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February 22nd, 2005
Category: 2005/02

Slept well last night - very warm.   Had marmite sandwich for breakfast then off to view houses.  The first one is very old and traditional, but in a fantastic location, looking out onto a steep wooded hillside with a river.  Really liked it except the access is a bit difficult - you have to walk up a steep rocky lane to reach the entrance; no good for holidays lugging suitcases. 

The second house I saw was nice but more modern.  The builder who came with us got very excited in the cellar and pinched two books and a couple of old saws to decorate a place he is currently renovating.  I got a bit concerned when we were outside and the builder strolled off into the garden.  "He would have a pooh" announced the estate agent cheerfully.  Decided to discretely stare at the house for a few minutes to give the guy some privacy when it suddenly clicked that the agent was saying the builder would have a pool if the place was his!  Phew!

The third house really took my fancy.  It was really old again and ready for renovating.  Found myself gleefully picturing having holidays here.

The final house was to the north.  Nice house but I didn't like the area.

Back at the hostel I discover a new tenant.  A song writer named Dylan (not Bob) who mostly lives in Istanbul but comes out every few months.  He got mugged last night but the police have caught the culprit.  Dylan cheered himself up by buying an electric guitar.

Decided to have a hot shower but then realised I have neglected to bring a towel and none are provided.  After rooting through the many cupboards and drawers I discovered a pink and blue striped baby blanket.  It smelt clean so decided to use that.  Having showered I then went out to eat.  I decided to go to the Arab restaurant mum and I went to last time as I know where it is and the food was good.  Went inside and asked for the menu.  Hmm... something not quite right... Ah!  It's not an Arab restaurant anymore but being run by Andrew from Harrogate.  Ordered cheesy chips and chicken kebab.  Got talking to Andrew who said how disgusting the Arab owners had been and how everyone who ate here before got food poisoning.  Told him my Barnsley stomach must be made of stern stuff.  The conversation then turned to all the thousands of Brits who have properties out here.  He was quite negative saying how the property prices are now too high for the ordinary Bulgarians.  "Yes!" stormed the waitress.  "Too much for me!"  I nodded sympathetically.  Andrew went on to say how foolish all these Brits were, expecting their properties to increase in value.  "They won't," he said, "because there are so many empty properties around."  I nodded wisely again whilst racking my brains for a valid non-house-hunting reason for me to be in Veliko Tarnovo.  Please don't ask me why I'm here... please don't ask me why I'm here...

Managed to blag my way through saying I was just visiting the town because it looked nice on the internet.  He gave me his card for flower arranging/ landscape gardening services and announced he was doing a lovely steak and kidney pie for tomorrow.  Am too scared to eat there again in case the waitress discovers I'm one of the ones pricing her out of the housing market.

February 21st, 2005
Category: 2005/02

Thankfully the snow held off so got across the Pennines to Manchester okay.  Met a couple on the transfer coach to the airport, who were off to Australia for six weeks.  Another chap on the coach was talking on his mobile all the time.  Heard him saying that '340,000 was too much' - hope he's not buying Bulgarian houses too!

Stupid Manchester flight is delayed.  All the business people on board look fed up.  Plane was supposed to reach Heathrow at 7.30am, at 7.40am we finally leave Manchester.  PANIC!!!  Sofia flight goes at 8.35am.

Get to Heathrow 8.15am.  Shove my way off the plane and run to the flight connections desk.  8.25am and still in the queue for the boarding pass.  Summon a worker and tell them the situation.  He told me to forget the boarding pass and run for gate 48.  Begin sprinting.  Heathrow is expanding as I run, like in one of those horror films where the corridor stretches away forever.  Lungs and legs about to collapse.  Walk a bit then jog on again.  Finally make it to gate 48 about to go into cardiac arrest.  Luckily there were four others also on the Manchester flight so the plane was still waiting for us.  Unfortunately they have given my seat away (which I spent an hour carefully selecting on the internet last night) so I am now in the middle of a row.  (That's row as in row of seats, not row as in argument).  Board the plane which is full of business people.  All the overhead lockers were full so I had to stuff my over-sized hand luggage under the seat.  Am wedged next to over-sized passenger who is hogging the arm rests.

Had a nice BA breakfast which looked better than the croissant and yoghurt I could see first class having.  Their only luxuries seem to be a small pillow and a fancy blue teacup instead of the standard white ones.  Slump onto the little pull down tray after breakfast and fall asleep, hoping that for once I don't twitch in my sleep too much.

Woke up half an hour from Sofia.  Both arms have lost circulation and my left eye is permanently blurry.  Large businessman seems relieved to see me awake (suspect I have been twitching after all).  Land in sunny, snow-free Sofia and join the queue for passport control.  Spend the next 40 minutes listening to an entire flight load of mobile phones re-tuning to Bulgarian networks.  Some people are holding two.  Get through customs and make brief stop at the loo (in anticipation of a three hour car ride) before finding the estate agent.

Journey to Veliko Tarnovo goes well.  Nice luxury car to nod off in with a brief interlude for coffee on the way.  I'm dropped off at the Ross Hostel which I've booked to stay at.  The hostel looks suspiciously like someone's house but I bang on the door anyway.  It's answered by an old man at whom I smile and show my booking receipt.  He smiles, nods and waves me on up the stairs then goes back into his room.  Spend ten minutes loitering on the stairs wondering what to do.  Do I just choose a room at random and claim it as my own?  Decide to go back down and bang on the old man's door again.  This time an old woman comes out, rattling away in Bulgarian.  At this point I'm beginning to wonder just what sort of a hostel this is when suddenly she is distracted by someone at the front door.  Thankfully at this point a younger man appeared - the 'Ross' of the Ross Hostel and he speaks English, hurrah!  Pay for the room and settle in.

I'm the only one on this floor so I have the entire living room, kitchen and bathroom to myself; it's just like being in an apartment.  It seems traditional for previous travellers to leave bits behind as there are 8 toothbrushes in the bathroom cabinet, various items of clothing, a.ssorted medicines/drugs and numerous other bits.  My room comes complete with a set of weights so it looks like I won't miss my Thursday circuit training session!  Made a hot drink then settled on the sofa with the remains of the BA breakfast baguette, flicking through the satellite TV channels.

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