Argh, I had half of this typed up, and then the application crashed without saving… Tablets, sometimes they can be horrible.
So on departure from Sofia, a couple hours got me a ride with four Bulgarians on their way to a couple-day retreat in the mountains near Blagoevgrad. They were with a team building company, and they invited me along for a couple of nights to the area they were going to. They even bought me lunch on the way, always appreciated. The area is a reservation for bears rescued from gipsy “dancing bear” shows. It was a sombering place, seeing many of these obviously traumatized bears walking about, some with even half their snouts missing. I learned the way they were made to dance was commonly lighting fires underneath their paws, while they were chained down. Their struggling resembled dancing…
I spent the night in the forest nearby, and they to their hotel. The next day I hung out with them for the day, before they fed me yet again at their hotel. And what an odd location for a hotel. It was located on the edge of a very small village, next to the poorer area. From our balcony, and overlooking the mineral pools with laughing wealthy tourists, I could see people being transported on horse-drawn carts through streets of houses that appeared not to even have electricity. Such a bizarre contrast, but yet another example of certain parts of the world moving on, while others stayed behind… Far behind. I believe it’s a fairly common sight in Bulgaria, as my friends gave me odd looks on my observations, as if it were just all too normal. Later on they dropped me off in Simitli, where I found a cozy bush on a river to call my home for the night.
And so the next day I got a ride with Julian, after a few more hours of waiting. A question asker, and wished he could do what I do. But he was like the others who could, except he would have to make more sacrifices, as his commitments were large. But he still could. A very nice guy, he drove me all the way to the border, and bought me more food than I could fit in my pack.
I walked across the border in this new type of heat… Something even the Greeks hide from in the midday hours. I was pickedup by a trio after an hour or so, and invited over to their village for lunch. Greek salad, Tsipouro, homemade lasagna.. And a gift of a litre and a half of homemade lasagne. We talked of the recession, and the rise of the far right, the Golden Dawn party. But they were very laid back, and even drove me to a nice place to camp for the night… With yet more food. All in all a great first day in Greece.
He next day I walked a few boiling kilometres in the sun to reach shade for hitching, but an hour passed before I was on my way to Thessaloniki with Nicholas the military historian, and my first view of the ocean in more than a year. I had a few good lessons on famous battles before arriving.
I bussed into the city from the outskirts, but not before a lady wanted a picture of me. Apparently I have an interesting face, hah, that’s a first. Due to the heat it was slow going, and I forked over 18 bloody euros for a hostel, as couchsurcing yet again didn’t help… basically my weekly budget (if not more) for food. Not many other options. But the next day I looked for a park to sleep in… And then I met Frank. A Nigerian looking to make a better life in Europe. We talked about many things, and it was sad to see how hard it was to just get into Europe – finding a job was even harder. He eventually offered me a place to stay. Ah, the kindness of strangers.
The next day I headed to Kastoria, with an Albanian trucker by the name of Yurgei. A great small city, but I wanted to get to the mountains. So I sought out the hippies, or people clearly of the Rainbow frame of mind. It wasn’t hard. They were sitting in the middle of town in a circle. It was there I got a rde two hours west to the Gramos mountains, pa ked in a van with 20 others. So I made some friends on the way, hah.
On arrival it was noticeably cooler, excellent. We were greeted at the “welcome centre,” where we received a hug and a smiley “welcome home.” The vibe was immediately uplifting and mellow. I found a place to hang my hammock for the night before everyone began gathering in a circle around the main fire pit. Dinner it was. But being new, I missed it, not really knowing how everything operated. But the next month had me quite well versed in the workings of Rainbow.
I won’t go too much into the mechanics. You just have to go to one and see for yourself. Rainbow gatherings happen in many countries, and googling is sure to be the best way to find out more. That is of course unless you know people. My month was spent going to various workshops, relaxings, hiking, walking, and just being in nature in a beautiful and mountainous area of Europe. I think of the people I met, the two guys who claimed not to have eaten for two and a half years and seven years were the most memorable, just because I have only read of this style of living. Prannic living, it’s called. Living off of energy.
I also was lucky enough to meet my old hostel boss, Furi. Myself, her, and our new friend Hans ended up being the last three of two thousand people to leave. It was lovely to spend a week and a half alone in the quiet and serene mountain, making pancakes from local sheep milk and sometimes even a few eggs from the local shepherd.
When we finally ran out of food, we had to make the hike down, twelve kilometres on a logging road. We were lucky, however, and had a ride from the halfway point from people we had met previously, all the way to Ioannina. We had discussed heading to Meteora and Olympos, so this worked excellently.
We spent a couple of days in Ioannina, getting our fill of sweets, cheese, and bread mostly. After a month we were dreaming (literally) of these things. We camped on the edge of the city, and on the day we left, split up to hitch out. We took the wrong road out, apparently, and while the other two bussed to Metsovo, I bussed to the other side of the city and hitched out.. After a. ouple hour walk, and a couple of hours hitching. My ride took me through Metsovo, where I saw my two friends in the center… Unfortunately, no room for them, so we planned to meet in Meteora.
Meteora, where I am now, is stunning. Huge rock pillars, many topped with monasteries dot the landscape. I spent my first night camped amongst them, with a clear night sky above, and the music of the town of Kalambaka below ghostly echoing up through the small gorge. In the morning I was greeted by a turtle walking by, as I had my breakfast. Later on I met up with my friends.
Phew. So, we have been here a couple of days, relaxing in shade during the burning day hours, and eploring mainly in the evening. Our camp sits above the town, and a couple stray dogs have decided to sleep with us as well (males me miss mine). We have a coffee shop we spend many hours at, playing backgammon and watching as the morning rush of people turns to basically no one during the day hours.. We assume the tourists are at their hotels or campsites in pools or air conditioned rooms, while the Greeks hide at home. Of cities and towns I have so far been to, Meteora is up here on my list. The feel is quite happy and mellow, and ghe landscape and sights are juat amazing… I think we will spend a couple more days here before we leave… No rush.
Not all those who wander are lost