Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bulgaria - Day 5: Sevlievo – Pando’s the Man!

The day, to begin with, was beautiful! Perfect weather – not too hot – yet not too cool! The sky was a perfect blue with just enough clouds to occasionally hide the sun to provide some relief.

We started the day by packing for a short two day trip to go visit some schoolmates of Villy and to go horseback riding in the mountains – yes – horseback riding in the mountains! A short 45 minute bus ride to Sevlievo (for which we had to get the perfect pastry – according to Villy - from a local vendor at the bus terminal – which I must admit was very good) – and we arrived at the town square – greeting by Villy’s schoolmate Pando.

Pando is a large hulking sort of guy – the kind if you ran into a darkened alley you might steer clear of. But as he greets you – you immediately realize this man is the salt of the earth! His eyes are full of gentle kindness and his nature is a perfect match. He greets us warmly and helps us load our bags into his mini van for transport into town.

The town is very small – but not as small as say a Mayberry! Villy likes to tell us that you can get anywhere in town for $1 lv by taxi and as it turns out she is pretty right on! The main square is just that – a square that is surrounded by shops and small café’s. There are two or three hotels in the town and we stay at the smallest. Lisa’s father had been there last year and struck up a friendship with the owner. Unfortunately he is away by the sea on holiday but the owner’s son – Peter – (Jr) – is more than friendly and happy to accommodate the visiting Americans. In fact – he seems to bend over backwards to make certain all of our needs are meant – including having breakfast available for us both mornings (something I noted none of the other guests seemed to get!).

The hotel itself was very lovely – 6 rooms only – each room air conditioned and very tastefully decorated. We are also very excited to find that it has a very good wireless connection (a fact that Peter shares with us in broken English – “You like my wireless connection? I just installed!” he claimed with a huge grin.) – so we had a great opportunity to catch up with the kids at home through Skype.

After settling in – we had just enough time to take a quick nap in the nice cool rooms before heading out to meet Villy and her school mates a local restaurant called Chuchura.

What do you know? The cab ride was $1 lv!

We arrived at Chuchura at 8:00 PM as pre-planned. A very cool restaurant with a terrific outdoor garden (most restaurants have these here) – if you were to picture an Italian villa from the movie the Godfather – this would be it! I do see a lot of Italian influences in not only the local architecture but in the way a lot of buildings and interiors are decorated as well. There also seems to be a lot of Greek influence as well – especially in the Cuisine and the music.

Villy and her Entourage arrived classically late around 8:30 – somehow we had crossed the lines of communication and they had waited for us at the hotel – it was only after 15 minutes did Peter step outside to let them know that we had left at 7:50! I have a feeling that they may have been late in either case – we Americans obsess compulsively on schedules and promptness – it seems in this country the only a schedule is used for is to tell you ABOUT what time things should happen! I kind of like it that way! We’ll eat about 8 – we’ll finish about Midnight – we’ll have a nightcap about 2 – we’ll get to bed about 4. That’s been schedule!

Back to dinner – Villy arrivers with her Entourage in tow: Pando, his wife Dari and their son Evo, Villy’s best friend Matza and her nephew – all are very kind, warm and very welcoming to us.

Dari is a bit shorter than Pando – with short dark hair, dark eyes and a smile that lights up the darkest room. Matza is just a bit taller than Villy – with shoulder length golden hair, brown eyes and a calm relaxed beauty. Both boys are very handsome young men; Ivo, the darker haired boy is a bit more rugged like his Dad and has a mischief glint to his eyes! Matza's nephew is a bit lighter – blond hair and long lashes portend lady killer for this young man! Later in the evening Matza’s son, a ballroom dancer at age 15, stops by to greet everyone – he is, in fact, a lady killer and looks all of 20 something rather than 15!

By this point – Pando – being a local businessman and knowing the owner of the restaurant – has ordered us a variety of food to sample as well as drinks. I am still steering clear of Rakia and have now settled in on a new drink of choice: Gin and Fanta Lemon. Mmmmm! Point of note here – they bring you your shout of Gin in a separate glass along with the bottle of Fanta – the Gin is actually about three or four shots deep! This is going to be a long night!

Many plates of food later (I have no idea what I ate – I know it was chicken – I know there was some pork in there – and we definitely had Shopska Salad) – and perhaps four or five Fanta and Gins later – we began to dance the Horo (and other slow dances). However – being and outdoor restaurant – in a residential neighborhood – they have to stop playing the music at 11:00 PM – which angered Villy to no end!

Thank goodness for the resourcefulness of Pando though who found us a disco not too far from the restaurant. The funny thing – at this point – it was after midnight and we took the kids there with us. So here we were – a group of drinking adults with three kids in tow at a Disco! And no one batted an eye!

Not a large Disco – more of a bar by our standard – with black lights and very loud music! We sat at a table and ordered our first round – Fanta Lemon and Gin! But Pando went in heavy – 5 shots of Tequila! All lined up like little Bulgarian soldiers! He proceeded to salute all l5 and then ordered a second and then 3rd round – with a beer chaser in the middle! By the end of the evening – at least two more hours later – the man was still walking! In a straight line!

These people sure know how to party!

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