After a considerable amount of effort to plan a self guided walking tour, of revered places of worship, in Borgas, Wanda (that’s google maps to the uninitiated) and I set out.
Tripping out of the hotel Cheap and Noisy, over an invisible step into four lanes of moving traffic, Wanda told me to turn left and then turn into the traffic. What I did not know, and Wanda did not tell me, was that I was standing next to a pedestrian crossing. It must have been bemusing to drivers that, cane in hand, I looked left and right and left again, (I’m in Borgas now) and sallied forth, but not at the crossing point.
Wanda instructed me to turn right into … and here she fell silent. I don’t know why, because she is perfectly used to bossing me about in Bulgarian. It didn’t stop here. Wanda was silent on all street names, leaving me to draw my own conclusions. Not once on our four kilometre walk, to visit St. Ivan Rilski Cathedral, did Wanda tell me she was recalculating the route. She never told me to make a ‘U’ turn whenever possible. Meanwhile I got a little message from an app, telling me that I would not get any more notifications about goodness knows what, while I was driving.
Finding myself walking further and further from the city centre, I still had not begun to suspect that Wanda may have led me to wander off in entirely the wrong direction. I passed the bus terminus and here Wanda instructed me to turn right and with just a hint of smugness in her electronic tones, informed me that in three hundred meters I should have reached my destination.
The cycle track that I was now walking along next to the six lanes of fizzing traffic, showed little promise of the delights that awaited me. In two hundred meters, excitement got the better of me and magnification was called for. It was out with the spy glass. Surely a cathedral would be easy enough to spot. Apparently not. I pressed on. Just as I was about to give up Wanda announced that I had arrived at my destination and up popped a little picture of a beautifully proportioned cathedral on my telephone.
What I had arrived at was an enormous roundabout with an outsized pedestrian flyover complete with a system of lifts for anyone who could not manage considerable number of stairs. Despite the large sign that read “sewer control ends here”, I crossed in the expectation that delight was just beyond the trees ahead of me. What lay beyond the tress was more traffic. Wanda was now screaming at me “You have reached your destination”. A passing pedestrian informed me that my destination was about four kilometres back the way I had come.
All was not lost, I still had three more sites to visit and so I decided to head to number two. This turned out to be back up the cycle track, past the bus terminus and what smelt suspiciously like the end of sewer control as we know it. My luck had changed. In fact my luck was in.
Orthodox liturgical chanting may not be everyone’s cup of tea. For those who love it, it reaches down into the depths of your emotions, grabs your guts, and wraps itself around your senses. For an hour, the choir sang and the priest chanted and wandered in an out of doors that took him behind a huge bank of icon screen painting, from behind which his booming tenor voice erupted, and from where a strange flicker of light emerged.
After the delights of the choral voices, I took a stroll round the church, spy glass in hand, to check out the icons. Turned out I got to see more than I bargained for. As the priest came out to greet his flock, one of the icon covered panelled doors swung open behind him. I was strategically positioned for the answer to one of the great mysteries of the last hour. What had the priest been doing behind screen and what was that flickering light?
The strange flicker was a television, with the beautiful game in full swing. It was the World Cup after all.