Ruins aplenty, Kardzhali

Trip Start Aug 11, 2009
Trip End Sep 30, 2010

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

We set out from Veliko Tarnovo in our little hire car a 12 year old renault clio, soon realising that our expectations of a road described as a 'highway' were sorely off the mark. The highway varied from dual carriageway where we were overtaken by shiny new European four wheel drives, to potholed country lane ways where we overtook horses and donkeys trotting slowly along the shadeless road in the baking sun.

The area around Kardzhali has a lot of rock formations - we stopped off at the 'mushrooms' en route to our destination - Perperikon. Situated on a no-longer-forest-covered hillside, Perperikon was a Thracian city, only recently discovered - the lower parts are still being excavated. The hilltop is solid rock and carvings for door hinges and drainage channels are still visible (as well as something that resembles, to me, an in ground swimming pool although I suspect that might not be quite right) on the site where a great temple to Dionysus once stood. This was supposedly the city where Alexander the Great heard the prophecy that he would rule a united Rome, although how they know this is completely beyond me, so little seems to remain.

The city of Kardzhali is only a short, potholed drive away. We drive to the suburb where our hostel is - more like a country village on the outskirts, with no sign of a hostel. We ask an old couple, who offer us plums, ascertaining that we are in fact in the right suburb - addresses here are given as a number and a suburb as there are no street names. Its like saying you live at "125 South Perth" and although each number is only used once, they are allocated in the order of building, so forget about anything remotely sequential. We found the correct house number - deserted with the front gate chained shut. We headed for the local store - they might at least have a phone we can use - it also seems to serve as local pub, with groups of young men socializing outside around a 44 gallon drum with beers. We asked about the hostel, brandishing our brochure... much confusion ensued. The beer drinkers crowded into the tiny store, looking at our brochure and discussing it for quite some time. Some local children wandered in to have a good look at us. Eventually we got an answer - no hostel here. Is there a phone we can pay to use? Another round of discussions. There is one a long way away. Maybe.
The next suburb / town over we found a payphone, 3 mini markets and a pub. The phone only takes cards and our attempts to buy one at a shop result in us being pointed to the next shop in a never ending circle. Thankfully the petrol station in town not only has a payphone, but they sell the cards too!! Bevan rang the phone number and asked for the hostel - no it is closed. What about our booking for tonight that we have paid a deposit for? Not my problem he tells us and hangs up.
Alternative accommodation in Kardzhali? One expensive, dingy hotel. So its back to the car and more winding through potholed roads to Smolyan in the fading light. We took the precaution of ringing the hostel there, just to make sure it really exists.

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