Bulging Bulgarian Buses

Having been without a car this weekend it was the return to using the bus from Yambol to Skalitsa and back again this weekend. This is something I used to do regularly but haven't for quite while as I looked forward to the experience once again.

One thing I noticed was the fare remained the same as it was two years ago, 3 leva each way for the 35 km trip. The difference now it that the a mini bus was used instead of the old fashioned coaches which I had to pleasure of using these were vehicles that should have names, such as Colin the Coach or Barry the Bus. It is such a shame that they are being decommissioned out right now. there are still a few about but not on our route today.

The trip to Skalitsa was as expected, a Friday evening and the last trip of the day -packed to the hilt! Many passengers who didn't force their way to the front of the queue just had to stand bunched. There was no fear of falling over from the rolling minibus negotiating Bulgarian pot holed town roads, they were packed so closely together and couldn't move let alone fall over!

We were lucky, Galia was Bulgarian and a furthermore a Bulgarian woman as she managed her skillful Bulgarian technique of pushing in to the front, then saving a place for me once on the bus. I still can't bring myself to do such things with the 'ladies first' culture till embedded in me.

A stuffy journey it must be said but we arrived with only a short walk to my farm as the driver took us almost to our doorstep as the bus drivers do over here.

The journey back on Sunday afternoon was yet another experience that stick in the mind and something I had not encountered on this scale until now.

We were told the time of the arrival fo the bus was 4:30, it didn't arrive until 5:00, not surprising as 4:30 is another way of saying 5:00 in Bulgaria! There were at least 15 people waiting to get on the bus and the bus was fully laden with passengers including those standing all from from the previous town of Topolovgrad and village en route!

Do we now have to resign ourselves to staying in Skalitsa for another night? This was my immediate thought and I was quite willing to accept that for an early rise tomorrow morning. Other Bulgarians including Galia waiting had no such thoughts. GSMs was working overtime by the bus driver and moments later another minibus turned up, this one was empty and we duly boarded it. It may well have been waiting in the wings of a Skalitsa side road in case the demand exceeded supply as was the case here.

Both minibuses left following each other fully packed even at this stage with more standers than seaters. I knew that there were another three villages to be stopped at en route were more passengers were to be picked up and we were traveling in full capacity right at this moment! How will they cope?

Well the first village had 6-7 more people as the shuffling back went on with the existing standing travelers. It was at this point that Galia and I were beginning to realize that this was quite funny but only because we had seats. If we weren't seated then our smiles would have been wiped off completely especially with the smell of body odor coming from some of the standing population now definitely cuddling against their will!

Another village and more shuffling back with 5 more loaded on I didn't think this was possible as the minibus like a mobile can of sardines made its move again at a slower rate than before and for good reason with the overload it was now carrying.

The last village stop was Roza, the biggest village and the biggest number of travelers wanting to board for Yambol. There were at lease another 10 wanting to step on, surely this was not possible? More shuffling and a further four passengers boarded. We could see there were others now sitting on other's laps as Galia sat on mine freeing up another seat. Others however who didn't know each other refused to do this. One child was then put on the driver's lap and the remaining passengers sitting on the boarding steps and others leaning into the contours of the front window screen and sitting on the side of the ledge of the driver's dashboard!

All was now fixed together like a jigsaw puzzle when suddenly there was a shout from the back of the bus as it began to slowly move off! Someone had fallen asleep and had just woken up, he wanted to get off at this Roza stop...... Apart from those sitting on top of each other in seats, the whole bus had to disembark to let this old chap off and then reposition themselves as before. It was a humorous moment for all, you could tell as the atmosphere took a lift with the humorous side of the whole situation.

The bus now approached Yambol and the roads driven over very carefully not least because of the child helping with the steering!

We arrived a the bus station with a certain disbelief that so many people could fit into a minibus - Another Bulgarian experience which could have been much worse if I hadn't been with Galia who forced herself to a seat in the first place!

The strange things was everyone seemed to accept that this happens and gives cause for me to think that this is now a regular situation for these travelers. What compounds matters even further are the wads of luggage people take from the villages where all the produce they have grown are taken back to their apartment in the town with the minibuses having no provision for this. We were no exception with three big carrier bags full of tomatoes, peppers etc gathered from the farm.

I would recommend this type of journey for anyone purely for the reason of appreciating you current form of transport and having some degree of sympathy for Bulgarian travelers without cars.