|I mean, beautiful, but also pretty terrifying.|
Early readers will remember that, sometimes, Bulgarian roads can be a little scary. I preface this story by saying that most of the roads in our area are perfectly fine. Just not this one….
One day we’d been to a nearby town and we decided to take a different route home. Now, this looked on the map to be a more direct way to get home – perhaps not any quicker as it wasn’t a big main road, but we thought it would be a nice opportunity to see new places. The road would take us through Cherni Vit and onto Yamna, a village close to our home.
Everything started out fine, and we nipped along quite happily for about 20 minutes. But then we started coming across a few rocks strewn across the road. Then a few more rocks. Then I had to drive around a partial landslide covering our lane. Meanwhile we’d seen no other cars on this road and I was starting to get nervous.
Then the potholes started. Holes that wouldn’t look out of place on the surface of the moon. We picked our way along slowly and kept going – partly too stubborn but mainly too scared to drive back through the landslide area.
And then we reached a fork in the road. This was puzzling as, according to our map, there was no fork in the road.
We sat for a few minutes debating whether to take the left road or right. To top it off, a heavy mist was coming in, adding to the creeping sense of impending doom. At that precise moment – and pretty miraculously, bearing in mind we had not seen any other cars – a knight in shining armour rounded the corner behind us. The shining armour was actually a Lada Niva jeep but damsels in distress cannot afford to be fussy. I leapt out of the car and flagged the Lada down. This HUGE Bulgarian guy got out, clearly a little surprised at finding a gibbering foreigner on this particular road. Between my faltering Bulgarian and his faltering English, I understood I was to follow him to Yamna (go left, not right). Then, after we got through Yamna village, he would stop and point out the side-track that would take us straight to our village. Brilliant.
Except he promptly took off at Bulgarian (i.e. high) speed in his sturdy old Lada. Our rental Suzuki Liana struggled to keep up. You may remember the Suzuki Liana as a previous Top Gear Reasonably Priced Car. Oh the glamour. Needless to say we kept losing sight of him as I slowed for the giant craters in the road. But then, amazingly, after we’d finally made our way through Yamna village, there he was, waiting patiently by the side of a little track. I stopped to thank him and he kept saying something about a nearby restaurant – either it was his restaurant or he was asking me out on a date. Anyway, he gave up trying to get me to understand. He pointed at the track leading to our village with one parting instruction: “Bavno!” “Slowly!” Chilling words indeed from a Bulgarian driver. But actually the track was not that bad – a few massive holes but nowhere near as bad as the Yamna road.
We learned two lessons that day. First: we must never, ever, EVER drive the Yamna road again. Second: we must get ourselves a Lada Niva.