A Scenic Drive, Etropole Waterfall (and Monastery), and Glozhene Monastery

My plans for today fell through in a big way. I had hoped to travel to Belogradchik Fortress in northwestern Bulgaria near the Serbian border. It’s only about 400KM, so easily doable in a round trip, right? Well, not so fast. I thought that travel was slow going in Mexico, but it borders on the ridiculous in Bulgaria. In just a few days on the road here, I’ve learned that 400KM is a really full driving day here and would take seven to eight hours. Add in the time to view the fortress and it just didn’t make sense. My host strongly recommended that I not attempt the trip, especially since I need to be in Plovdiv tomorrow to return the car.

Moreover, work is picking up, so I had to work this morning and will have to work again this evening. Finally, I am exhausted. Vacationing is hard work!

I had a talk with Max last night and he suggested a driving loop and a few sites I could see in a full afternoon. The drive in particular appealed to me, just a chance to enjoy the car and put it through its paces on twisty mountain roads. He also vetoed my planned route to Plovdiv tomorrow, saying that there is a very long rough stretch that I shouldn’t attempt in a rental vehicle. Good thing I asked! He traced out another route that will go through a bit of what I’ve already done and then take me straight to Plovdiv. He said to plan a full four hours of driving time for that. The car is due back at noon, so I plan to be out the door by seven.

Here’s my route today. I went from Malak Izvor through Glozhene and Teteven on through Ribaritsa and Shipkovo to Troyan, then headed towards Yablanitsa along “the reservoir.” Then on to Etropole by way of Pravets (because Google Maps was being stupid), then back to Malak Izvor and up to the Glozhene Monastery.


I stopped at the fountain in Glozhene for cold water:




And then,  I drove. There wasn’t really anything extraordinary or landscapes I hadn’t seen before, so it was a bit of a meditative drive to clear my head, much needed after so much people time in the last week! I stopped for more water here. What a pretty spot and there’s even a picnic table!


Shipkovo is a spa town, but there was literally nothing of interest to me. Same thing with Troyan, which I’ll be going back through tomorrow.

After Troyan, I turned onto the road Max had told me to take and was surprised to see poplars!


And a beautiful willow!


I could quickly see why he sent me this way!


Here’s the reservoir.











I emerged onto the main road I had taken from Veliko Tarnovo and reached the turnoff for Glozhene that would take me straight to Malak Izvor or I could continue on to Yablanitsa. It was only about two, so I decided to keep going to Etropole Monastery to see the waterfall near it. The road up there was very narrow and single lane. I had to pull over twice to let someone pass. Good thing there was room to do that!


Bulgaria has so many monasteries and churches. The one at Etropole isn’t that interesting, architecturally speaking. People mostly come for the waterfall.





The waterfall is really hard to find. There is a path, but it leads in many directions, with no signage. There was no one around for me to ask either. My word of the day is водoпад (vodopad — waterfall).






After walking around the area for a bit and almost ready to give up, knowing the waterfall would be nearly dry anyway, I had the bright idea to ask Google Maps (yes, the same Google Maps that routed me through Pravets). It seemed to know where the waterfall was, so I took a path in the direction it was telling me to go. A couple of groups of tourists joined me as I appeared to know where I was going and followed me like a flock of Bulgarian ducks. We took a path that ended abruptly with a washout:



After doubling back, we tried another path and tah-dah! I’m glad I was expecting it to be quite dry or I would have been disappointed. Instead, I was delighted by the cool mossy cave!









The path back up was fun…



I wandered around for a couple more minutes, at the back of the monastery.


A real flock of Bulgarian ducks.


And here’s the only sign for the waterfall. It’s useless! I guess that the waterfall is loud in the springtime and findable by sound, but at this time of year, another sign or two would have been welcome!


I made a new friend!




It was past four at this point and I was hungry and tired, so it was time to head home. Coming back into Etropole:


Back in Malak Izvor, I finally took the road up to the monastery. Max told me I could walk it, but he underestimated how far Yablanitsa is, so I didn’t trust that it would be “only” six kilometres straight up the mountain. This road was also very narrow, very twisty, and had scary drop offs. I had a couple of moments where the only reason I didn’t turn around is there was no place to turn around! The climb was worth it! This monastery dates back to 1224!




The views up there were the best I’ve seen yet, and that’s saying something!





