Feb 2, 2015

Feb 1 - 2: Kostenets to Varvara

It snowed in Kostenets Saturday night, and then the temperature drifted above freezing and the snow changed to rain. By the time I woke up Sunday morning, there was 8 cm of snow on the road, along with some very substantial puddles. And it was still raining, lightly but steadily. I knew that the forecast called for sunny skies by late morning, but I didn't relish the idea of starting the day with wet feet. I crawled back into bed, and spent most of Sunday right there.

During my three week convalescence in Santhià, I had done a lot of reading. A day‎ or two before I finally set off again, I'd started reading Moby Dick. Yesterday I finished that novel, and got two-thirds of the way through A Tale of Two Cities.

Monday morning I'd set my alarm for 6:00. This had been my default throughout Italy, but once I left the Schengen area, I began staying up later and sleeping in more frequently. ‎That's all well and good, but I need to start moving a little more quickly now. One way to do this is by being ready to walk by sunrise, and taking full advantage of the daylight hours. (I wound up hitting snooze repeatedly, and finally got underway by 9:00. Great theory...)

I followed Highway 8 for most of the day, and was pleasantly surprised at the abundance of dry seating I found along the way. There were numerous bus shelters along the route, rusted out and apparently disused, but the benches underneath were clean and dry. There were also a number of towns located along the way, so I was able to get a few coffees today. (When ordering a coffee in Italy and in the Balkans, it always comes with a glass of water, but this practice is not observed in Bulgaria.)

Although I started walking in the foothills, the general trend of the road was downhill. Eventually I reached the central plain again, which slopes down gradually to the shore of the Black Sea. My destination for the day was Varvara, which entailed cutting south away from the highway and climbing up again, but I still wound up over 200 m closer to sea level at the end of the day. My GPS app tells me I walked 34 kms today, although the staff tonight told me it is 40 kms between Kostenets and Varvara. (See my comment in the last post about people's ability to accurately estimate distances.)

Varvara is a town in the foothills, and its main claim to fame is the hot mineral springs. The "motel" I'm staying at tonight has the rooms arranged around a very large central square. The swimming pool has been drained for the season, but the pool with the steaming hot mineral water has been covered with a large tent. By the time I had unpacked and settled in, the sun had set and the full moon was only partially obscured by clouds. I soaked in the hot water for a while, and then had to make the cold dash across the yard to my room. (Yes, there were still small patches of snow on the grass.)‎ After a hot shower and good meal, I'm ready to hunker down and spend more time with Charles and Lucie.

Breakfast isn't available until 8:00 in the morning, but tomorrow will be a short walking day, so I don't mind having the opportunity to sleep late. (It's either walk 54 kms to Plovdiv tomorrow, or 18 kms to Pazardzhik and then 36 kms on Wednesday. I *could* do a 54 km day, but I'd really rather not.) My desire to consistently walk 30-35 kms per day is contingent on finding a place to stay each night. Although the weather has been beautiful, it's still too cold overnight for camping. They're calling for snow tonight‎, so I'll snuggle into bed with my (electronic) book and read until I fall asleep. It's been a great day!

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