Early in the morning I leave Paradzjik. It’s an almost 40 kilometres walk and I hope it’s not going to be as hot as yesterday. I can’t start at 5 anymore, you can already tell the days are shortening. There is a somewhat unruly wind from the North when I start walking. It’s almost cloudless, except for this one cloud that follows the sun and obscures it till 9, when I have coffee from a machine at a small village supermarket. Leaving Paradzjik takes me along a deserted and cheerless industrial area. Just like the one in Kostonets where I took the train yesterday. I should have gotten there the day before anyway, and it was so hot that afternoon. The collapse of the Soviet Union destroyed all the industry in one blow. 90% of all people here are jobless, a young student told me yesterday. Young people want a degree and then head west, away from this disaster. You can almost feel how difficult it is to make a successful transition to a modern economy.
There is some small scale farming, lots of land lying empty, there sheep being herded in the open and there are horse drawn wagons. The contrast with a modern economy is enormous.
I planned a route that follows the river as much as possible with the help of OSM. The roadsides are filled with garbage and loads of plastic from waterbottles. The river has been guided between dikes. The sound of the north wind in the poplars, as always, gives me a restless, sad feeling. The sun’s back and wants to hit 40 again, where last week it was only 30+. But the north wind increases to a firm breeze and high clouds obscure the sun from time to time.
In Stamboliev I take a noon break. They have a new railway station and decided to upgrade the city centre as well. It’s cheerfull and neat. Just outside the town there is a new and functioning industrial area, with smiling workmen. After Paradzjik and Kostonets, this a beautiful sight. Next to it is a graveyard with a stonecutting industry. I hope they aren’t ‘preferred supplier’ to each other but judging by the smiling faces I think not. The north wind is becoming stormy. The temperature is going down to 20 C. The last kilometres before Plovdiv take me through a parklike forest where I see, hear and suspect people, bums, street children and the local mental cases. It feels eerie and I have my pole in hand. For the first time I am afraid of people.
The long last bit to Plovdiv. ‘La recta final’. Time for good music. For the one who walks beside me.
It’s still a long way from the boundaries of the city to the centre. Much longer then expected or hoped for. I am deadly tired, my legs are heavy. I have reached Plovdiv.