The father of the church came out to greet me. I am only going to share my first impression of him because Max knows him and said that he’s pretty sure this is the look the father is going for: Rasputin! I didn’t know until departure, when I ran into him again, that he is the father of the monastery. He was very hospitable and spoke good English. Max calls him “quite a character.”














I’ve been assured that I have seen a very good representation of Bulgaria even not having gone into the northwest and southwest parts of it. I have seen the coast, the mountains, and the plains. I have had a good sample of churches and monasteries and seen a fortress. I have been through villages, towns, and big cities. The villages and towns all look identical, with the same style of construction. To be honest, it’s been enough and I’m ready to move on. Max confirmed my departure date (the 22nd of September) so we’re on the same page. I will have a couple of days before I absolutely need to be out of Bulgaria, so I’m hoping that my routing there will take me through Belogradchik, but if doesn’t, so be it. You really can’t see everything!

It’s been wonderful having the car and I don’t regret the experience. Now, to get it back to downtown Plovdiv!

A Successful Day Trip to Sofia

Mission Star Trek was a success! 😀

The first thing that needed to happen for today to be a good day was for me to get to bed early enough last night that a 5:30 wakeup call would be reasonable. I’ve been staying up late, often to midnight, since I got here since my clients and friends are online in my late evening, and then getting up between eight and nine (!!!). Well, I was beat yesterday and managed to not only shut the lights at 9:30, but fall asleep before ten. So I woke up without my alarm at 5:30!

The dogs were so confused by this early wake up call that they did something they’ve never done: took a runner. I walked a few minutes without being able to hear them and was rather concerned that I was going to have to wait for them to come home. I called for them and Sausage eventually came. I headed home with him and left the gate open for Mechka. She turned up as I was making their breakfast (which was much more elaborate than mine). So thank goodness! Max told me not to freak out if they run off and that they come home, but what I day this would have been for that to happen!

I hurriedly gulped down some coffee and toast, dressed, double checked the contents of my backpack, and was out the door by 6:25.

I made it as far as just past the restaurant when a gal about my age came to a screeching halt beside me to give me a lift to Yablanitsa! Wow! That was a best case scenario because I’d have a choice of a lot more buses. We were in Yablanitsa by 6:40 and so I had a choice of two buses around seven and another at 7:30, which is the one I expected to be on. I flagged down the first seven o’clock bus. The cost was 6.50BGN.

There was quite a bit of construction and traffic and I’m pretty sure the buses drive only about 75KPH or so (it feels sloooow), so we didn’t get into Sofia until around nine. I was going to get off a couple of blocks before the bus station then realised that it was my only guaranteed bathroom stop before the mall, so I stayed on the bus! My breakfast had been meager, so I grabbed a still warm and flaky cheese croissant on my way out of the bus station.

It was only 1.5KM to “downtown”, so there was no point in taking a taxi. I just walked down boulevard Knyaginya Maria Luiza to the Banya Bashi Mosque, stopping en route to get some more top up cards for my phone.

This is the Lions Bridge. If you squint, you can see a yellow Billa sign on the right. How convenient! I popped in to check it out and decided to do my grocery shopping there on the way home. All I really “needed” that I can’t find in Yablanitsa is more peanut butter!


Before I knew it, there was the mosque!


I took a slight detour to check out the synagogue:




Behind the mosque, I checked the opening hours for the Sofia history museum, and it was 11:00. Dang!

Since I had so much time before the movie, I took my time strolling through the ruins of Serdica. Here I am looking through one of the street-level domes down to the ruins:





In case you missed that in the text, here are remains of an ancient Roman sewer system! WOW.


You can walk all through the ruins. There were placards in places I would have assumed I wasn’t allowed to walk.



I took a closer look at this building in front of the Presidential building and learned that it’s the archeological museum, as well as a former mosque. Unfortunately, they didn’t open until ten. 🙁



I went behind the presidential building to check out the famous frescoes at the Church of St. George Rotunda. No photographs allowed, so you’ll just have to take my word that they were AMAZING. 😀


Relative of my late Bitha? Very suspicious of me!


There are more Roman ruins outside the church.


Then, I just wandered! I grabbed a gelato on Boulevard Vitosha, then walked down Boulevard Aleksandar Stamboliyski towards the Mall of Sofia.

The architecture in this city never fails to stop me dead in my tracks.


Surreal to see signs pointing to Belgrade!


