Bulgaria day 4: Sofia, graffiti, a cemetery and a lost car park

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June 19th 2018
Published: June 19th 2018
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Bulgaria day 4: Sofia, graffiti, a cemetery and a lost car park

Today I got shouted at. I have no idea what they said. Maybe they were angy at England’s victory in the World Cup last night... But more of that anon. It keeps you reading and gives you something to look forward to.

We had originally planned to visit Plovdiv and just do half a day in Sofia before we fly but, again, some idiot has stuck a mountain between us and Plovdiv so we went for the closer option. Plovdiv had also sounded more appealing but Claire found some things ‘off the beaten track’ in Sofia that sounded interesting so we headed there.

We found somewhere to park by a Metro station where it was Park and Ride....and then we walked. It’s only 34 minutes said Claire. So off we set. The promised rain turned into a full day of sun making our rain protection worthless yet again. Why do we listen to weather forecasts? Why do we plan our days around them and why are millions of pounds spent on something not even as reliable as seeing whether a cow stands up or sits down?

Who can I sue for sunburn and possible sunstroke??

Anyway, in many places we go we take a free walking tour and Sofia was no exception. The idea is you pay what you want at the end and you can of course pay nothing. We’ve always paid as they’ve always been good and today was no exception.

Our guide Stanislove is also an actor and filled us full of history and regaled us with tales of Kings, rescued Jews, communism and even offered me a job. Well he said I could have had one back when the President’s guards had to be over 185cm tall with blond hair and blue eyes. Apparently the pay is only average so I gave it a miss.

Stanislove told us that 25% of Bulgarians want Communism back although they are predomiantly old people. Apparently crime was virtually zero back in the Communist days: people could leave their houses unlocked and they only needed about 2 police for 10 villages. Now they have to triple lock their houses and police are everywhere. Health care and education used to be free as well and prices were a lot cheaper so you can sort of see their point.

We didn’t know a lot about Bulgaria before the tour and now we do so well worth paying at the end. Everyone was paying 20lev per couple so we did the same. We’d visited quite a few interesting buildings along the way as well of course.

The tour ended at the Alexandur Nevski Memorial Church which was great on the outside and dully lit so dull on the inside. The same guy built this as built the Haji Sofia in Istanbul and Claire was equally unimpressed so it was a good job it was free to get in.

We then found a cafe in a park where we appeared to be invisible. We sat there for a few minutes, I went and used the toilet, came back, still no-one even acknowledged us so we got up and walked out. A free wee yay!

A later stop saw me have a Greek salad in a Viennese place in Bulgaria... It was okay though and the espresso was spot on.

We have been to many industrial parts of cities and today was no exception. Sometimes it’s because we’re lost, it’s always because we prefer to walk and sometimes because we’re heading for somewhere off the beaten track.

Today it was the latter. We were heading for a cemetery.

And we found it! Well Claire did. Her method is more accurate than mine. She uses Google Maps while I use the map on Pokemon Go.... I struggled as a lot of the Pokestops and gyms were written in Cyrillic....

We were hoping for a cemetery along the lines of the one in Athens or the Necropolis in Glasgow but it was not to be. Some people were remembered by having their pictures stapled to trees while some had large memorials. I just didn’t find it as interesting as other cemeteries but the picture of the guy on the motorbike is indicative of the sort of headstone there. There were all sorts of shapes rather than the uniform ones in England but very little of the grandeur of those in the aforementioned places. A lot of the graves did have benches next to them though so friends and family can go and have a yabber with the deceased.

Claire had been hoping for cats but thankfully there weren’t any so we could get round a lot quicker.

It was getting hot so I used Pokemon Go mapping to get us out of there before Google Maps took over to get us to a district famous for its graffiti. More walking, more of the industrial area, not many photos taken.

Until we got there and saw that the graffiti was the height of the buildings and visually stunning. We saw a few but there were probably more. Certainly something different!

The next ‘off the beaten track’ place was another 30 minutes of walking away and I was in all sorts of pain and discomfort already. The plan was to get back to the car and then drive there but a car park nightmare put paid to that. We walked a lot more (about 13 miles in total today in very hot weather) and then caught the Metro back to our Park and Ride.

I bought the tickets from a machine which impressed Claire as it was all in Bulgarian and we were soon on our first train. Amazingly it was in the right direction too! After one stop on a very crowded train we had to change to another line. Claire had just worked out where we needed to go when a friendly local helped us out and pointed us in the direction Claire had said. This was impressive but not as impressive as the ticket buying of course.

And so we made it back to the Metro station where our car was parked...which is where the trouble started....

Where the hell was the car park?. There were no signs, the corridor we had come along wasn’t there and the only way to go was up and out onto the street. So I asked the lady at the ticket desk and showed her my car park ticket which served only to confuse her. Apparently we needed to go back through the station....but we’d already used our tickets so couldn’t get back in.

Someone came along who also spoke no English but he managed to get us through the barrier and showed us to where he thought the elusive car park was. He asked someone else and after going back along the platform, in a lift and up two escalators we finally found the one sign that pointed to the car park.

We thanked our helper and finally got back to our car. Which is when the trouble started.....

The payment machine was out of order. So I pressed the intercom. Someone answered in Bulgarian, fair enough. I asked if he spoke English please and he raised his voice and shouted at me. I don’t expect him to speak English but he sounded VERY angry.

We looked on other floors for another machine but there weren’t any so I said sod it I’m going to drive towards the barrier....where there was a guy in a payment desk who charged me a fiver and we finally made it out of there.

I’d forgotten about the other district by this time and Claire couldn’t be bothered after all the hassle so we headed home.

We stopped off to get petrol and were surprised at how expensive it is. With the tank a quarter full it came to about £32:50.....bring back Communism I say! It’s no wonder the roads are relatively quiet, particularly outside Sofia.

As we sit in our apartment writing our blogs Russia are winning in the World Cup and the celebrations have begun by the sounds of it....hopefully they won’t go on all night.....

Additional photos below
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19th June 2018

Great pic. I've posted it in "Cathedrals, grand churches, mosques & places of worship" thread in the Photography Forum. Please add title...too good to not do so.

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