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Friday, Nov. 16th, 2001
I got up late and ran into Sachko. I told him I was staying a couple more days, but that I needed my laundry. He brought it by and left me smiling.
Sofia...it isn't like Morocco, where things were never developed, in Post-communist Bulgaria, there are modern things, like a tram, elevators, large malls and sculptures, but most of them are falling apart & covered with patches or rust.
Also it is dirt cheap. This morning I got a small coffee at a cafe before I got on the tram. The coffee was twelve cents and the tram is 20 cents. I bought a packet of tissue for 10 cents, and a bottle of coke at a restaurant for 50 cents. Marlboros are $1.05 but
Bulgarian cigarettes are as little as 30 cents a pack. I tipped a waiter a dollar and one of the other waiters ran out after me to make sure I came back again.
I also met the new tenants at the hotel, a Welch guy, a Spanish guy and Greek guy. They had come north from Greece to buy marijuana and go clubbing for the weekend. They said it was a lot less strict here in Bulgaria, although they had no intention of trying to smuggle some back to Greece. I made them promise to tell me what the price was here when they found out.
I met two Peace Corps Volunteers at the internet cafe, I was probably a little too friendly because I was so desperate to speak
English to someone. I made them circle places on my Bulgarian map where they thought I might enjoy myself.
It was still cold, but the sky was clear, so wandering around wasn't too horrible. I tried to scout out the location of a club in town called "lipstick", but I couldn't find it. It was going to be techno anyway, so I figured I wasn't going to miss much.
I ran across the Natural History and Science museum, paid a dollar and spent an hour inside. They had some nice live cockroach displays and a typical array of canned or stuffed wildlife. The top floor was devoted to trees and insects. It reminded me of a See's Candy shop until you got a look at what was in the glass cases.
I also found a medium-sized sculpture tucked away in the city, with six figures in "defensive struggle" poses. I got really close to get a few pictures and found a little dust-shadow where the hammer and sickle had been removed!
I walked really far on Friday, but my legs didn't get tired until the very end. My camera lasted too.
I cruised by the stadium-like National Culture Center. It was like a stadium, but it was at the end of a pedestrian mall, instead of in the middle of a huge parking lot. They were setting up a crummy carnival spot for the weekend.
I went home for a while and the hotel door was answered by Sachko's wife. She was holding a napkin over her right eye. She acted like nothing was wrong and so did I. I can't imagine she's got a lot of options, but I decided to stay out of it.
At night I gave up on cultural immersion and went to an American bar called "Stateside". It was nice. I met the owner and he made me feel at home. There was a band, and people were in a great mood, speaking both English and Bulgarian. I especially liked one waitress,
whose English was so good I had to ask where she was from.
I stayed late, missed the last tram, and took a taxi home.
The view of the road from Tram 5
Pirate Ship tavern "the old ship"
Every thing in the universe is made up
of tiny ping-pong balls
Insects at the museum of Natural History
St. Nicholas Russian church
Sofia back-alley stairway and citizens
Squash sales at the side of the road
Saturday, Nov. 17th, 2001
On Saturday I tried to figure out how to get to the next stop on my itinerary, Rila
Monastery. It wasn't quite close enough to do as a day trip, but I didn't know if there were hotels around the
monastery so I was putting it off.
I started by visiting the two bus stations at the Northern part of town, and after getting no help from the first 5 people I talked to, someone let me know that busses to Rila left from another station.
With that pretty much figured out, I had a plan to leave.
I figured I had better wrap up my visit to Sofia, so I finally hit the National Museum. It had recently been moved to the old President's residence, a massive and stately building somewhat off the beaten trail.
It was nice, three stories of artifacts from a country that has Roman, Turkish and Soviet background. They didn't allow photos, so I only took a few. My new camera isn't as stealthy as my old one, but I am getting the hang of how to operate it in dangerous territory.
I listened to the BBC World Service for almost 3 hours while I sorted through photos, even through a soccer game. It was kind of a nice way to spend the evening.
It was Saturday night & I went directly back to the Stateside & my favorite waitress. I know this probably sounds pretty lame, but I liked it.
Broken house near my hotel
The active cobblestone streets
Smokestacks behind the train station
Halite indoor market
A really nice sculpture in Sofia
There were a few horse-drawn carts
Inside the National Museum
The ceiling was incredible
The stately National Museum