And here I am at the Mall of Sofia. I went in to make sure I could find the cinema and to confirm the showtime of 12:30. There was also one at 11:30, but it wasn’t in IMAX 3D and I decided that if I’d come all this way, I should do the whole experience. There wasn’t much of interest in the mall and it was about 10:45, so I headed out to explore the neighbourhood.


The blocks of flats from the Communist era entranced me! They are all over Sofia, but this was my first time actually seeing them up close.



This is across from the Mall of Sofia and translates to Sofia Technical School.


Here’s a good example of how Bulgarian is often like French, only easier. Ниво sounds like “nee-vo” and means “level.” It sounds exactly like the French word for level, niveau. Only it ends with O rather than one of French’s 50 billion spelling combinations that sound like O but look nothing like it.


This building was rather interesting!


As a new reader to the language, I read everything I come across and when I see something like плюс that looks particularly “alien” I make an extra effort. I laughed when I realised it says… “plus”! The word above means store and it’s one of the first Cyrillic words that I can just “read” rather than sound out.


Not an abandoned building…


I was rather put upon that this kid wearing what appears to be a Mexican sombrero is advertising a pizzeria!


Loved this pink lady!


By 11:30, I was feeling peckish. I didn’t have time for a proper sit down meal, so this sign across from the Mall of Sofia caught my attention, advertising pizza and donairs. I wasn’t in the mood for pizza (!), but Middle Eastern food would be a welcome change of pace!


I scanned the menu and most items were immediately familiar — donairs, shish kabob, fattoush salad, shish taouk, shawarma, and… фалафел! Falafel!!! A “medium sized” sandwich was only 2BGN!


Since I’m not a picky eater, I just motioned for the guy to give me everything when he started to hold up each ingredient. I almost burst out laughing when he put French fries in my falafel! I took it to go and found a planter outside to sit on to have my lunch. It was nowhere near as flavourful or yummy as the falafel I had at the Holmes Grill on Baker Street in London, but the super garlicky sauce gave it ample flavour and I relished every bite! Speaking of relish, it had sweet bread and butter pickles, too, which totally worked!


I photographed more flats after I was done eating.


It was then time to go to the movie. I wrote “12:30” in my notebook and headed back to the mall. At the cinema, the cashier let me muddle through “One, Star Trek, *holds up notebook with the time,* please,” before asking me in perfect English if I needed a pair of 3D glasses. LOL Yes, I did. The ticket was 12BGN and the glasses were 1.50BGN, so about 10CAD total for both. Two reports out of Quebec put a 3D IMAX movie at being between $14 and $18CAD, so I got a good deal! I was amused that the tickets are printed on a dot matrix printer!


Now, get this: I was the only one in the theatre!!! That worked out well since I didn’t like my assigned seat (too close to the screen despite my expressly sitting farther back than I normally do, anticipating this problem), so I was able to move back to a better one.

The movie was good and worth the trek (ha ha, see what I did there?). But the sound wasn’t great and with all the accents I know I’ll need to go back and relisten with English subtitles. I was surprised by how much did I manage to get out of the Bulgarian subs, especially when the aliens were talking their language and there would have been English subs at a US or CAD theatre. I would have just enough time to sound out the words/transliterations for things like captain, beware, Enterprise, Federation, etc. to get enough context to muddle through the plot. It was fun to see all the familiar Trek terms and names transliterated into Cyrillic.

Without going into any spoilers, I have to say that what I took from the movie was how it accurately, in my opinion, expressed the curse/blessing of having the nomad/explorer gene.

It was about 2:40 when I came out of the movie and I really wanted to make the bus to Teteven at four since that would save me a cab fare or, worse case, a 6KM walk, plus I was exhausted. I was a little disconcerted when I exited the theatre and was directed down a rather isolated staircase with no signage. I went down many flights until I saw a door marked “Mall of Sofia” and went through it to emerge on the main cinema level. I was surprised because I hadn’t realised I was sitting that far up!

I hoofed it to the previously scouted Billa, arriving around three. I didn’t get much and was a little (lot) annoyed with my language skills when I got to the cash register and the clerk pantomimed that I should have done “something” with my grapefruit and oranges and that she couldn’t sell them to me. I imagine it’s something along the lines of the City Deli on Isla requesting that you have things weighed first. I apologised and motioned for her to leave them since I didn’t have time to start all over.

