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Published: January 19th 2012
For those about to rock, Bulgaria salutes you! As a boy who loves rock and roll I think I've just about died and gone to heaven in Sofia. The country has a rich history stretching back many centuries but one thing is clear as soon as you arrrive ... they love to rock! From the first taxi ride, and in the hostel, and on to the clubs; it's 100% ear splitting, bone jarring, head banging rock and roll that's guaranteed to get the blood pumping. Everyone seems to know the words to the classics, and it's like being in the middle of a neverending rock concert. My first night started with stimulating conversation in the company of a group of young travellers. As the evening progressed they went out for a meal, but I decided to head out on my pat malone to the famous rock and roll club. To my surprise I ended up partying to the thumping music at the venue till the small hours. The Bulgarian guys and girls at the club sang and danced and had a great time, and it seemed every new song was vying with the previous one to be your all time favourite.
There's beautiful scenery and a great restaurant close to the monastery.
It really was that kind of night!
The journal left off, dear reader, in Belgrade where somehow I managed to catch the 8:00am train to Sofia, despite having only one hour's sleep the previous night. I saw a girl in a compartment and checked if this was the the train to Sofia, and still being half-way wired asked her out of curiosity if she was Bulgarian. She was and proceeded to follow me in to the adjourning compartment, where she invited me to join her for the journey. I couldn't believe my luck, and we chatted easily while the train wound it's way through the Bulgarian countryside. Of course I also got a fair amount of sleep in during the long commute. The subsequent taxi ride from the station to the hostel was one of those round the world adventures taxi hawks specialise in. It was annoying to be overcharged, but sometimes on the road what can you do? I then checked in to the hostel to start the most social experience on this trip...
Sofia has traditionally been a meeting point for travellers, and Hostel Mostel is a new business in an 18th century building, which was
Photo taken from the back of the monastery.
owned by Greeks during that period as a road side stop for travellers on the way to Athens. The Old Inn had a grand tradition stretching back a hundred years, and after falling into disuse during the communist years it was reopened as a travellers hostel in 2007. One thing's for sure, and that's modern travellers aren't much warmer than their 18th century predecessors. We went through a cold snap in Sofia with the temperature dropping to minus eight degrees at night, and the common area has absolutely no heating. Also the heaters in the dorm room only switch on at 10:00pm so you basically feel cold all the time, but nevertheless I had heaps of fun in Sofia! The hostel is the only one in the world I know of that makes dinner with a beer for the guests every night, and in the middle of winter the place was nearly full each night.
Before I'd even stowed my bags I was invited to join a pair of young Australians I recognised from Sarajevo. They suggested I tag along to the most famous tourist attraction in Bulgaria next morning, and we piled into a few cars with two
Our destination at the end of a vigorous walk up the hill in the snow.
other travellers, for a two hour drive out to the Rila monastery. The tour includes a gorgeous walk through the snow to see a church on the hill, and includes the cave where the hermit St John of Rila lived for twelve years. The monastery is superb and we spent a couple of hours exploring, including a visit to the museum with it's wonderful collection of religious artefacts. During hard times Bulgarians have traditionally considered Rila monastery the most potent symbol of their faith, and up to a million pilgrims visit this important site every year. The monastery was placed on the list of world cultural heritage sites in 1983, and you can be sure of an excellent day spent in the picturesque Rila mountains.
The nights out in Sofia are great fun, and one night we got out and about in a big group of six. The guys wanted to experience the rock and roll club I'd been raving about earlier, so after a few drinks we headed off ... so we could rock on! One of the great joys of travelling is falling in with a good crew, and I was lucky to hook up with such
On a perfect winter's day.
great people in Sofia. The nightclub has bouncers as wide as a barn door, and you don't want to mess with them. One young Aussie guy couldn't handle his drink after getting a load on, and unfortunately found out the hard way. His patented version of partner dancing was to grab guys, er yes that's guys, and hurl them around the dance floor. This only served to clear the dance floor faster than a bomb scare, and in no time the bouncers were jack of him. They decided to introduce their fists to his forehead a few times as he was encouraged to make a premature exit for the night, but to be honest I didn't have much sympathy considering his overly exuberant behaviour.
Everyone has been so friendly here in Bulgaria, including the transvestites who ply their trade right outside our hostel. I shook hands and said hi to one lady at the end of a night out and boy did she have big, strong, masculine hands. It's inexplicable! Anyways the travellers and staff at the hostel have been terrific, and my five day visit has been a memorable part of the great Balkans adventure. At this stage
of the trip I'm totally in the zone for travel and had a great time of it in Sofia, basically all of you should be here now!
He who would be chief among you must be as he that doth serve." St John of Rila
As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now
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