This is an excerpt from my journal from nearly a month ago
Headline: 18th August 2007.19:47.Somewhere over the Ionian Sea
Well today was the biggest ordeal of a day yet, and we are still nowhere near midnight.
The plan last night was to take a bus from Sandanski to Athens, a long trip, but one that was manageable. After that, I would board a plane to Cairo, the ticket for which was bought the previous day. Needless to say, it didn’t turn out that way.
At 7 am, Sofi and I went down to the bus station to buy the ticket to Athens. It just so happens that Sandanski is a very popular Greek vacation destination due to the low price of everything (comparatively), especially clothes.
Because of this, busses to Athens need to be booked at least three weeks in advance. Translation: The bus was full.
After a considerable amount of panic, and resignation for some of us, a miraculous plan arose. Yanni [Sofi’s cousin] had a friend named Simu who had a friend who was willing to drive me to Athens for 150 LB, or about $105. Although this would be $20 more expensive than the bus, it would be with a known person and I’d get to the airport in plenty of time to catch my flight to Cairo (a big concern at the time).
Instead, the price turned out to be 250 Euros- more than twice what I thought it was going to be. The deal was off.
My best option left (only option left) was to take the $5 bus to Sofia and hope that I could get to the airport in time to not only buy a ticket, but also get through the security in an international airport, and then catch the tram to the boarding plane.
7am: Woke up, showed up at bus station, told to come back at 11:00am, and that everything was possibly full
1030am: Found out that there were indeed no seats to Athens
1230p: Simu’s friend’s offer came, was told to wait for confirmation
130p: Still no call, Sofi begins to pannic, calls everyone, finds a plane fare available from Sofia to Athens
140p: Decide to take the 200pm bus to Sofia (the last one of the day)
150p: get to bus station, buy ticket
155p: Simu’s other friend says he can do it for 120 Euros, I say okay to that
157p: Offer revised to 250 Euros
158p: I board the bus, after an emotional and hurried goodbye
203p: Bus leaves (3 hr. journey)
203-515p: Bus moves SO SLOWLY
516p: Yanni’s mom and dad pick me up from the bus station (OTOGAR)
516-540p: Driving through the streets of Sofia (flight is @630)
545: Get to ticket counter, told only cash
550: Come back from cash machine with enough money
600: Check luggage -overweight: payment back at ticket counter (I think they were trying to squeeze extra money from me, but whatever at this point)
605: Hug Yanni’s mom goodbye
625: Shuttle to the scary looking plane named A42- I don’t know what company it was from but it had propellers- like the old kind
This is where the journal ended, but a lot more happened that day. When I got into the Athens airport, I had a long conversation with an English real-estate investor. We both had our bags lost somewhere along the way, but they came about an hour later. I didn’t care considering my next flight wasn’t til 1am.
Next, I made my way through the crowds and picked up my Athens-Cairo ticket at the front counter. This took only about fifteen minutes. I saw a greek traveller in front of me with a piece of luggage named “Ulysses”. I found it hysterically funny at that point for some reason.
Then I made my way to the Duty Free shops. The only thing I bought was Cuban Cigars, since this was basically my only chance to. (You can’t get them if you have a ticket either to an EU country or the United States). Stupid embargo.
I proceeded my way through security. I had two carry-ons because they don’t allow you to have two free checked bags for some reason. One of my bags might have looked suspicious under their x-ray machine because they asked me to unzip it. This is the best part: It was my bookbag, and the first three things they pull out are: 1. My Arabic textbook 2. a book entitled simply “Hezbollah” by Richard Norton and 3. A Qur’an. The attendant smiled at me and told me to re-zip my bag. No problem.
I had about a two-and-a-half hour wait in the terminal before boarding, so I took out my Egyptian phrasebook. I was the only one there that early. The next person to come in was a youngish (maybe mid-20s) good looking younger guy. He sat down next to me and said something in a slavic language. I shook my head. He then said in perfect English “are you going to…(some small polish city’s name)”. I said no, I was going to Cairo. We got to talking, and it turns out that he was an extremely nice Polish Juggler. Yes, Juggler. That’s his only job. Juggling. Oh- and spitting fire. He says that he’s enrolled at University but that he was taking time off to travel. I asked him how long he was traveling for, he responded “off and on for three years now”. He told me about his model girlfriend back in Poland. About the time a drunken guy tried to stab him in Mongolia, and about his heart surgery. The heart surgery was because he held the gasoline for fire spitting in his mouth for too long, and through capilaries, it backed up into his heart. He said he was angry because it kept him away from traveling and firebreathing for three months.
He left and gave me his card- literally it was a playing card with a business card on the back. http://www.qduaty.com/ is his website: he’s the one on the right.
I slept on the flight to Cairo. Got a decent 45 pound fare ($8) to my place in Downtown Cairo. (Zach paid 90, but Zach doesn’t know any Arabic). I amazingly found the place on my first try, went upstairs, knocked on the door, and was home.
al Hamdulilleh (thank god)