It was 3:30 at this point, so I headed straight to the bus station. There, I went to the bakery again and got a ham and cheese croissant for the ride home. What can I say, their croissants are really good! 😀

I double checked the schedule I’d put together for myself and saw that the bus at four terminates at Teteven and should be leaving from gate 30. So I checked the electronic screen and, sure enough, that was the info listed. I scurried over to gate 30 and was one of the last to board. It was the same driver as last time, so I knew I wouldn’t have any issues getting off at the junction 2KM from home.

While I waited for the ticket lady to get to me, I pulled a map up on my phone. I didn’t want to get charged full price to Teteven so I wanted her to be aware I was getting off early. She seemed to understand me quite quickly and said, “Seven. Five to Yablanitsa, two to Malak Izvor.” That was a good deal seeing as I’m told a taxi from Yablanitsa to Malak Izvor is six to eight BGN!

The ride home was sloooow. Around Botevgrad, I understood snippets of a conversation between a woman and the driver and from what ensued guess that she said that her child really needed a bathroom and the driver figured he’d use the time to get fuel. So he pulled into a gas station and what seemed like half the bus got off to pee! The bus was a sauna and I was beyond ready to get home and rather annoyed by this little detour, but it was what it was.

We then detoured to Pravets, got back on the highway, and finally reached the turnoff for Yablanitsa. Holy smokes, it felt like the ride took forever! My phone was dead by this point, so I couldn’t check the time.

No one got off in Yablanitsa. As we approached the Malak Izvor turnoff, the ticket lady caught my eye and shook her head, which is the equivalent of nodding in Bulgaria. She called to the driver to give him a heads up and I heard “bagag” (luggage). I called out that I had none (literally said “no luggage”) and she gave me a big smile even as she did a double take that I’d understood that part of the conversation. Yay for my mother tongue again!

I hopped off the bus and took off at a pretty fast clip. Its only 2KM from the junction to “downtown” Malak Izvor, so really just a stroll. A few cars passed, but I wasn’t intent on getting a lift.

The dogs were super happy to see me when I got in! I quickly changed so I could take them on a short walk and then came in to collapse with a cold beer at 6:30. Dang was it a hot one today!

Max was right that a day trip to Sofia doesn’t make sense if you’re going exploring for the first time, but it was a perfectly sensible thing to do now that I have the lay of the land and was content to just have a couple of to-dos there. The bus fare is only 10CAD roundtrip and with lifts to/from Yablanitsa and/or being able to be picked up/dropped off at the junction cutting on my travel time considerably, it makes for a very reasonable day, no worse than going on a supply run to Moose Jaw.

Today was a Good Day.

First Weekend in Sofia, Buying Groceries, the Bus Station from Hell, and the Nicest Man in Bulgaria

I knew there aren’t many buses to Teteven so I decided on Monday to aim for the second to last bus of the day, to play it safe. I had to do some serious digging on the bus station website to determine that my options were 12:30 or nearly 5PM. I didn’t want to take the chance of being stranded, so I planned my day to be on the 12:30 bus. My only real priority was going grocery shopping. This meant that when I woke up around 7:30AM desperate to go back to sleep, I didn’t. 🙂

I debated whether to take my suitcase with me or come back to the hotel to check out later and then realised that it was a no brainer. I’d brought the suitcase for the sole purpose of holding my groceries. Moreover, a quick check of the map the hotel provided showed me that there was a road just a block from the hotel that would go straight to the bus station and the grocery stores were at the halfway point. Talk about convenient!

One of my two tour guides had told me where to go for groceries downtown, Billa, and Lidl, so it had just been a matter of figuring out the closest ones, something that is not easy to do with Google Maps since the app is stupid and won’t show you the nearest results, but rather random ones. But I thankfully found the correct locations. The plan was to walk up to them to make sure they would be suitable, then head to Makis on Vitosha Boulevard for breakfast, stopping at the Central Post Office to mail Bast a post card.

