Bulgaria & Turkey, November 2001 Travelogue
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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

Flower stand

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

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Read my other travelogues: Minneapolis 2001 | Burning Man 2001 | Europe 1999 | Costa Rica 2000

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