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Suffice to say: Sofia, Day 9

2016 March 21
by admin

In the past 35 hours we have been in 4 countries.

Yesterday we had a very full car/ferry/plane/bus/train day. A few challenges involved boarding the wrong car ferry, with the wrong currency, on the wrong end. Fortunately, I spoke with a Croatian/Australian couple and they helped us direct the car, paid a fee in a currency we did not have and arrive to the airport 2 hours before our flight. There we were welcomed by clouds of smoke, with the last cigarette literally extinguished on the railing as the passengers boarded.

We flew back to Belgrade, and secured beds on the Bulgaria-bound train for that evening, with plenty of time for wandering a now-familiar city. We spent most of our time criss-crossing between closed museums and empty markets, but the weather was beautiful and the people-watching bountiful. By 10pm, our legs were exhausted, and we slumped into our own private train cubby. I would say the train was nicer than our India overnight experience but not as good as the Nile one. We layered both of the wool blankets provided and huddled together to stay warm. At 5 we were woken up by border control (leaving Serbia) and then, about 40 minutes later, we were again asked for our documents, to be stamped as we entered Bulgaria.

Arriving just after 8 we walked the 2 km to our Arte Hotel, with a very deco look. We didn’t know until later that “art” here is a catch-all phrase, for anything from leather goods to bars. We dropped off our bags, showered, and set out to explore the vibrant city on foot. There are threading boulevards lined with “art”, cafes, fresh fruit vendors and a very welcoming spirit. We enjoyed magnificent churches, brass lion flanked bridges, and pedestrian only streets for sipping coffee. We stumbled upon a high-end indoor bazaar across from an grandiose synagogue and a long book boulevard (English pickings were slim). Picking up a few souvenirs along the way, we now have a woven rug, hand painted bowl, ceramic bell, locals rose infused lipstick and an interactive magnet.

Lunch and dinner were my highlights of my day. We lunched at a fantastic (and apparently, sole authentic) Moroaccan place called Annette. Our mezzes included hummus, stuffed pita, and roasted vegetables, all accompanied by perfectly sweetened mint tea with pine nuts. The streets around Annette are filled with hip crafts, and in one of the stores we got a road-map for eccentric Sofia, recommending biocafes, a steampunk boutique, hand-made shirts, and insomnia-fueled skating. We needn’t have worried though: around every corner we took, we found plenty to explore.

After several hours more of walking around, snapping photos, it was time to find our way back the hotel for James to do some work while I took a luxurious nap. Much needed. It was drizzling as we explored this evening, winding from posh Prada streets, through parks, past government monuments and to a homey, traditional dinner complete with rakia, a distilled grape drink. The wonderfully friendly waiters added brandy and home-made coffee liqueur on the house and helped us hide away a napkin-full of their olive oil spice blend. I would recommend Manastirsak Magernitsa for newcomers to the city.

Tomorrow we plan to head to a neighboring town to see the national history museum and likely consume more Banista, phyllo dough filled with salty cheese.

Language learning: thank you – blog ‘o da’, ya?

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