The post office stop was… interesting. I walked into a cavernous room with wickets all around it, kind of like at a bank. I was ignored, of course, so I translated the signage at each wicket, trying to find one that would sell stamps. I also Googled how to say stamp in Bulgarian and came up with “marka” as being the most likely candidate. Finally, as I circled the room for the third or fourth time trying to decide who to approach to be told to get lost, a lady directly opposite the entrance motioned for me to come to her. I held up the post card I’d bought the day before and said, “I would like a stamp, please.” She sighed and reached into a desk drawer, pulling out a binder from which she extracted a sheet of stamps. After much sighing and muttering she tore some off, passed them to me, took them back, and then repeated the exercise with another binder. The stamps totaled, I believe, 1.70BGN. I only had a 20BGN note and I got the now common, “OMG, don’t you have change?!” eye roll. She didn’t have a till system, but instead reached into her own purse, pulled out her wallet, and came up with change for me! Wow. I thanked her, went out to the hall, licked the stamps, affixed them to my post card (one being upside down by accident), and dropped the card in the mail box outside. Now, to see if it gets to Virginia!

Needless to say, I was ravenous by this point and was very glad to get to Makis. The English speaking gentleman wasn’t there, but I earned a “Dobre” (the Spanish equivalent of claro, okay or got it) when I said “Bik iskal edno kaputcino c edno sandvich klasiko.” I am making progress! 😀 I didn’t like my Monday sandwich as much as my Sunday one (needed some sauce), but it was still very good!

I then headed to Billa. It’s about as close to a “proper” grocery store as you’ll get in Bulgaria, but very tiny. Like the stores in Yablanitsa and Teteven, it felt very haphazard in its layout. I circled twice before committing to purchases. I wanted to buy things like spices, sauces, and salad dressing to jazz up boring rice or veggies and also cheese and yoghurt since the store in Yablanitsa has been out of them. It wasn’t a very hot day so I wasn’t worried about my dairy going bad on the trip home. I also found some of that thick bacon at Billa! I spent about 66BGN (50CAD) on what amounted to mostly staples and things like shower gel and lotion. I even found (Greek) peanut butter! I was pretty happy with my haul, but decided that since I still had room in my suitcase, I would go check out Lidle, especially since I hadn’t found almond milk.

Lidle felt more like a North American supermarket in terms of the products available, including a lot of Tex-Mex stuff! I didn’t pick up much there, but I did snag some tortellini and what appeared to be pimento cream cheese, something I love but have a hard time finding these (spoiler: it was pimento cream cheese… but spicy!). They didn’t have almond milk either. I only spent about 20BGN there.

Grocery shopping in Bulgaria is delightful since there is food from all over Europe and labels are in a kazillion different languages. The tortellini, for example, were in Italian on the front, but the cooking instructions and ingredients on the back were in Bulgarian, Hungarian, Czech, and Romanian. Romanian is rather mutually intelligible with French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish, so I was glad to see it. 😀 Just before the till at Billa, I saw cookies with an English label clearly identifying them as being the Central and Eastern European version of McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes from the UK, but the ingredients on the back of the package were in German, Bulgarian, Czech, Hungarian, and more, with no English. I was glad for the English front since I hadn’t picked up any “treats” and I adore Jaffa Cakes. These were half the cost as the McVitie’s version, so I grabbed two packages (spoiler: they are just as good!).

It’s also interesting to see what other palates like and how they interpret various cuisines. The irony of “Mexican-style cheddar” had me chortling in the aisle. Many foods that are considered luxury imports in North America, like some premium jarred Italian sauces, are just normal goods over here and a fraction of the cost.

Grocery shopping in Sofia was a positive experience, but I’m not sure it would be worth planning a day trip there to do it again since the buses are rather erratic. I would be better off making an effort to go to Teteven.

It was 11AM when I came out of Lidl and I decided to head straight to the bus station. I knew it had good bathrooms, several restaurants, and a waiting area, so it would be worth getting there with lots of time to kill in case I had trouble finding my bus. I must be psychic…

I hailed a cab and the driver appeared put upon with taking me the couple of klicks to the bus station (really, I could have walked, but I knew I had to lug my suitcase that far once I got home so no point getting fatigued to save about 4.50CAD). We got to the station and my total was just under 6GBN. I handed the driver two 1BGN coins and a 5BGN note. When he realised I was giving him a tip, the driver’s demeanour completely changed! He had popped the truck for me to get my suitcase and now hurried to get out of his seat to pull the suitcase out for me!

I got into the station and went to the electronics departure board (very small). It listed the departures until about 1PM and there was no Teteven on it.

There are about 28 wickets for the various bus companies, each listing the towns serviced and the departure times. I went through them repeatedly and… no Teteven.

