Monday, November 26, 2007

On Neighbors

There are some things about Veliko Turnovo I'll never forget - the kind of "have to be there to appreciate" moments. Next to the hostel lives an older couple - perhaps in their late fifties or early sixties - and their friend, Donia, who lives on the second floor (first floor if you're European). They don't much like living next to a hostel with all the different people coming and going, and we have our suspicions that they sometimes bang on metal pans just to make noise.

I've never actually seen any of them, or if I have, I don't recognize them, but I have certainly heard them. The noise always begins around 6am when the man leaves the house for the day. Sometimes I hear them talking outside the window, but if I don't, I always have the car to wake up to.

The car is an ancient white piece of junk that somehow still runs, though not very well, and is a typical Eastern European car left over from the commie days when there were waiting lists for the crappiest cars ever manufactured in the whole history of the universe. You literally had to put your name on a list and hope you got your car within a couple of years. Of course, Communist Party members always got their cars first, and the common folk often got nothing, you know, because in a communist society everyone is "equal." Some are just more equal than others.

The fact that many people in Bulgaria - especially in somewhat prosperous Veliko Turnovo - still drive these ancient pieces of junk puzzles me. How do they still run? I often see them broken down, and I've even seen people use sledgehammers to start them! In a town where pretty much everything is in walking distance if you're not lazy or elderly, why go through the trouble of these cars? Was it the triumph of getting these cars that makes one keep it? Or is it because car ownership is so valued? And how did they get these cars in the first place? Were they members of the Communist Party? (Oh, I remember the days of broken down cars and would rather not have a car than constantly repair it!)

I'm not sure of the answers, and maybe I wouldn't notice so much if I didn't have to put up with one on a regular basis. I can tell you the emissions pouring out of these cars can make your lungs feel black. The urban air of Bulgaria is filthy - I'm sure half the cars would fail U.S. emissions tests. Imagine, though, waking up to the stench of burning gasoline at 6am from an engine that revs for a solid five minutes - more if it is cold. That's what happens when the neighbor is able to park his car in front of his house instead of down the hill. It isn't just that - the car is so loud (heard of mufflers?) that half the street doesn't need an alarm clock!

The neighborly experience doesn't stop there. Apparently the stairs in the house are too much for the woman, because rather than going up to knock on Donia's door, the woman comes outside and cries, "Donia! Donia!" several times a day, regardless of the hour and often right when we're falling back to sleep after the car.

Someone said he thought the woman had been calling a troublesome dog or a bratty child for awhile. I thought she was just crazy. Now we laugh every time we hear it - even at 6am! (Well, sometimes, anyway.)

Stuff that is kind of funny - I won't forget it!

1 comment:

  1. Cathy,

    My grandma was on the list for a new car. Thanks to the communist party connections, she moved from #20 to #2. There are just some things that are done in a certain way, and NOT only in the former communist countries, as I have learned.
    The whole thing with the neighbour is funny, but I must say, that I have neighbours who also make a lot of noise here. Like, my neighbours down the hall, they just love to start slamming their doors starting at 11:00 p.m. on a weeknight. So, as soon as I start falling asleep, those doors start slamming. I guess if I really want silence, I will have to move to um...Winchester????