Bulgaria Part 2

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Europe » Bulgaria » Sofia City
October 20th 2017
Published: October 29th 2017
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Before I continue, a few interesting facts about this country:
• Bulgaria was the third of the current European states after San Marino and France
• Bulgaria is one of 12 countries that use the Cyrillic script, created under king Boris I The Baptiser
• Yogurt is a national product containing Lactobacillus Bulgaricus which was isolated in the early 20th century
• Bulgaria is ranked third in Europe in terms of the number of archaeological sites, following Greece and Italy
• Bulgaria is famous for rose oil which used to be called 'liquid gold' as a gram of rose oil was equivalent to a gram of gold before modern extraction techniques evolved

Wednesday 11 October
I didn't let mummy sleep much last night. I could tell she was tired (when I tried to wake everyone up at 6.30 am, rather than my usual 8.30 am) as she didn't get out of bed. Instead, daddy made her breakfast in bed. Daddy even fed me scrambled eggs while I stood up holding onto the side of my cot! I love scrambled eggs - much more than the porridge stuff they have been feeding me! And I got to play with a pot and spoon in my cot when daddy got sick of holding me. Daddy hadn't found a campsite for us last night so we were parked in a dead end street under some trees in an industrial area outside Plovdiv, right beside the highway. I preferred being up the mountain with the big pines out our window.

After breakfast we headed into the fascinating town of Plovdiv. After a wander through the town and creative district of Kapana (meaning 'trap' - designed for the customers of the bazaar during Ottoman times to lose their way, and therefore buy more!), we happened across a lovely restaurant with dishes such as chicken and beetroot in a honey walnut sauce, steamed trout, and breaded cheese with blueberry sauce - mummy and daddy were pleased! What I got to try was delicious! Did I tell you that mummy's eyes sparkle when she buys something pretty, and double sparkle when daddy buys her something pretty. Anyway, she had a lot of sparkle in her eyes today 😉.

We just made the free guided tour at 2pm and were given a very creative overview of the town's history (using volunteers as historical figures - daddy was Phillip II and I was his son, Alexander the Great!). The town is at least 6000 years old. In the 4th century BC, it was conquered by Philip II of Macedon (daddy), hence it was (and still is today in Greece) known as Philippopolis (Philip's town). Originally a Thracian (famous Thacians include Orpheus and Spartacus) settlement, it was subsequently invaded by Persians, Greeks, Celts, Romans, Goths, Huns, Bulgarians, Slav-Vikings, Crusaders and Turks, before being liberated in 1878 from Ottoman rule by the Russian Army (although it was never part of the Soviet Union, it was a communist regime). It became the capital of the autonomous Ottoman region of Eastern Rumelia before re-joining Bulgaria in 1885. In the 9th century, Bulgaria was the third largest empire in Europe. From the 14th to the 19th century, due to its geographical position, it was the biggest economic centre, thanks to the Ottoman bazaar. In Roman times, Plovdiv was the capital of the Balkan Peninsula.

Referred to as "The City of the Seven Hills", Plovdiv is built on seven syenite hills up to 250 meters high, on the banks of the Maritsa River. The flag of the city shows the lion (Bulgarian currency, Lev, also means lion), the seven hills (although nowadays there are only 6 - the seventh was transformed into paving stones and sent to Germany!) and the motto - 'ancient and eternal'. The town has an incredible array of influences and ruins from antiquity, including a Roman Stadium (240 by 50 meters, uncovered by chance in 1925 while digging for sewage pipes, seats 12 000), a roman aqueduct (which was destroyed in the 10th century and its stones used to build the orthodox cathedral), the oldest Ottoman Mosque in Europe (Plovdiv is the second city ever captured by the Ottomans in Europe and, in order to keep the peace, the orthodox cathedral was modified and proclaimed as a mosque in the mid 14th century), and the Plovdiv Roman Theatre (of Greek style architecture, seats 6 000 people, restricted to the aristocracy, discovered by chance, took 7 years to uncover and restore). Daddy really enjoyed the tour, and chatted with our guide for so long that I got hungry! I preferred to gurgle with the Greek girl who let me play with her silver phone cover and shiny nails and jewellery, and the Korean girl who smiled at me.

Later, we did some shopping and headed back to our campervan, ready to make our way to the Black Sea. After several hours sleeping/driving, we stopped in Burgas, the second largest port in Bulgaria. We arrived around midnight at the location sent by Vasco. We passed through a boom gate into what appeared to be a parking lot, at which point I awoke. Mummy took me up into bed to feed me when suddenly there was a knock at the door - 'No parking, go out!' said the voice. We decided to continue on to the next town that had been suggested by Vasco - this was the marina where Vasco keeps his boat. We finally arrived at Sozopol at 1.30 am, when I was already fast asleep!

