Posted by: bkropf | April 13, 2008

The Dark Horse Sofia

We grabbed an early taxi to the bus station to get on the road to Sofia, Bulgaria. The taxi driver was telling us about his brother in Chicago and that his son was a ‘very dangerous man’ (boxer). It was going to be another full day of travel. I always hate the buses because they don’t have bathrooms and I always worry I’m going to have to use the restroom before we get to our destination.

Our first leg of the journey was to Skopje, Macedonia. We had three hours to kill before our trip to Sofia. We grabbed a local hamburger and tried to avoid being harassed by all the taxi drivers. I found Skopje to be much nicer than I thought and I really enjoyed our short time in the city. There was a muddy river flowing through the city with many restaurants with outdoor seating all along the way. We stopped at one to use the bathroom and ended up staying awhile to watch people and get ice-cream. They also had really nice salads, which were the first we had found in Europe to that point.

We poked around some more markets and I was saddened to see so many beggars. We headed back to the bus station to leave for Sofia. We waited for our bus in the train station, which was directly above the bus station. The waiting room was probably the most perfectly dilapidated room I had seen. I took a bunch of pictures because it was so weird…and smelly.

Going into Bulgaria we got to see a lot of horses pulling things. It is fun to see a what I consider historical farming techniques being used today by real farmers. Additionally, back home I really don’t view being a shepherd as a viable vocation but it is definitely a career choice in this part of the world. I saw many people out sitting with their sheep as they roamed hillsides looking for good grass.

One lady we passed looked like she was 80 and had worked every day of her life in the sun. She had a little cane and headscarf. She was also attached to a massive Holstein by a thin little piece of twine. After a day of grazing, she was hobbling home with her cow. The cow was dutifully following along even though I have a hunch it could have easily escaped.

With about 45 minutes left in the bus trip the driver turns on a movie: The Lake House. We couldn’t figure out why the movie was started when it was obvious no one would be able to see the ending. I really didn’t care about missing the ending because it looked like a horrible chick flick, however, Tyler was taking the whole situation pretty hard. I eventually calmed him down by telling him we could rent it later or at least look up the ending on-line.

Arriving to the outskirts of Sofia we saw mountainous complexes of Soviet style apartments. It continues to amaze me that people built such huge, drab complexes. Even more amazing, that many people live in such dreary housing their entire lives. As we got into the middle of Sofia we started to be surprised at how nice it was. I really didn’t have any expectations but coming from a lot of poor and war-torn cities I had pretty low expectations. Much of Sofia looked a lot like classic Europe with beautiful big old buildings. There was even a circus.

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