses. She had become known as the Annoying Canadian around the hostel, which reassured me for feeling how I did… And I now know not to rush into travel partner decisions… A lesson I will surely forget.

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3 thoughts on “Sofia to Istanbul And The Lesson Learnt: Caution Required When Choosing a Travel Partner

  1. Hi! I like your photos – and thanks for subscribing to my blog. By the way, you mention travelling in Kenya – I lived there for 12 years. Thanks again. FATman

    • Thanks! And yeah, have just moved over here, looking for work so I can stay, otherwise I’ll push on. Doubt I’ll stay 12 years though, that’s some serious commitment!

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