Seeing hella nature and getting hella sick in Bulgaria
Camping on Vitosha Mountain
So I just l left Sofia, Bulgaria and my last couple weeks were much more interesting than the first two. I finished out my tracks and even got to go on an extra little weekend trip.
Shortly after my last update I went camping with a small group of my fellow Atlasitos outside the city on Vitosha Mountain. To get there we took the Metro (which was an adventure in and of itself; shoutout Barbara) and had to pass through an industrial park.
It ended right were the trail to the camping spot started and it was a really odd, stark contrast between untouched nature and human influence. Our guide Asen told us the little spot we were camping on was the last piece of land that was unowned.
We got there in the early evening and let me tell you, kids, this was no glamping experience. There was toilet paper hanging on a tree branch in a little clearing. We spent an hour gathering firewood and lowkey competing with each other over who could find and carry the largest branch.
The best luxury, though, was each of us having a two-person tent to ourselves complete with a blow up mattress. That was pretty clutch.
We spent the night laughing around the fire, cooking and eating delicious food, telling stories, and watching the sun set over the mountain. It was so wonderful. I spent most of the evening with a glass of wine in my hand relaxing in the hammock.
Late in the night just before bed we had a surprise guest join our camp. A bagpipe player came by to play us a traditional Bulgarian song. I didn’t even know bagpipes were a thing in Bulgaria. As much as I despise that instrument, it was pretty cool to listen to against the silence of the night and by the warm glow of the fire.
Testing the Bulgarian healthcare system
As epic as the camping trip was, unfortunately, the next morning I woke up feeling like absolute garbage. I thought it was from the rowdy night prior and I was just hungover. I couldn’t wait to pass out in my bed at home at sleep it off.
As soon as I opened the door a strange person looked up and smiled at me. I paused, not knowing who this unknown man in my house was. He identified himself as the cleaning service and my roommate Andrew had let him in.
And guess what… he just started on my room and it was going to be another 30 minutes. God damnit, I thought. I just wanna sleep!
Thankfully, a few of my friends were next door hanging out because one of them was super sick with an awful virus that was going around and they were keeping her company. I dropped my stuff off and headed over there to steal some of her snuggles.
I ended up spending the day there and didn’t really move from the couch. A few people asked if I was okay, and someone even suggested it felt like I had a fever. I shrugged it all off. Nah, just hungover. I’ll be fine.
The next day, Sunday, was even worse. My throat was so swollen I could barely sleep. I was super feverish. Just generally miserable all around.
For the next 3 days I took generic OTC throat lozenges, drank tea and soup the lovely Lovo brought me, and watched like 3 seasons of Friends on Netflix. By that Wednesday when I didn’t feel better I finally decided to go to the doctor.
Rado from the city team escorted me to help translate. Boy that was an experience. The doctor didn’t speak a lick of English. Without Rado I would have been totally screwed. He was so patient and helpful… I owed him big time.
The doctor sent me to the lab to test for mono and tonsillitis and I’d know in a few days. In the meantime he prescribed me an antibiotic, an antivirus, and a probiotic to start treatment. That was 10 pills a day. Needless to say, I felt much better within 24 hours.
The diagnosis? Strep throat. Whomp whomp. After 7 days on the antibiotic I was all cured. The doctor visit and all my prescriptions cost me $98 USD. That’s total, not just out of pocket. God bless universal healthcare.
Visting Bakyovo Village
My last track was on a perfectly gorgeous sunny Sunday. We took a trip to Laura’s childhood home in Bakyovo village to experience rural Bulgaria and hang by the pool all day.
This was far and away my favorite day of the whole month. I had so much fun with my crazy friends goofing off and relaxing.
Later in the afternoon we learned how to dance horo, a traditional Bulgarian dance. Laura’s father Bobi taught us outside at the only shop in the whole village. There were a few locals looking on and judging by the smiles they were either very impressed or very entertained.
It was a very simple dance, but there are more people with two left feet in our group than I thought. (Looking at you, Eliot…)
Finally, we said goodbye to Sofia with a gathering at a local bar. It was pretty lowkey and a perfect way to close out the month. We had some snacks, played a little trivia, and went bar hopping afterwards.
I'm definitely happiest when we’re all together in a big group. The love and energy are so strong and I'm so grateful to be a part of it.
We’re on our way to Hanoi, Vietnam right now and kicking off our 4-month tour of Southeast Asia. Lots of people are really excited, but I’m not sure how I feel about it yet.
I know I’m going to be miserable with the heat and I think the culture shock is going to be a lot more serious than the others realize. We’ll see!