Sofia to Thessaloniki

I am in Sofia, Bulgaria after traveling from Halkali all night. After a hard day yesterday with a near melt-down emotional state, I splurged for a private cabin. Staff knocked on  the door four times during the night: for tickets, then for passports, then getting off the train in Ceviche to have our passports reviewed and pictures taken, then another to check that all who reboarded the train had their passports stamped. It’s quite the system. Sofia has mountains, a few with remaining snow. Traffic is certainly lighter than Istanbul and calmer as well. Amazingly, cars (except for taxis) stop for pedestrians. 

The bus ticket clerk pointed me toward their town center for coffee and lunch as I have time before departure. A linden tree-lined boulevard offers much-appreciated shade on this warm day. The architecture is interesting and the feel is so much more laid-back. I am starting to relax. At a restaurant called The Bridge and Bar which faces the central circle, I had a coffee and, surprisingly, a quinoa and spinach salad. My body is so grateful! I assumed they would take a credit card when it came time to pay and found they do not accept cards. I barely had enough euro coins scraped together to pay for lunch. My next challenge will be figuring out how to get a cash advance in euros on my credit card. The change offices only deal with cash. I’m trying to practice relaxing in warm curiosity as opposed to panicking about the absence of funds. 

I am wishing that when I ask about transport tickets and the clerk shakes their head for “No,” that they realize I need more information to be able to continue my travels. This has happened many times along this journey. I’m also noticing how wonderful it is when I hear English language speakers. There’s a group of English speakers at a table near mine where I am having a coffee and refueling for the next leg of my journey, which is to Thessaloniki, Greece. I will get there by regional bus and spend the night there. Once I feel more grounded I intend to have a look around and maybe spend some time there. 

To Thessaloniki

A pleasant 5+ hour bus drive through gorgeous landscapes heading toward Kalatu. High rolling green hills with some snow-capped peaks. Houses are clustered together to maximize surrounding green space. Winding road, not so much traffic. Grape vine canopies over courtyards, 32 degrees C for temperature, landscape similar to Montana going farther south. Feelings of spaciousness, ease, pause. Oh yes, I nearly forgot to mention the swallows with nests in the overpass at the Greece border patrol station. Many mud nests plastered to the ceiling and they were feeding chicks. 

Tried to make a hotel reservation while on the bus but nothing would complete to payment, then my phone internet dropped connection. Panic time! Rolled into the bus station in Thessaloniki wondering how I could find a hotel and pay for transportation. The bus driver told me there is a hotel above the bus station – but it turns out they are full. The receptionist is helpful, calling the Rotonda Hotel and yes, they do have a vacancy for me! 

No taxis are taking credit cards. One driver said he would take me if I would stop by an ATM machine by the hotel. The ATM requires a pin to withdraw $$ from a card, and I do not have that information. The taxi driver is very patient with me even though he speaks no English. He has a language translator in his cab, which is SO helpful. I tell him I have an idea that perhaps the hotel could charge me more than my room fee and give him the cash, but that did not work out. Taxi driver gave me his phone #s and I will be staying into Monday to get cash from the ATM and pay him. I now have a pin for one card, superb!  I even had a salad with wine and bread for dinner, followed by a small piece of chocolate cake. Gratitude, Gratitude, GRATITUDE that it is all working out and that there are helpful and trusting people along the way. Oh, did I mention my room has a balcony, I can see the water and it is extremely affordable AND includes breakfast? Wow! I ended up in the right place. 

Balcony View in Thessaloniki, Greece

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