Stop 30: Karlovo, Bulgaria. With Mira Hristova

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When you think of a Balkan Beauty you need look no further than Mira. Her elegance, natural energy, posture, body language, determination and confidence oozes class way beyond her years. I am fortunate enough to be able to consider Mira a friend and as I am back in the Plovdiv area asked if I could meet her at her home town and have her show me around, and she was more than happy to…

I first met Mira a few months ago whilst celebrating finishing my eighth book. I was pumped as you can imagine, and dangerously drunk. One night we’d been drinking for god knows how long and went to a bar in Plovdiv. I heard people talking English and introduced myself as you do when you are drunk. I ended up chatting to Mira for a fair while and felt a connection with her, so we agreed to keep in touch as at that point I was planning to stay in Plovdiv to teach English.

The English job never worked out and I moved on. I messaged Mira saying goodbye and that hopefully one day we’d meet up again and wished her the best of luck with her studies. We kept in touch through social media and as fate would have it I was to do one big loop around the Balkans before passing through Plovdiv again to catch my flight in Turkey. So I messaged her saying that we should meet for a coffee and she said to let her know as she was back in her hometown, so I… Well, you read the first paragraph…

Karlovo is picturesque, especially when coated in snow. I planned on taking around 5-10 photos of the place, and maybe a couple of me and Mira, but that plan went straight out the window as soon as I arrived.

Mira met me at the bus stop. We hugged and she asked me if I was hungry. I had a Maccy D’s for lunch (don’t judge!) and I said I wasn’t. So she said we would go back to hers and meet her sister before exploring the town.

I met her sister and she was really friendly, albeit a bit shy. We said hello and swapped a few jokes before me and Mira left. As we did I saw their mum using a broomstick to knock off the 1/2 metre long icicles off their roof. Those things looked like they could kill on impact!

Then it was off to Mira’s favourite spots. We shared stories as we walked up the hill towards the waterfall, which looked insane as it was covered in snow. I took a few sneaky pictures of Mira trying to get that world class natural shot that she could use as a profile picture until she got pissed off, then it was off to the next place, which was some hill where people went sledging.

Mira told me she wasn’t going to run up the hill. “Challenge accepted!” I shouted as I began to run. Half way up I shouted in her direction again screaming “This was a terrible idea!” As the hill was covered in ice, not to mention the oxygen levels as we were in the mountains, and also that I am a lazy fucker…

I didn’t die though! Mira came up the other side saying “If I fall it’s your fault!” But neither of us did, then we went down and got some lunch at a local restaurant where her sister worked, and she ended up joining us.

The 3 of us had lunch and a drink, which came to something stupid like 12 Lev (£6) So I offered to pay for the meals, knowing that the girls are both students and probably work hard enough for their money without having to spend it on necessities like food and water. So a small gesture to say thank you for showing me around was the least I could do…

Mira’s sister (whose name escapes me; let’s just refer to her as Mini Mira…) Went to meet her boyfriend and go shopping, so we said goodbye and skipped off into the sunset.

I’m lying, we skipped towards the town centre. Then she went in full on tour guide mode and talked about the history of Karlovo, including a massacre that happened there in the late 1800’s. She made a joke about Karlovo being a great place to be murdered if I ever wanted to come back and we went to see the big statue of a man and his pet lion, which he used to tell the Ottomans to get fucked. To be fair, who’s going to argue with a man who has a pet fucking lion? According to absolute fact the Ottoman’s then said,”You know what? You can keep your fucking country!” And ran as fast as they could eastwards! And that was the day Bulgaria became an independent nation…

Obviously I’m talking complete bullshit. But the statue still exists! The lion represents Vasil Levski himself; as ‘Levski’ in 19th century Bulgarian means ‘like a lion’ as in the Bulgarian folklore the story goes that some people were jumping over a deep ditch, and Vasil Levski jumped the furthest which Rakovski (another Bulgarian ledge) exclaimed “That is a Levskii jump!” So I’m afraid he didn’t have a pet lion to keep the Ottomans and street performers at bay, I’d love to tell you he did but that wasn’t the case. Right! That’s your history lesson for the day!

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Then we walked up a few more streets and saw these strange plaques on walls and on the ground. Apparently no one knows where they came from. They just appeared all over the place one night and people were walking past saying “I’m sure that wasn’t there before!” We then celebrated doing a lap of the town by getting shitfaced. We didn’t really; I was still staying off the alcohol at this point being extra careful after my boxing lesson in Serbia, so we both had a hot chocolate in a local cafe. I met some of Mira’s friends and smiled awkwardly knowing the extent of my Bulgarian was the word ‘Blagodaria’, and that doesn’t even mean hello! (It means ‘thank you’ in case you were wondering…) I felt like Del Boy speaking French…

Before I knew it 5 hours had gone and it was time for me to catch the bus back to Plovdiv. I said goodbye to Mira and gave her a hug. I could feel the emotion and love in the hug, it was like she meant it, like saying thank you for coming all this way to see little old me. No, thank YOU Mira for being your brilliant self and taking the time out of your busy schedule to show me around your stunning town. When you travel you tend to meet exceptional people and Mira is definitely in that category. The girl is definitely going places and I feel fortunate that a chance meeting when I was off my face has led to getting such a beautiful friend, one I hope to keep in touch with over the years and who knows we may meet again someday soon. It won’t be for a while as I’ve accepted a job teaching English in Thailand, but I’m sure our paths will cross again…

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