Alex Keller has been busy launching his first novel since he regaled the Bee with the first installment of his archaeological adventures. Now he's back with the second installment...
Life in Bulgaria wasn't all digging however. Around two o'clock each day, we would pack up our things and be taken back to Nikyup in a state of near exhaustion. Once arrived, we would slump into the cafe/bar that served as our port of call for all food and drink related things, and work out what we we do for the rest of the day/weekend. In this blog, I'll try to give you some idea what life was like over there off the dig site.
Most week-day afternoon/evenings were spent in our village. However, entertainment in Nikyup itself was pretty thin on the ground as it is very, very small. It contained only two bars (that I remember) and not a great deal else. Once we had returned and used the outdoor shower (I'd recommend anyone who lives in a hot country to get one of these. So, so nice...) we could either go to the bar we spent our mealtimes in (so the less adventurous of us could sit down at 3pm for a late lunch and wander off to bed at 3am having not moved a hundred yards all evening); or walk up the street (slightly over a hundred yards) to another bar that had what was laughably called a “beer garden” complete with its very own dodgy pool table and outdoor toilet. Most week day evenings would be spent in one bar or the other recovering from dehydration by drinking horrendously alcoholic beverages.
At weekends we tended go to the nearby city of Veliko Tarnovo. After the the more basic lifestyle of Nikyup, Veliko Tarnovo was a oasis of western life: flushable toilets; dodgy nightclubs playing cheesy music; people trying to sell us illegal copies of DVDs and CDs in the street; and cocktails (I remember one called 'The Swimming Pool' was particularly severe!). Veleko Tarnovo was a much needed change after the dust and the heat of the dig site. A usual Saturday would involve heading to the city for lunch at the outdoor swimming pool with attached restaurant (bliss!); wandering about for a bit, perhaps to the old fort that appeared to be Tarnovo's only tourist attraction; then pop to a bar before going to the Spider club, a possibly Mafia-run “joint” full of dangerous energy drinks, long drops, and concrete floors (surprisingly, only one person lost their front teeth. We expected more).
Overall, I enjoyed my time in Bulgaria. It was hot and tiring, and perhaps five weeks was a bit too much, but it was certainly a very different experience from any other time when I've been abroad and I don't regret a single moment!