Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Sofia, Bulgaria

We got up at 4:45 am and were at the train station by 5:45am ( 25 minutes before our train arrived). Things went smoothly both travelling to and at the airport and there was even decent internet while we waited.

Once we landed in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, we collected our luggage and got through immigration in mere minutes. Unfortunately our rental car representative was not waiting for us as planned but showed up within five minutes after being phoned.

He (Tony) took us just outside the airport to the side of the road which would be like where we would drop off or pick up people in Toronto Pearson. Tony then checked out John’s driver’s license, took down his Visa number, and left us with a very scratched up car...we are to meet him in the same spot when we drop off the rental car at the end of the week....hmmmm.

While going through the car rental formalities, I watched an older man meeting a guy in his mid thirties (probably his son). They embraced and the younger man with both hands framed and stroked each side of his father’s face. There was so much love in that one action. A woman (probably the sister) came and embraced the man before she mischievously prodded his arm muscles. They all looked so happy to see each other.

Finding our apartment was a bit of a challenge. Our GPS doesn’t have a Cyrillic keyboard, which made it impossible to enter the names of most streets. John drove and Graham navigated with a map while I helpfully remained silent in the back seat.

We called our host when we finally made it to our crowded street. We parked in front of a non descript building, only to have the police wave us away after a few minutes because we were blocking the entrance to the police station. There was no signage just a number of police cars parked out front.

Our apartment is bright, spacious, clean and well equipped. We even have a washing machine...woo hoo!

Sofia is developed but still has a way to go. There are a lot of socialist monuments and grey concrete buildings around here.

After settling in to our apartment we went out to get our bearings.

There were many cafes filled with people (mostly men) enjoying the sunny, fall afternoon. I didn't notice much of an ethnic mix here...mostly Bulgarian, I would guess.

We explored the beautiful and ornate Church of Sveta Nedelya. We passed the Palace of Justice and then walked down the charming, pedestrian shopping street of Boulevard Vitoshia. We could see the nearby peaks of Mount Vitoshia in the distance. I was enthralled with all the natural cosmetic products in the numerous stores.

We went into the big North American like “ Mall of Sofia” ( which I couldn’t get out of fast enough) before we went to a nearby grocery store and back to our apartment for supper.

Hopefully another good nights sleep will help Graham and John overcome their colds.

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