Published: December 31st 2006November 23rd 2006
Mic's hand is there to give an idea of the size of this monster. His hand look like a liliputian's compared to the bottle. 2.5L. Wow.
The train ride from Bucharest to Sofia was a blast. The 3 frenchies who shared the compartment with me had alcohol and a pack of card! They showed me a new card game which was a blast and the night passed really fast. We were woken up at around 5:30AM and got off the train in one of the most confusing and beaten down train station I've seen in a long time. It seems that the train station's designer thought they were building a station for Moscow and forgot that Sofia is not like 15 millions people. It's way too big and not maintained, plus everything is written in cyrillic and the women we tried to ask direction were about as nice as a unionized french employee.
I hate to be pessimistic about a whole people but Bulgaria's history has to be the most boring in the whole of Europe. They were slavs who invaded the territory during the slaving invasion, they were ruled by the turks for pretty much all the last 500 years but managed to stay christians. They were freed by the russians in 1878 but weren't happy about their territory because they claimed what is now
Macedonia as theirs which was still turk. In the First Balkan war in 1912, they ganged up on the turks with the serbs and the turk and won, but in the Second Balkan War they fought with their previous allies to decide who would control Macedonia and they more or less lost. They picked the wrong side both time in the world war which isn't exactly a smart choice if you want to get some territory back. They loved communist so much they wanted to join the soviet union but russia didn't want them. They've been under capitalism for 15 years and should join the EU in 2007.
Back in Sofia, we walked on the main boulevard but eventually went our separate way because they wanted to do sightseeing right away but I just wanted to find a hostel and sleep. I picked one in the guidebook that had a cool name (Hostel Mostel) and went there. The place was way cool. For 10 euros you get free breakfast, unlimited internet, free dinner and free beer (plus a bed, of course) and the people who work there are really nice.
The "Book" says Sofia is not a really
nice capital but I kinda liked it. Apparently it is not even the historical capital, it was just chosen as the capital because it is more westward and bulgars were so convinced they'd eventually get Macedonia into "Greater Bulgaria" that they figured they should have a capital that was central to their imaginary "Greater Bulgaria" and not central in the internationally recognized Bulgaria. Wierd.
Maybe I liked it because people, aside from the train station employee, were really nice to me, the food was good and cheap and because the hostel was just the best I've had so far (and I've been in some really good ones in eastern europe) but I enjoyed the place quite a lot. For some reason, they see to like nudity in their publicity. I don't know why exactly but like a shoe shop had naked women and a baby on their sign. Wierd but funny. I didn't do much on the first day except walk around, take a few sights and came back to the hostel and watched "Eurotrip" with a couple of people.
While I was chilling there, Mic, the guy I met in Dubrovnik and whom I last saw in
In honour of the tsar who liberated Bulgaria in the 1870s
Belgrade showed up! He had been staying for a few days in the city on his way to Istanbul and loved it like me. We caught up on our respective travel and chatted with the people around, including a brother/sister from Australia and a few british folks. We had a delicious spaghetti (the free dinner) and beer and then kept on drinking for the rest of the night at the hostel. The beer in Bulgaria are 2.5L and cost about 1 euros. Amazing. Look at the size on the picture, it makes Mic's hand look like a lilputians! I made a joke with the new receptionist that I was a Moldova and I spent a good part of the evening describing her the amazing beauty of my homeland.
The next day I decided I was gonna stay in Bulgaria a few days. But to my dismay the hostel had been totally booked out and I had only told them I wsa gonna stay one day. I was really sad and didn't feel to pack up my stuff to go to another hostel. Seeing my trouble, Mic lobbied to get me to join him on his trip to Istanbul tonight.
Cool church in Sofia
I like Bulgarian/Romanian style churches
After giving it some thoughts, I figured I'd join him. I went out to see some of the sights of the city. I saw the parliament which isn't too impressive, although the statue built in honour of the tsar who freed the country was quite cool. The soldiers had such an 19th century mustaches. Quite cool.
Right next to the parliement is the siege of the Bulgarian orthodox church, the gold-domed Aleksander Nevski church. I must admit I was pretty skeptical about this. ABC syndrome had hit me hard after a month in Europe (Another Bloody Cathedral) but wow! This place was so cool. I guess it's a taste of what Istanbul will be like with the massive domes. It's just such a massive and beautiful church and the painting on the walls are just so different from the catholic churches I'm used to. There were scenes of Jesus banishing the devils and other things like that, pretty cool stuff. I even decided to go in the crypt for more orthodox art which was quite amazing.
Outside the church there's also an interesting market for antique. If you want communist stuff, that's the place to go. I saw
Close up of the statue
Very tsarist russian. I liked it.
old alcohol flask with the commie star, old guns, communist clothes and tons of other thing. I'm not souvenir inclined but if you are, there are jewels in there.
I walked back some more around the city and sat in a cafe reading. I had some pizza and beer (Bulgarians just love pizza, it's crazy it's available everywhere) for lunch back at the guesthouse where I hung around the same people as yesterday. Really cool people too. I didn't even deserve it as I had paid only for one night but the guesthouse owner decided to give me another free dinner/beer! What an amazing guy! Hostel Mostel, it's on the short list of the best accomodation on this trip!
Mic and I left at around 9PM saying goodbye to everyone and showed up at the bus station which had to be one of the most chaotic I've ever seen (but that's only because I hadn't been in Istanbul yet!) where we finally managed to find the right company and we departed right away on a comfortable bus where coffee and cake was served, which was complemented by a bottle of arak we had decided to bring. I had
quite an argument at the border because I had to pay 45Euros for my visa! That's 3 times more than everyone else! Even the bloody americans pay 15 euros. I don't know what's wrong with us canadians. I had heard before that people like canadians but it's bullshit, they hate us. Turkey make us pay like crazy and Iran is too scared to allow us in their country. What have we done to deserve that? Anyway I had a nice cultural exchange with the border guards, teaching them french-canadian words like: "Tabarnak", "Crisse de gros sauvage", "Osti de sale" as well as "Grosse salope".
I felt insulted in my canadianism. 3 times more than bloody americans! Anyway, I was in Turkey now, back in Asia.
There are more photos below