SO, THIS IS THE WAY THEY ACT. They know that I’ll stay in the country for ten days. I’ll be tossing and turning every night waiting for the door to open quietly. To feel a sting on my neck…

…I wake up in dark. I can feel the smell of moist mold, I hear a distant rumble, but cannot see anything.

 

What’s this all about?

Forty-three years ago my wife Tuula, myself and
our –3.5 months old son Robert spent three
weeks in Bulgaria.

We were travelling by train to Veliko Tarnovo, the second capital of the second empire of Bulgaria.

On the way to the railway station I had bought an ice cold bottle of pink champagne at a kiosk.

It was a brisk, sunny morning, but in the train it was getting warmer and warmer.

I placed the bottle under the bench so, that the bench pressed the cork of the bottle. As the temperature kept rising I feared that the bottle would explode. I took the bottle to the toilet, opened the window and carefully opened the wire that holds the cork.

I just about got it off, when BANG!

The cork and half of the bubbling
liquid shot off, at the short moment
when, a clearing among the forest
opened to view and in a flash I
briefly saw some sheep. The clearing
closed again and I couldn’t see where
the cork had flown.

Did the cork hit something? A sheep?
A shepherd?

 

Attack in Veliko Tarnovo?

One evening we decided to take a stroll around a hilltop outside the centre. Darkness fell soon.
A fast-growing rumble began to approach, Tramp-tramp-tramp-tramp. Then a group of soldiers emerged from the darkness.

Have they come to arrest me?!

Tramp-tramp-tramp they passed us.
Then suddenly, a soldier jumped out of the line, kneeled in front of my notably pregnant wife, gave her a rose, and disappeared among the others.

We just stood there gaping, stunned

- I wonder if he has a pregnant wife at home and that he misses them so much, my wife pondered.

 

What really, really
happened at the airport?

I collected my big bag, ski boots and skis.
The airport shuttle was waiting outside.

The Jamaican-looking driver was playing Bob Marley.

- Louder, please, I asked.

- Sorry, I cannot, said he, and withrolled his
eyes to the back seats, filled by a British family.

Well, the British may not have same kind of sympathy for Jamaicans as we Finns do we.

Anyway, he didn’t take me to an interrogation centre to be questioned about the incident 43 years ago, but to a nice Premier hotel.

Got to my room. Showered. Slept like a baby. Showered again. Went down for a very satisfactory breakfast.

- Taidat tykätä munista (You seem to like eggs), I said to a smallish guy loading eggs in his backpack. He was wearing a hooded jacket with text “Finnish Boxing Society”.

- Tartten protskuja (I need proteins) SHE answered, and continued packing the eggs in HER backpack.

To fight like a girl means slapping your opponent with open palms. I bet she has more effective means to knock me down if irritated.

So, I paid for the beer I had taken from the Mini Bar. Checked out. Was shuttled to the airport. Reunited with old friends from Istanbul, Tel-Aviv etc.

 

Accommodation

We were packed in a bus and driven to Hotel Ramada in Plovdiv, the cultural capitol of Europe 2019. Grand-mums and grand-dads among us were showing each other pictures of their grandchildren. I was happy to show a video of Dafne, my granddaughter.

I checked in with my overnight bag. The rest of my

gear was already on the way to Pamporovo ski resort.

 

Shopping

I took a taxi and drove to MediaMarkt, where I

bought a coffee machine for 39,90 leva = 22 €.

Friendly people everywhere. Most signs were written both in Cyrillic and Latin script and often in English too. Small language groups, like Finns have the advantage that they have to learn other languages. About half of the Bulgarians speak English. So, I bought a coffee machine even though Bulgarian coffee is just right to my taste, but

THAT’S ANOTHER STORY coming later.

 

Culture

Drove back to our hotel and was ready for a cultural tour.

We walked 200 m from the hotel and tried to listen to the history of the place. Tried to scribble something down with my freezing fingers. We moved on to another spot. Some Roman ruins behind a fence. Same procedure took place as at the earlier destination.

I was getting cold. I ran back to the hotel to get more clothes on. I ran back to look for the others. Walked to the direction we were supposed to be going.

No group in sight. No use wandering alone in the old town, however fascinating it’s reputed to be.

Must come back in summer to hear the interesting stories.

THAT’S ANOTHER STORY coming later

 

More shopping

After running to and fro I felt sweat dripping along my chest. I was ruining the only clean shirt I had left in my overnight bag. What to put on for our welcoming dinner?

Sunday afternoon. Most shops closed. Finally, on a side street I found a small shop for men. Bought a beautiful red shirt with small spots.

 

Culinary delights

I realized I hadn’t eaten anything after breakfast. I should have loaded my backpack with eggs like the young boxing lady did. Well, anywhere you go, home cooking is always available at McDonald’s. A hamburger for half the price in Finland and I was saved.

Strolled back to the hotel. Had a glass of
white and met some Slovenians and Italians.

 

Fantastic parade

We looked like an international meeting of
residents of nursing homes when we, and our
younger escorts paraded along the pedestrian
zone of Plovdiv waving our national flags.

Pictures were taken on a staircase. Then we
walked to an old amphitheatre, refurbished
with good taste. Listened to creditably short
speeches and we felt very welcome to Bulgaria
and ready for dinner.

