A short stop in Bulgaria

February 4, 2013 in Bulgaria

To get to Sofia in Bulgaria we decided to take the cheapest option and headed to the Florence bus station in Prague.
A minor bus that left at 16:00 in the afternoon and rolled in on Sofia Serdika station at 10:30 the following day after being driving through the countries of Slovakia, Hungary and Serbia.
My passport was honored once again by a Serbian stamp in it.
It was the third one in 6 months and all three times I have just gone through the country.
The fourth stamp I will get will be the day that I visit Serbia as a country and not just pass through it.

At the Serbian/Bulgarian border the customs wanted to go through all the bags and cargo as the bus initially starts in London a day before reaching Prague.
Meanwhile me and Jake entertained ourselves by watching the dogs that was hanging around running and barking along any car that came through the passport check for some good 40-50 meters. These two dogs were in a very good shape and did the same with each car. They waited and as soon as a car rolled out from the border check they started running along the car and barking no matter how fast the driver was.

When we arrived at the bus station in Sofia we took our bags and started the search on Tram number 1 as it would take us to our host Aleksandar´s place.
We had been advised earlier to buy an extra ticket for any over-sized luggage and when we bought the tickets in the little booth at the tram stop we only got two tickets, one each.
The tram had managed to get one stop before controllers jumped on board and started to check everyone’s ticket.
Jake has a bit bigger bag then me and they started insisting that he needs to pay a 20 Lev fine (10 Euro) for not having an extra ticket.
The regular tram ticket costs 1 Lev (0.5 Euro) and now they wanted a 20 Lev fine which I refused to pay and a discussion started where our main response was no.
We went off the tram together with the controllers while the people on the tram waved at us to stay on the tram.

Sofia tram

Sofia tram

The controllers said that they would call the police while one of them took out his mobile phone and supposedly made a call and asked for our passport which we refused to show.
We insisted that they would call the police if they wanted to see the passports.
They started showing papers saying that if police comes, they only spoke a few words of English and mainly used sounds and gestures to explain, then we would have to pay a 200 Lev fine. Once again We insisted again that they would call the police.
This went on for maybe 5-10 minutes with them asking to see the passports, we would refuse insisting that the police should come until they just gave up and jumped on a bus that stopped to check more tickets.

We were just laughing and went to buy new tickets to carry on our journey on Sofia tram network. This time we did however buy an extra ticket for the bag.
We took the next tram and suddenly after one stop another controller jumped on the tram to check the tickets.
Jake just showed one ticket to test the guy and he looked at the ticket and carried on without any attention to Jake’s “oversized” bag.

Reaching Aleksandar’s place we were greeted my his parents as Alek’s was at work. They don’t speak much English but we went on well with words in Czech and English.
We were served some amazing home cooked bob chorba (bean soup) together with typical pickles, chili and my beloved Sirene, Bulgarian white cheese.
exhausted after the bus trip where I hadn´t been able to sleep much we fell a sleep for a few hours in our bedroom.
We later that evening went out to the Irish pub to meet up with some of my Bulgarian friends that I know through work.
One of them is a big Arsenal fan and the football game was on TV at the same time as two other games which made the pub quite packed with football fans drinking, eating and cheering on their teams performing on the screen in front of them.
It was nice to see the guys again after a year which I realized was way to long time for me to be away from Bulgaria.
I need to come back more frequently and some ideas of how to do that has already started to form in mt head.

The following day we slept in late to recover a bit, not from the beers but from the minor cold that we both were having since days before, before we walked out and I started to show Jake around.

The old rotunda in Sofia

It sounds like I am very familiar with Sofia which i am not but I am getting used to the city and have managed, to my joy, to start connect all the streets together in my interactive map i have in my head.
We walked around for a few hours talking and sightseeing to try to show Jake as much as possible of the little city core seeing some pretty funny images which I photographed and also one of the open markets on the streets where people go to buy their basic vegetables and other items.
As the darkness lowered itself over the city me and Jake decided to try some of the local alcohol, a bottle called Red Ram Whiskey which we found for 3.70 Lev (1.85 Euro) for a 200ml.
It was not the bast I have tasted then again I am not a whiskey drinker either but we started walking towards the dinner place called Mr. Pizza where we would have dinner with some of my friends from Sofia.
Now their interior reminds more of the Plaza Hotel in Dubai or the Marriott Hotel somewhere else. Not like a Pizza hut kind of place like the name indicates it too.

We were an hour earlier then the rest so we started off slowly with me ordering one of my favourite Bulgarian dishes Shkembe soup (tripe soup) and Jake tried a platter of Sudzjuk, typical Bulgarian sausage with fennel in it.

Shkembe and Sudzjuk

 

Anyone up for ordering 7 kg of meat?

Meanwhile Jake ordered a Coke and unnoticeably poured in some of his Red Ram Whiskey into the glass I followed the tradition with drinking a Bulgarian beer called Zagorka.
In the end some 10 people showed up and it was all food, drinks, talk and laughter for a few pleasant hours before heading off to the karaoke bar which was a few meters away.
Bulgarians are big on karaoke which is something I like and I pulled off a few songs including Elvis Presleys ”Suspicious Minds”, The Turtles amazing “Happy Together”, “Delilah” by Tom Jones but also did a duett with Jake on Bon Jovi´s “Living on a prayer” and many more.

Bon Jovi never expected this when they wrote the song

Bon Jovi never expected this when they wrote the song

For some reasons I prefer to sing the old 60s songs, maybe because that is what my voice can take?
A few pictures have ended up on the internet and facebook I noticed later but it is ok, I can take that as in fact I was there and I have no problems with singing. I do it rather than I do it good. A great end to a very brief visit to Bulgaria which is still one of my favourite countries.