We’re in Bulgaria! Everything is written in Cyrillic and I’m so excited about learning to read this new, enigmatic alphabet. I’ve read all about Bulgarian Border Guards and police – allegedly the most corrupt in Europe. The man who checks our passports asks what we have in the back “It’s our house!” Pete and I declare in unison. “So you have your house and you have a pretty girl,” he says to Pete and waves us along. Wow, that was easy!

E-on (F-off!)

First sights over the border: Eon Bulgaria and a G4 Security van. Sigh.

We have dinner in a small town. It’s a nice place, though full of tourists. As soon as we get out of the van a woman comes over to ask I we’re looking for a hostel. We’re not. We find a bar with lots of salads and vegan stuff on the menu, a change from Romania.

Communist Spaceship

It’s getting late and we can’t seem to find Shipka, the village we’re heading for. The pass over the mountains is closed and the diversion route seems an endless series of twisty ups and downs and rounds of mountains. The Shipka Tower, which we took to be a sure sign of nearing our destination, has now fallen out of view. We find a place to park up for the night, next to an old communist spaceship – at least that’s what it looks like.

Permaship is somewhere I’ve been meaning to visit for a long time. I found the website back in England while researching places I might like to visit in Europe. It’s a Permaculture community that runs courses on everything from natural building to rainwater harvesting, grey water systems and solar energy. The photos look beautiful and I wish I had more time to spend. There’s still that part of me that wants to settle somewhere long enough to get involved in something. A month would be nice, but I’ve made a decision to travel back to the UK from here to visit my mum and some friends, go to a couple of camps and recharge and prepare for the next leg of my adventures. Waiting for the laptop in Budapest lost me a lot of time too. I was hoping to get to Greece before heading back “home” – if indeed that’s still what it is.

Permaship is lovely and Shipka is a beautiful village. Some good stuff is going on here, but somehow it’s not quite what I expected. Well, I was expecting a community for a start. Actually it’s just one guy at the moment. Paul is a Londoner and it’s great to hear a proper English accent after all this time. He has some exciting ideas and we get on ok, but somehow we seem prone to long in-depth political debates right from the first day. Paul has different opinions to me – he doesn’t (necessarily) believe in human-induced climate change, he’s a fervent meat eater and seems convinced that businesses and science will find a solution to any problem. I get the feeling it’s a while since he flexed his very capable debating muscles too, so we do spend rather a lot of time in these conversations and all of us are fairly mentally exhausted by the time Pete and I say our goodbyes a few days later. We do get a chance to flex our physical muscles too for a change and give Paul a hand shifting buckets of soil, shovelling rocks and weeding. There’s a building course planned in a couple of weeks time and this is part of the preparation.

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After a couple of hours of study from Paul’s bookshelf, I’m happily reading anything and everything I can see written in Cyrillic. I’m delighted to have learned to read a new alphabet for the first time. I have no clue what most of the words mean, but at least I can pronounce them now.

Time to leave. Pete’s decided to hitch with me for the first day and then hitch back to Permaship alone the following day. He’s never hitched long-distance before and this seems like a nice opportunity to see how we would travel together without the van: a taste of a different way of life.

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