Leaving Istanbul, I took a 10 hour night bus from Turkey to Sofia, the Bulgarian capital. I know the last post was on Serbia, but I am just getting around to putting my Bulgaria pictures online. Anyway, this bus was the best bus ride ever – not only were there very few people on the bus, there was WiFi, satellite TV, and a bus attendant offering us food and Turkish beer.
Bulgaria is a very interesting place. Part of the most recent EU expansion in 2007, Bulgaria acts like someone finally being accepted into a really exclusive club. Much like how someone wears their club/fraternity/sorority sweatshirt everyday, Bulgaria has EU flags everywhere. They are so happy to be part of EU more than merely geographically now. Being a communist state until 1990, Bulgaria seems to have accepted its newfound freedom with incredible zeal, perhaps a little too much. Vodka is everywhere (like the Motherland) and there are casinos and strip clubs every few blocks. In fact, my hostel is next to Caesar’s Palace.
The Bulgarians do unusual things. The Alexander Nevsky Church, one of the largest Eastern Orthodox churches in the world and one of Sofia’s most famous landmarks, is the site of a rock concert. A giant memorial commemorating the freedom from the Red fist is connected to a skateboarding half-pipe. Hmm. Otherwise, Sofia is a quaint little city. While still housing over 2 million people (the largest city in Bulgaria), Sofia feels like a small city. It wakes up late, unlike the frenetic rush of cities in the West in the morning. The younger people speak English much better – under Communist rule, English was not prioritized, so the older people in Bulgaria do not know as much English.
I have been using Bulgaria has a sort of rest site before I go to London to meet my friend Paul. I have been exploring Sofia, enjoying Bulgarian cuisine (stew, ham, yogurt, and a very alcoholic anis called rakia), and lazily finishing a book (sort of fitting for where I am – We the Living by Ayn Rand) on streetside cafés.
Pictures…and then off to London, southeast Asia, and Australia.