Thursday 12 October

The Sozopol township appeared to be quite small, and somewhat deserted (some might call "sleepy"), apart from some locals stocking firewood, repairing a terracotta tiled roof, sweeping, and doing other odd maintenance work. We did pass a very quiet local fruit stall where we bought some grapes. Luckily we had decided to leave home with a picnic lunch, as we found a picturesque seat under a fig laden tree overlooking dolphins frolicking in a sun kissed bay. Paradise! I sat in my backpack seat, kicking my legs to make all the autumn leaves go 'crunch crunch' while daddy fed me figs and tomato and purée.

After lunch, we continued along the seaside promenade and happened upon what must have been the last cafe open in town - lucky for us as it was apparently about to close in two days time as the summer tourist season was coming to an end! Whatever do the winter tourists do?! We spent a very long afternoon at the cafe blogging, with mummy and daddy tapping away at their funny phone things while I jumped up and down and looked out the window. I was so surprised when, later that afternoon, the window ledge that I was holding onto suddenly started to rise, and the window suddenly grew all the way to the roof! I played at sucking the glass and making funny noises! Finally we left the restaurant as it was getting dark! I fell asleep on the way home.

Friday 13 October

This morning we took a walk along the marina - hearing about all the different types of sail boats from daddy. We then made our usual preparations for a long driving journey before commencing the long four or so hour journey back to Sophia. Because daddy enjoyed Plovdiv so much, he decided to make it our rest point on the way back to Sophia. We climbed one of the syenite hills and saw the last glow of a burnt orange sunset over the gorgeous old town lit with soft orange street lights. We passed an old Roman Bathhouse that w as showing a contemporary art exhibition. And we strolled once again through the Kapana district, soaking up the atmosphere of the Bulgarian youth at the cafes and bars spilling onto the streets.

After stopping for a drink at one of these bar / cafes, we went in to look at the menu of an eatery that had been recommended and, lo and behold, there was our guide Iliya (Bulgarian for Elijah) from our walking tour! He had a chat with daddy and introduced us to his mentor who had taught him the stuff he knows for being a guide. He highly recommended the food, but it turned out there were no tables free, so instead we went back for a last dinner in our campervan - daddy's pasta special! Mummy was trying to feed me all sorts of things. The pasta pieces were fun to pick up, but I was too tired to eat much. I was so tired, but I didn't want to sleep because mummy and daddy were up. So, when mummy put me in my cot to sleep, I stood up and smiled at her. I think when I smile, mummy and daddy sometimes let me do what I want. 😊

Saturday 14 October
When I woke up, daddy took me for a walk along the edge of a big lake. It was a little cold and the wind blew in my eyes, but it was a great way to wake up. We saw kids arriving in campervans amid the set-up of sailing boats. I thought that we might have a sail!

It wasn't to be. After a brief breakfast we drove back to Vasco and Alina's house. I'm so happy to return here, not just because I like these people, but also because they have a big floor to move around on and lots of toys to play with again! I was just settling in to have some play time and cuddles, when I was put into my jacket again. We were going for a walk around the capital of Bulgaria, Sophia. What a city! There were so many stately buildings and ruins and lavish churches and mosques!

The Central Basilica was enormous (and beautiful), but had a funny history. It was built as a monument to Russia's liberation of Bulgaria ... which was not so much a liberation, Vasco hinted, but an invasion. In the much older Orthodox church, the byzantine past was visible on the walls and ceilings, whilst great glass vaults gave glimpses of the Roman ruins that the church was built upon. There, we witnessed several weddings in progress, and we all walked in to take a look at one! They have a funny tradition of putting a crown on the bride and groom's head, and then the crowns are kissed and swapped. I don't think mummy and daddy did that at their wedding.

I didn't really like the controversial statue of one of the Tsars. I was a bit scared as his eyes glow green at night and stare straight at you! Apparently it is a symbol commemorating that when his army was defeated, the victors burned one or both eyes of all his men - how gruesome!

Daddy was transfixed by the central square with its numerous huge "Russian" styled administrative buildings, and others with highly classically aesthetic design (Austrian commissioned) eg, Sophia university and the Opera house. He said this array of buildings exemplified the 'deep history of the place' and how the cover of a "soviet" past can make one forget the huge wealth of riches that this land once had - superbly wealthy and the centre of commerce for centuries, and then for just over half a century a "stilled" culture before capitalism will have its dabble and resultant effects.

