My travels through Bulgaria and Austria were mostly unplanned, and I stayed as long as I felt I needed to explore what the city had to offer. While in Vienna, a fellow traveler had mentioned Slovenia, so it became my next destination. But that's another story...
The frenetic chaos of Istanbul receded into the distance, as I took a bus to Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Not knowing much about my destination, I was hoping for a bucolic setting and an opportunity to relax. What I found was an international folk music festival set in a Roman amphitheater and a band of music makers from around the globe.
From Sofia, Bulgaria, I flew to Vienna, Austria. A beautiful city offering museums and castles, I managed to find a park where I played beach volleyball and met some locals. They invited me to join the them the next day for an outdoor film and food festival. We also visited the royal treasury, which holds a dazzling array of bejeweled crowns, scepters, and related items of royal opulence.
8600km to South Carolina - it was the furthest distance listed on the sign, and it felt even further, yet somehow Plovdiv was also comfortable. Although a world apart, the people were friendly and smiled when passing on the street. Musicians were all around, and I found little cafés to enjoy the passing of the afternoon.
After a few days in Plovdiv, and visiting a friend in Stara Zagora, I headed to picturesque Veliko Tarnovo. Situated at the bend of the river Yantra, an ancient fort sits above the medieval town. A small local bar packed with memories from days long passed was the perfect location to enjoy a beer and grilled meats.
I wandered about the town, this terra incognita, trying to memorize the twisting of the streets to make my way back. Cobblestone streets dominated the old town, while a mix of modern and abandoned buildings made up the center. Eventually, I found my way back to the hostel, and it was all the better, for it was not the way I first ventured.
Then onto Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart, and although I've never seen it myself, location for the filming of the Sound of Music. The Salzach river sits below the Hohensalzburg Castle. First built in 1077, it is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe. It provided a magnificent view of the city and surrounding countryside with a funicular to take me back down to the street.