Across Continents

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Vices to Vraca

Did I want a cigarette? A beer perhaps? I indicated I didn’t smoke, and just one lunchtime drink and I’d be asleep. I’d stopped in the small village of Doktor Josifovo, thirsty, having spotted a small cafe. Three elderly gentlemen, relaxing on an unusually warm November day, had beckoned me over. Their’s was a kind gesture so we settled on a bottle of a well-known soft drink.

The morning had gone well. Clear skies. Bright sunshine. Bit of a climb up from the previous night’s hotel, but then, quite suddenly, sweeping plains, mountains on the horizon, a light dusting of snow. But that was tomorrow’s challenge, finding a route through to the capital, Sofia.

Ever conscious of limited daylight, I’d drunk up as quickly as I might without offending my hosts. Then on to the town of Montana. Like Vidin, industrial. Ageing tenement blocks. A brief stop to withdraw some money. Bulgaria was, I’d been told, essentially a cash economy. Then on towards the town of Vraca for the night.

No option but to take the national route. Forty kilometres. Very warm. I was strangely grateful for frequent passing lorries and their, albeit brief, buffeting. Long, steady climbs, similarly lengthy descents. Rhythmic. Only the occasional woman at the roadside to break the monotony. At first I thought they might be hitch-hiking, wanting to be picked up. Suppose they did. Short skirts, boots, flimsy tops. I waved and pressed on. It would soon be dark.

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