Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Days in Sofia

As a rule, or so it seems, passengers get off planes in a hurry. Take your time, says the guy who is waiting for me to get my backpack from the overhead locker. A rather unusual comment, I remark. Well, I do not really understand why we are all constantly in a hurry, he replies. This was my introduction to Sofia ... it couldn't have started better.

My hotel offers a rich breakfast buffet including my beloved Bulgarian yoghurt; in my room I discover a panic button.
What brings you to Sofia?, asks the young student who heard me placing my order in a restaurant. A thriller, I said, written in the thirties or forties (Eric Ambler's The Mask of Dimitrios). I guess things have changed since then (apart from some backyards). Is there anything worth seeing not too far from here? He suggests Blagoevgrad, the city where he studies, about a hundred kilometers from Sofia. 

How long does the ride take?, I ask at the information window of the bus terminal. Three hours, the young lady says. Really? Two hours, she now offers. It eventually took one and a half hours.

The inner city is pleasant, lots of green and an inviting pedestrian zone. The youth of the town populate a cafe called Crystal. I' m the only oldie in the crowd.
Back in Sofia, I don't do sightseeing but wander aimlessly around town and sometimes wonder where my mind is taking me. In a cafe near the central railway station the sun falls on leaves on the sidewalk and for reasons unbeknownst to me I feel transported back in time to the streets of Edirne where I happened to be ten years ago although the scene then did not at all look the same ... but this was what came to mind ... life is simply more than strange and our cause-and-effect habit of thinking often useless.

In a restaurant near my hotel I order a cappuccino. One, says the young woman. Yes, one, I say, assuming her "one" is the equivalent of the  "only one?" which one regularly gets to hear in Thailand and always baffles me because why would I, if I'm there alone, order two? The Bulgarian "one" however wasn't a question but the price - the cappuccino cost one Lewa. 
In the center of Sofia booksellers arrive in the morning with chiquita boxes full of books and put them on display. The benches on the street are endowed with wooden spines of books. Wonderful!
Many black leather jackets, many torn jeans (even my middle aged taxi driver wore them. 'Rock', he said), many smokers, many elegantly dressed women. Quite some men searching through rubbish containers.

A monumental building near Serdika metro station. Ministry of Education, I remember reading. Franz Kafka came to mind. I imagine people getting swallowed up by such buildings.

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