 

Ironing service

Went to my room that I shared with Alexander

the Russian. Drew the wrinkled shirt from my

backpack. Wet the collar, patted it flat and

dried it with a hair dryer. My pullover hid the

wrinkled shirt.

I was ready to party!

My shirt got lots of praise.

 

Wines

The next day a bus took us to Boutique Winery Villa
Yustina that develops quality wines, passing significant wine history of Thracians and their wine, ancient rites
and mysteries.

Our hostess, as expert as she was beautiful introduced us to their wines that hold a number of Gold Medals from international contests worldwide.

- I’m in love, I said to Michael sitting next to me.

- So am I, said Michael.

I believe we had many rivals.

 

More culture

In the yard of our summer cottage I couldn’t hit the ground anywhere without hitting a rock. I got frustrated, I got sore wrists and I got a reason to ease physical and mental pain with a beer. 

In Plovdiv it’s like in Rome, and if you dig you usually hit an ancient monument. If you’re using a Mechanical digger you may try to hide the relics and keep going. Luckily the workmen using spades were more ethical. During the construction of an apartment block in Plovdiv in 1988, the ruins of an early Christian church from the middle of the 5th century were accidentally discovered. Our party were lucky too, to be offered lunch and wine among the beautifully restored mosaics.

Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel, where the murder sucpect spent the 24 Feb. 2018 night

The supposed murder victimes Lubomir the sheep and Alexander the shepherd.

The suspected murder weapon,

the cork of a bottle of Bulgarian Sparkling wine.

<<< Gurko Totel and Tavern in Veliko Tarnovo, hero town where monks of the monastery hid partisans during German occupation.

Wild flowers and two roses.

Tramp-tramp-tramp soldiers emerged from the darkness.
A young private gave a rose to Tuula

The Jamaican shuttle driver wouldn't play reggae too loud

Young Finnish female boxer eats lots of eggs.

The bus that removes us from everyday life to the Magical Pamporovo Week

Dafne

TeknoMarket provided me with a Spanish Taurus Verona 12 coffee machine.

 

<<< Claire Moreau-Shirbon leading the troups from the Three Hills in Plovdiv.
Photo: Anders Malmsten

On the road again

You wish. After three hours of waiting, we were still sitting in a bus in a traffic jam in Plovdid.

What is water in the valley turns to snow on the mountains in winter. Now the magical metamorphosis was about to take place here in Plovdiv. Motorists were just as surprised as they are every winter. Our driver wasn’t born yesterday. He would take us to Plovdiv, no matter how late. On the serpentine road we already expected him to shout:

- Everybody out and push. However, no such luck. We could’ve got great photos.
Finally, some 20 km from Pamporovo we stopped at a petrol station, visited the toilet and had a coffee. When we returned to the bus, it had snow chains on! I mean under. Kind of around every wheel.

 

Pamporovo

So, we arrived in Pamporovo. The same thing that happened to us in France last year happened here, too. We brought enormous snowfall with us and the next day we dived in deep, fresh powder snow.

BUT THAT’S ANOTHER STORY coming later.

 

Sequel

After 10 days I’m sitting in a Lufthansa Star Alliance Boeing 747 wondering what the customs officer said to plain-clothes man when watching my passport on my arrival.

In the movie “The Last Crusade” Indiana Jones and his father sit on a zeppelin, that leaves Berlin. They already sigh of relief, when the zeppelin slowly begins to turn back towards the airport.

So, I’m sitting in this rising airplane and expect it to turn back to the terminal

The airplane tilts and bends.

I squeeze the armrests in agony.

The airplane continues to rise. Finally the safety belt light is turned off and the drink carts are pushed to the aisle.

I order a double brandy and, with shaking hands toss the drink in my dry throat.

 

What exactly did the customs officer say to the plain-clothes man?
*)
можеш ли да помолиш Борис да дойде тук. Трябва да отида до тоалетната

Translation: Could you ask Boris to come here. I need to go to the toilet.

International home cooking. No, this time it's not IKEA meetballs with mash and jam, but McDodaldses basic no-nonsense hamburger

My sentiments exactly when trying to listen to our guide on the city centre tour

Parade with colours.
Group photo. Speeches in amphi
theatre. Group photo. No fire crackers. –> To dinner.

Villa Yustitia Winary is seriously coming abroad.

Photo: Anders Malmsten

The murder suspect arrived at Sofia aiport in 24. Feb. 2014, at 22.55.

Anxiety in
 Bulgarian Customs

I don't believe I'm the only person who's had moist armpits in a queue to passport control. But I had a reason.
The customs officer looked at my passport, then at me, again at my passport.
He slowly turned his head and said to the plain-clothes man standing at the door behind him:

-можеш ли да помолиш Борис да дойде тук. Трябва да отида до тоалетната*)
I'm certain that he said:  -Hi Boris. It's him. The killer of my brother an one of our sheep has returned. What nerve!
Then he leafed through my passport, and without a word pushed it back to me.

Most of this article is true. The rest is something my twisred imagination has cooked up.

Text,production and lay-out:

Rauli Storm

Indiana Jones has just realised the Zeppelin is turning back to Berlin, capitol of the Third Reich.

© 2014 Agricola-kustannus • Agricola Publishing

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