Hospital stay

Trip Start Aug 18, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Bulgaria  ,
Sunday, November 5, 2006

... So i arrived in Malko Tarnovo just after dark. I found a tiny cafe- four tables and a log stove- and asked for coffee and directions to the hotel. The directions were clear and it seemed very unlikely that there would be no rooms left, so I didn't feel hurried to press on. I warmed my feet by the stove and drank coffee, locals in lumber-jack shirts and thick coats kicked the snow off their boots at the door and sat opposite me, drinking coffees and whiskeys. We smiled at each other. Occasionally attempted to communicate but didn't get much further than 'Inglis?' 'Da- Inglis'... before trailing off, but it was cosy, light and warm.

Around 7pm I headed for the hotel, which I had been told was 'in the hospital'. I suspected a mistranslation somewhere, but it was a useful clue. Asking a few more people for directions I was eventually lead in convoy to the hospital by a police car. It transpired that there was no mistranslation, the large five-storey building was a hospital that doubled as a hotel. There was no hope of finding out why, since the nurse at the reception desk spoke no English. Not only did she speak no English, but she seemed unable to comprehend that I spoke no Bulgarian, and would persist in trying to communicate with words, getting louder and louder as I stubbornly refused to comprehend.

I suspect that the hospital was built to service a large area in the manner of centralised Communist-era beurocracy, but no-one realised that the large area was mountainous and scarcely populated and the hospital was vastly oversized for its use. To recoup the expenses, they- in modern business parlance- diversified. All this is just guessing though, and came later. When I arrived I had more pressing concerns:

-I'd like to stay one night
-OK. Passport please
-Realisation slowly dawns... shi- ... shit... SHIT... SHITTING SHITTING SHIT...
I knew before I looked, but of course I turned all my bags inside-out anyway. My passport was still behind the reception of the Severina Apartments, Sunny Beach. Shit.

I was not ready for this shock. I was very tired. I was on a deadline. I was supposed to be crossing the Turkish border the next morning. And I had no way even of checking that the passport was where I thought it was and would be available to collect the next day. I had had one large measure of Bulgarian liqueur before I left the cafe, which had more influence than you might expect since I was dehydrated and had only eaten a sandwich, a lion bar and nuts for two days. I managed to explain to the nurse and the policemen's satisfaction that my passport was at another hotel and I'd go and get it tomorrow, and even found out when the first bus to Bourgas would leave. I had a place to stay, I had planned to arrive a full day early in Istanbul so I had time, I had a plan and the odds were good that it would work out, and I knew that there was nothing more that I could do that night.

Normally reminding myself of these facts would be sufficient to calm irrational panic and emotional distress and bring out the phlegmatic approach to disaster that usualy gets me through. This time, however, the emotional shock at the moment I realised what an idiot I had been overwhelmed me, and even though I knew all the above, I wept and reproached myself for twenty-minutes, even calling Yolana and making her try to find the hotel and call them- a wild goose chase at the best of times, rendered impossible by the fact that I couldn't remember the name of the hotel or even the town at this point. But she reminded me of the things I knew and soothed my temper. There being nothing to do but wait for the morning, I lay in bed reading until sleep came.

I missed the first bus to Bourgas- the departure time had been successfully communicated, but the location of the bus stop had not. I had to wait an hour at the bus station for the second bus, trying to find shelter from the biting wind and concentrate on reading to pass the time. Getting to Sunny Beach was fairly uneventful, though it was an odd feeling to drive the road I'd ridden the day before- at every slope my thighs ached with the memory. I was helped to find the right bus in Bourgas by a kindly student and was walking towards the hotel by midday. Every step I took made me more and more nervous that the passport wouldn't be there when I arrived. A man I didn't recognise was walking towards me, and slowed down as he got nearer, looking at me as if he'd seen me somewhere before. Suddenly he stopped and said
-Passeport - Receptio!

I could have kissed him. If he hadn't immediately carried on walking I might have handed over everything I was carrying I was so grateful. I practically skipped the rest of the way.

I got back to Malko Tarnovo about 4.30, so I had a look at the towns only tourist attraction- a very small museum. Housed in three examples of traditional buildings exhibiting a 'select' assortment of archealogical, historical, political, social and environmental exhibits. The latter were quite interesting, as the area is a very beautiful national park with diverse flora and fauna which I hadn't recognised in situ the day before. Seeing all three houses took about ten minutes, after which I went back to the hospital. There really is not much in Malko Tarnovo.
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