I stopped by the side of the road just before pulling into the tiny town of Balgari, Bulgaria in order to skip to the next song on my iPod when I noticed a man herding several dozen goats and sheep on the hillside to the left of me. I was hoping to remain unnoticed by the herder, but I could tell he had seen me and that we was moving in my direction. I could tell that he wanted to talk! So I removed my ear-buds and approached the man. He said something to me in Bulgarian and I then let him know that I speak English. “Ugh” the man replied, before asking me if I spoke German or Russian. “I speak a little German,” I replied to the man (I said that in German of course)… and so our conversation began.
The sheep/goat herder asked me where I was from, where I had come from, where I was going and a whole host of additional questions. Then he told me to stay where I was while he hobbled over to a nearby tree and plucked down a large green tangerine sized pod. Using a rusty old knife, the man cut the pod open and pulled out what I recognized to be a walnut shell.
I hate to admit this, but I don’t think I had ever actually seen walnuts growing in the wild before this moment. I’ve always seen them in their shells at the supermarket or without the shells at all in a plastic bag of some kind. But here they were, growing on the tree right in front of me, out here in the middle of Bulgaria, and I was being fed these tasty treats by a dirty old man who, like me, spoke a little bit of German.