A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil, that good may come of it... We are too ready to retaliate, rather than forgive... And yet we could hurt no man that we believe loves us. Let us try then what love will do: for if men did once see we love them, we should soon find they would not harm us. Force may subdue, but Love gains: and he that forgives first, wins the laurel.
William Penn

Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone...
George Fox

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Petar of Asenovgrad, the End of the World, Freezing and No Kebab, and Saving the Dogs

The March to Asenovgrad

I met with Inge again after passing Pazardzhik. We decided to make the walk from near Plovdiv to Asenovgrad, where we had a host waiting for us who was willing to take us in (as well as our two dogs.) The walk was a hard 30 kilometers through sometimes heavy snowfall and wind along a busy highway; I'll never forget the sight of Inge pushing her bicycle through ice and snow with her puppy, Mienje, in her jacket, followed by the intrepid dog, Bo, often trottong on three legs, wet and dirty and spotted with frost and snow. By the time we got to Asenovgrad we were exhausted and cold, but our host, Petar, took us in, fed us, directed us to our hot showers and then to the wood stove.

Petar, Mienje's Rescue, and the End of the World

Petar hosted us for three nights, giving Inge time to solve the problem of rescuing Mienje from the hands of the Turkish authorities. Turkey, along with England, has the toughest laws regarding the entry of pets, and meeting all the regulations to get Mienje into Turkey was out of the question. Inge met with her father while in Asenovgrad (as he has been travelling by caravan to Greece) and the two of them worked out a way to save the puppy Inge had found by the side of the road in Serbia; she would go back to Sofia to get Mienje's paperwork in order, then take her to Germany. At the same time, Inge would have a chance to visit friends and family after hard months on the road.
Our last night in Asenovgrad, Petar had friends over, as it was the Mayan calendar end of the world. While I wouldn't have minded a few fireballs falling from the sky to warm things up a bit, no fireballs fell. We did, however, have a good time with Petar's friends, and I had a chance to play the harmonica and sing the End of theWorld Blues, accompanied by a blues guitarist who covered all my many mistakes.
The next morning, Inge and Mienje set off for Sofia with Inge's father, and I set off in the direction of Dimitrovgrad, where Petar had helped me find another host. I was all the more grateful as it meant spending Christmas under a roof and with a little companionship. Not that Bo wasn't a good companion, mind you.
Of course, Bo was still a dog to be rescued as I couldn't bring her into Turkey either. Inge and I both agreed that it would be better to leave her in a town before reaching Turkey than to have her captured and dispatched by Turkish paramilitary dogcatchers.

More Frozen Wilderness Camping; Yes is No and No is Yes, or, No Kebab for Me

I was back in the woods, camping in six inches of snow the night I left Asenovgrad. Oh well.
The next day was a bit stressful, walking down a narrow but busy road,dodging into snowbanks to avoid the big trucks. And that night Bo and I found an abandoned house in a snow covered field to camp in. Fortunately for me, these past two frozen nights were made tolerable because Inge loaned me her subzero sleeping bag, which kept me warm. My plus 5 degree bag just doesn't serve in this partof the world at wintertime.
Earlier in the day I thought I'd find a hot meal, as camping without Inge and her burner and cooking skills means cold food for me. I found a little cafe and restaurant with a menu that included kebabs. I pointed the kebab out on the menu on the wall. The guy asked, "kebab?" I nodded my head vigorously with a big smile on my face. I'd also asked for coffee, which I got, thinking maybe I'd have another after the kebab. I stepped outside for a while waiting for my kebab, and drank my coffee. I peered inside the window, but no kebab. Also, the guy didn't seem very busy; he was hanging around as if someone else were making my kebab.But there was no one else. I finished my coffee and he brought me the bill; about 40 euro cents. But where was my 1 euro kebab? I paid my bill and left as I had some distance to cover that day. I remembered (after all this time in Bulgaria) that a nod of the head is "Ne!" while a shaking of the head is "Da!" When he'd asked if I wanted a kebab, I had nodded, meaning, "Ne!" The big smile I had while saying no must have seemed strange.

Bo the Christmas Dog, Which Made Me a Sort of Santa Claus

Now on the way to Dimitrovgrad, I passed through a village and took a little break to eat bread with butter and mustard ( all I had left at that point, and no market in this village). A man noticed Bo sitting in the first sunshine this region had seen for weeks, and he asked me lots of questions, one of which, I believe, was whether Bo was my dog. I must have nodded my head, which means "Ne!", because he seemed all the more interested in Bo at that point. Wanting to get to Dimitrovgrad, however, and finding communication difficult, I continued on my way with Bo following and chasing the occasional car. The man drove ahead of us and parked by the side of the road to wait. When I reached him it became clear that he wanted Bo. He pointed down a driveway to the big doghouse Bo would have if I gave her to him. I had a look, gave the man Bo's dogfood, helped him get Bo arranged on her chain ( a long one) and went on my way (but not before the man offered me a ride to Dimitrovgrad, which I declined, and 20 Leva, which I accepted. )The man seemed very kind, and if I understood him correctly, Bo was a Christmas present for somebody. So Bo is no longer a homeless wanderer with an uncertain future. And though she is in a doghouse on a chain, the man who took her seemed instantly in love with her, and ready to make her comfortable and happy.
So here's to the man who saved Bo from the Turkish paramilitary dogcatchers, and from an uncertain stray dog future! And here's to Bo, the dog who walked some 650 kilometers from Bosnia through Serbia and most of Bulgaria!

To Dimitrovgrad

Still elated by Bo's rescue ( and by Mienje's), I entered Dimitrovgrad feeling pretty good. When I stopped for a 25 euro cent coffee at a coffee machine and a man with a beard gave me a candy bar, I was euphoric. Then I met Milen, my host, making the day an altogether good one. Milen gave up his room in a pension for me to sleep in while he stays at his parent's house, and Christmas Eve I was having a nice dinner with Milen and his brother. So enough of my whining these past few weeks, and Merry Christmas!

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