Now a tad over half way and with 1,104km behind me, the ‘rest day’ today was much needed and as often happens when you stop exercising, the tiredness caught up with me. I was knackered.
Thankfully, Kozloduy, famous because of its nuclear power plant, is a small, quiet and relaxed town and I was able to wander around, buy a few essentials and get my brakes serviced. This routine task was a mini-adventure in itself as the owner of our hotel/apartment led me there on his own bike and then tried to explain what I wanted to the mechanic. This was all done in very broken (and inadequate) Russian, but somehow mechanic understood and told me to come back at three O’Clock.
This gave me enough time to join Sarah and Ariana, my two travelling buddies, for lunch (pizza and the usual Shopaka salad) and to buy a micro-SD card which I needed for my phone. This is when I first noticed the very strange, and almost unique Bulgarian head-shake. Unlike almost every culture on earth, Bulgarians shake their head to mean yes and nod to mean no. I had heard about this before but never noticed it in the capital city Sofia and (unsurprisingly) the Bulgarians I know in Western Europe don’t do it, so I always assumed it was an urban myth or at least exaggerated. I was wrong. When I asked the girl in the shop if I could pay by card she smiled, nodded and said ‘No’.
This threw my brain into a loop. She was saying no and nodding yes and my brain hurt. There’s no hierarchy when it comes to audio and visual signals, so my brain stuttered as people do when they meet on the street and try to pass in the same direction. In a desperate attempt to resolve the conflict, I tried to clarify her answer by rephrasing the question. “I can pay by card?” “No” she said, still smiling and nodding. Then she threw me a lifeline and said “the bankomat” (cash machine) is close.
Still a bit baffled, I left to get some cash and only then did I realize what had happened and then it happened again and again. I have no idea if its just a rural thing, specific to this region or perhaps just more pronounced here, but every time we ordered anything we had the same problem …and it is a problem. When you order something from the menu and they shake their head, you naturally order something else. It’s the same in reverse. If the waiter/waitress checks your order and you nod – sometimes it never arrives. All very strange.
I did a quick Google search and it seems that the weirdness doesn’t end there.
We have smth called ‘double positive negation’ and ‘double negative affirmation’: “da, da!” (yes, yes) means actually “no”, “I don’t believe you” or “that would never happen”.
This is usually followed w/ “Ne, ne” (no, no) which means in this context “yes”, “this is true!”, or “yes, it will happen”
My new brakes cost me £7 and in the evening we wandered down to the Danube to takes some pictures and then went for dinner at the Hotel Istra which we also learned was that old Latin name for the Danube. As often happens in Kyiv, diner was served in dribs and drabs with my plates and dishes being delivered at random and in no specific order.
We joked about the weird service and then went back to pack. It was an uneventful but relaxing day and I was starting to warm to Bulgaria.