Just when you think things are going to be the same, they wind up being just a bit different. Bulgaria. Man, so far the place is really different. It feels mostly like Russia compared to all the other former Soviet block countries, but has a few other quirky features that really make the place unique. Strangely, the place is nothing like Romania, right next door. I think if we had not gone to Russia prior to this, we'd really find the place strange. For starters, they use the Cyrillic alphabet here, which, as a result of our time in Russia, is not giving us too much trouble. What is giving us trouble is the way they say yes and no. Sure, they still say "Da" and Ne" for yes and no, but it's what they do when they say it that's really confusing.
For yes, they shake their heads side to side like we do to say no, and when they say no, they shake their heads up and down like when we say yes. Man, it's hard to get used to. Shows you how ingrained our communication behaviours are - we get more out of the physical information than the verbal. I remember in those many classes, we were always taught that the unspoken communication is more than 75% of the total communication, and I can't think of a better example than this! The other parts are the smoking and the hair.
People basically have cigarettes for breakfast here. I've never seen so many people smoking in my life. I thought the girl at the first hostel in Veliko Tarnovo was going to have an attack when she couldn't find a cigarette. She was lucky that the workmen that were rebuilding the hostel had a couple of packs with them. What was she thinking not having a pack on her? Seriously, people are really dependent. I don't think I have seen one person yet without a butt in their mouth or a pack in their pockets. For some reason, dyed hair is the main fashion here. That and those really shiny studded belt buckles with jeans tucked inside really high boots. I would say that better than 60% of the women have dyed their hair some strange bright colour. This coupled with all the techno and metal playing all the time makes the whole country feel like it's stuck in some sort of post punk Madonna like a version type era. It's really a weird feeling. I feel like there will be a guy in a black jumpsuit jumping out of a clothing store yelling "Now is the time on sprockets vhen ve dance!!!!" That was the old Saturday Night Live techno skit thing. Ok, I think that was German, but whatever, the era is close, and it makes for a good visual ;P
But I'd be hard pressed to say too much yet. Veliko is a nice little university town, and there are a lot of students milling about, but the townsfolk seem to regard their grand historical fortress up on the hillside with very little energy, and indeed, the place is a little boring. Sort of strange for a place that was once the capital of Bulgarian existence. They've even turned the place into a sort of Disney fantasia light show thing by strategically placing hundreds of coloured lights around the entire fortress. Each night, if more than 30 tourists pay, they light the place up with a 30 minute techno light show including lasers and all of the other colours you'll remember from your ROY G BIV's. I suppose the show sort of matches all the hair...
I was feeling a little under the weather anyway, so it was good that there was not a lot to do - most of the town's activities involved hiking off into the bush, which I wasn't much up to, so it was good that the hostel was alright for just sitting around. I didn't have much fun with the 3 string guitar though, although I joked that I would only be able to play 50% of any song with it. The other guests seemed to like that joke, even though it was pretty cheap humour. Better I think was the Bulgarian yoghurt that Kristine got to try. Did you know that the Bulgarians purportedly make the best yoghurt in the world? Something to do with the type of bacteria they use. I don't know; I'm not an expert and I don't really like the stuff anyway. Kristine did say that it was pretty darn good!