I went to the information desk and asked, “Bus to Teteven?” The woman sighed and replied in perfect English, “Figure it out yourself.” Really! And she had been equally rude to the Bulgarian ahead of me as he literally left her counter in tears! Now that I think about it, that makes me feel better…

I went to the one window where I had seen Yablanitsa listed, thinking that might be it. The woman told me, in perfect English, to go to information!

It was almost noon by this point. I pulled up the bus station website on my phone and managed to get back to the screen that had suggested to me there might be a Teteven-bound bus at 12:30. I’m telling you, if I wasn’t as comfortable as I am now reading Cyrillic, I would have been at a dead end because I only had the stress of copy and pasting to Google Translate anything I wasn’t sure about, not the stress of staring at a language that might as well have been hieroglyphs. When I got to that screen, I saw that there was another name after Teteven, Ribaritsa. I looked up at the departure board and there was Ribaritsa, at the very bottom, leaving from “sector” 32 at 12:30. I had a departure gate, but still no idea where to buy a ticket.

I went to all the windows again and did not see Ribaritsa. I decided to take a chance that I could buy a ticket from the driver and to just go to the departure spot. En route, I picked up a cheese croissant to eat on the bus (spoiler: yum!).

I got to sector 32 at 12:20, just as a bus marked Ribaritsa pulled up. Soon as the driver was available, I asked him, “To Teteven?” He said yes. So far so good! He then wanted to put my suitcase under the bus. That wouldn’t do because I wanted to get dropped off at the turnoff to the village and was sure it would be hard enough to get him to do that, never mind get out and pull out my suitcase. His helper was pretty insistent so I said, “Not Teteven, Malak Izvor.” That stopped them dead. I mimed, “Here’s Yablanitsa, here’s Teteven, here’s Malak Izvor,” and got some confused looks. The driver then become my first hero of the day when he very patiently waited for me to pull up a map on Google. By the way, Google is as slow on blazing fast Bulgarian Internet as it is on slow poke Canadian internet!

Once the map was up, I pointed to Yablantisa and said, “Bus,” then showed the bus route to Teteven. That got me a “Da.” I then showed the turn off for Malak Izvor and then said “I” and then “walked” my fingers from the turnoff to the village. He went, “Oh!” and then “Two kilometres.” I replied in the affirmative to which I earned a “Dobre!” He then tried to take my suitcase again and I let him. When he came back, I asked, “Ticket?” (which, mercifully is “bilet,” so close to the French “billet”) and he motioned for me to go in and said what sounded like conductor. I went in, got comfortable, and just before we took off, his helper handed me two tickets totally 7BGN (1BGN more than the trip to Sofia) and had change for my 20!

Knowing that I would be let off at the turnoff meant that I could sit back and enjoy my trip without worrying about getting stranded in Teteven. I read for a bit, then enjoyed the scenery. We detoured to the town of Pravets before going through Yablanitsa. No one got off there. Next stop was me!

The nicest man in Bulgaria got off the bus with me (at least, I think he did, because I have no idea where else he could have materialised from). He earns his title in that he… lugged my suitcase all the way to the village!!!!!!!!!!! He wanted to take it straight to my place, but I made him hand it over at the guest house, before the final slog, because I didn’t want to take advantage of him! He babbled to me the whole way and I just shook my head apologetically. I don’t know who was more pleased when he said, “Ulitsa?” (street) and I had an answer for him! But even better, he had no idea where my street was and with my saying, “Store, hotel, [my street name],” miming the location of each, he understood!

Just the little slog at the end was exhausting so I can imagine what shape I would have been in if I’d had to drag the suitcase the whole way (although I suspect I would have gotten a lift if I’d been on my own). The bus driver and this man both made up for a lot on Monday.

The dogs were very happy to see me when I got in and the feeling was mutual! Max had left me a list of things to add to my chore list and a note that he’d be back on Friday.

So that was my great big Sofia adventure! It broke the ice on a lot. The next thing I want to try is to take a bus to Teteven and back, but that might be very tricky and could require me to leave at the crack of dawn and not come back till early evening. I might be better off finding out how much a taxi would cost. But I’m glad I figured out the buses, ate at restaurants, and was forced to use some of the Bulgarian I’ve been stowing away in my brain.

I will be taking about a week off at the end of August (when Max will be here with his daughter), renting a car, and going on a grand tour of Bulgaria. In the meantime, I will try to get out into the environs a bit and possibly return to Sofia one more time. I can’t believe we’re already three weeks into July! I knew my time here would fly by!