Next we saw this really really old building called Saint George Rotunda. It had a fun history because it was all about a dragon, just like Grandpa's song 'Puff the magic dragon'! It commemorates the soldier "George" who defeated the dragon with 3 heads... poor Puff! St George is celebrated with a public holiday on 6th May each year and George is the name for 1/3rd of the male population - lucky mummy and daddy didn't choose to call me George! Or Ivan, Peter, Stephan or Vassil (the next most popular names)!

On the pedestrian mall we met another baby - smaller than me, yet over twice my age!! I must be getting bigger. Certainly mummy and daddy have been talking about it a lot. Apparently they measured me and I am 76 cm tall now. Soon I will be bigger than daddy 😊

We followed Alina down some streets and around some corners and even Vasco wondered where we were going. Finally we arrived at a big hall which was a cultural centre, where "new entrepreneurs" were selling all sorts of handmade goods... Mummy's and Alina's eyes were both sparkling! Even daddy found some things he liked. Vasco looked terribly bored though and just sat down and played with his phone.

On our way home we stopped in a couple of very prettily decorated restaurants - they were very 'hippy' according to Alina. None had any space for us though, so we all jumped in a taxi and went to another restaurant where they had so many fun things to look at - bicycles coming out of the wall, buckets of flowers falling from the ceiling, shoes sticking out of the wall... I was rapt! Then, the best part of all (my heart skipped a few beats) was when I met... a very cute little girl who was the same age as me!! She even blushed... I swear! 😊

Sunday 15 October
After a lovely breakfast prepared by Alina, we all headed to the car. I noticed that we had my backpack with us, so I wasn't too upset when I got put in the car seat. After nearly and hour of daddy and Vasco talking and returning the campervan to an under-bridge location, we drove into the Bulgarian countryside and finally stopped on the crest of a hill beside the road. It felt a bit random, but I didn't mind since we were going for a walk in the beautiful autumn weather and leaves that make a crunchy sound underfoot. First, we traipsed through orange and yellow coloured fields, and then through lovely smelling pine forests. Daddy and Vasco were talking again, whilst mummy and Alina chatted behind them. It was lovely and warm. I was happy. Suddenly, a wild horse jumped out at us and whinnied. It set the scene for our next adventure!

We had walked to a horse riding centre. There were horses and children everywhere. Daddy did a lot of horse patting, whilst the rest of us talked to a man. He said "yes", but there were a few worried looks directed at daddy and I. I had no idea what was going on, only that these were the biggest animals I'd seen yet, and there were people on top of them!! I hoped daddy wasn't going to carry me up on there too! Vasco, Alina and mummy all got onto horses and started to move away. I was really worried because daddy looked so excited I knew he wanted to join them! With me in the front pack, daddy walked up to a horse and, with a huge movement, I was elevated into the sky. I was so scared I cried out! Mummy looked super worried. But then I realised I felt really safe with daddy's strong hand holding me, and it was actually really fun to be up so high, so I stopped crying and started to look around me. We began to move in a funny motion, bobbing up and down. Once I got used to it, it was quite fun! Across the open fields we moved quite quickly and I felt warm and cosy in the beautiful sunshine. When we 'trotted' (bobbing up and down) or went across creeks, it wasn't so comfortable, but daddy held me tight so I didn't move too much, and I liked it when we went fast! In the end, I was so glad I could join in the fun! But I was so tired after the ride, that I fell asleep on the walk back to the car. On the way home, we stopped in a lovely restaurant (called Sage), and I even had a big bowl of vegetables.

Monday 16 October

Today mummy and daddy didn't look too well at all. Daddy had apparently vomited all night. Poor daddy. We said goodbye to Alina, who left for work wearing the pretty necklace from the markets we went to on Saturday, and then I played while mummy and daddy packed. But daddy kept running to the toilet and neither mummy nor daddy had much energy to play with me like they usually do! It was ok though, because I had pots and pans, plastic fruit and plates to bang around, drawers to open and use to stand up with. Mummy kept trying to stop me opening them though - I think she was worried I would catch my finger in them again, but I tried extra hard not to. I kept climbing on the children's bed to get to get phone cords (my favourite!!), but again mummy kept pulling them away.

Vasco left late in the morning and returned in the afternoon with a little boy and a girl who fed me banana. She was very shy initially, but soon began to play and hug me She was apparently Vasco's youngest daughter, Daniela. Vasco helped carry all our baggage to the car and drove us to the airport, but I was put back in the horrible car seat again which I didn't like at all! Luckily Daniela sat beside me and I had a big red bus toy to play with. When we got the airport, I was starting to feel a bit sick and understood why mummy and daddy looked so unwell. Mummy put me in the pram (which had finally been returned) and I threw up. Then I felt better but I was tired! I finally fell asleep when we got on the plane and mummy fed me. Air France is nice because they gave me my own little red pillow and moved us to a group of 3 seats, so I had my own seat to sleep on!

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