Free Plovdiv Walking Tour

I was feeling pretty burnt out by late afternoon yesterday, but really wanted to do the free Plovdiv walking tour straight away from 6PM to 8:30PM as a) it would be cooler than between 11AM and 1:30PM and b) so that my time would be my own on Thursday. I knew about this tour because I did the free tour in Sofia.

My post from yesterday left off just before the tour, but I forgot to mention something. As I headed for the tour, I started to feel a bad headache coming on, a combination of too little sleep and too much heat. There are several pharmacies along the main pedestrian street (Knyaz Alexander) so I decided to try again to find some nurofen (ibuprofen). Every place I’d been to so far had at least some service in English, so I asked the pharmacist if she spoke English and she said no! A little taken aback, I then said, “Nurofen?” and she replied, “Yes! Express?” I figured that had to be the fast acting formula, so I said yes. I examined the box she handed me to make sure it was ibuprofen, which it was. It was about 5CAD for 10 gel tablets, which sounds expensive to me, but I was in pain! I then went to sit by the fountain to scour the informational pamphlet in the box to find the dosage. It was all in Bulgarian, of course, but I could recognise numbers as they are written like ours and also the words “hour” and “day.” So even if I couldn’t understand anything else, I knew I was at the dosage section and that I could take one tablet every six hours, with no more than three tablets per day. So I took one and it worked almost immediately. I was really impressed!

So now, the tour. First off, there is no way I can do justice to everything I heard yesterday. Bulgaria’s history is incredibly long and convoluted and each one of you has a different amount of world history knowledge. I got a lot out of the tour, more than can convey here. I hope you will enjoy the pictures and go do your own research if you want more in depth information. I will say that Plovdiv claims to be the longest continually inhabited city in Europe. That’s contested, but what is not is that Plovdiv is 6,000 years old. I can’t even wrap my brain around that! Plovdiv was built over and around seven hills, but there are only six left, with the seventh one mined for building materials. The city was once known as Philippopolis (city of Phillip) and it is the second largest city in Bulgaria.

Our tour started in front of the municipality building at button plaza. These seats are supposed to represent buttons. Our guide, Lora, admitted that she had yet to have a group that saw buttons out of these things!

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We then went to one of Plovdiv’s seven hills to look at some commissioned graffiti. You can see that there are a lot of faces, and these are all important figures of Bulgarian history. I was rather amused that the artist claimed to have been inspired by Mount Rushmore.

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Across the street is more commissioned graffiti.

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This is Vanga, Bulgaria’s “Nostradamus.” Apparently, a lot of her predictions have come true and recently the news here proclaimed that she foresaw that Barack Obama would be the last US president…

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We then headed back down to Knyaz Alexander. This staircase is across Knyaz Alexander from the street my hostel is on. This is a statue of local vagrant Miljo (Mil-yo). He was rather well loved figure in Plovdiv, a little deaf and not right in the head, but very funny. I think it says a lot about the character of the city that he was immortalised in bronze. His knees are shiny because local lore is that if you rub them as you whisper a wish in his ear, your wish will come true!

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Interesting spelling. They’ve used the Serbian J for the “y as in yoyo” sound.

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Here’s the mosque again. I asked yesterday if anyone could tell what’s unusual about it and why and I didn’t get any guesses. The answer is that the mosque is not round and does not have a dome. This is because it was built on the ruins of a church.

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This is a miniature representation of the ancient Roman stadium (not to be confused with the theatre!). It was discovered sometime in the 20th century and excavating the whole thing would have been too costly because of all the construction above it. So only the very end (the rounded bit) is excavated.

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Amazing!

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We then went into a neighbourhood called The Trap (Kapana). This used to be an area full of shops, way back in ancient times. The buildings were all appropriated by the government during the socialist era and trying to sort out ownership after 1989 and the fall of Communism was such a mess that many of the buildings were left to ruin. Now, efforts are being made to revitalise the neighbourhood since money is being pumped into Plovdiv as it was named European Capital of Culture for 2019. There are two guesses as to how the neighbourhood got its name. One is that it is very easy to get lost in it. The other is that there were so many shops it was impossible to get out without spending money!

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We then started to climb UP to the old part of the city.

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This is one of two tourist information centres. The building you see on the right is the Ethnographic Museum (more on that later).

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Eastern Gate.

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This is a “gossip tower,” where ladies would gather to watch what was going on in the streets.

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The Ethnographic Museum was highly recommended to us by our guide, but, spoiler, when I went today it was closed because of renovations.

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We went to the top of Nebet Hill to watch part of the sunset and to see some of the other hills. On the left here you can see Clock Tower Hill (all the way to the left are the TV satellites and almost in the middle of the picture is the eponymous clock tower). The other hill was considered a wild place full of snakes. To the right of that is another hill with a giant statue on it.

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Looking across the Maritza River to “new Plovdiv.” My guide told me not to waste my precious time in Plovdiv going over there.

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An interesting hole in the ground. 🙂

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We came back down the hill and passed the church of St. Constantine and Elena. We will return here. 🙂

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I then completely geeked out when we stopped at the house where famed French poet Lamartine stopped for three days on his way back to France from the Orient. He is one of my favourite poets!

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I immediately emailed my mother to share these pictures and this is what she had to say (translated):

“Plovdiv is 2,400KM from Pars, 23 hours by car on highways. Can you imagine the time spent traveling in the olden days? In 1833, we were on boats and horses, on bicycles and some richer countries had trains, never mind all the walking that was done.”

I replied, “We travel fast today, but do we really see anything?”

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Right before the ancient Roman theatre, we stopped in front of this statue. I wish I could remember his name. He was a violinist and irreverent comedian who had no fear of speaking out against the socialist regime. He was made to disappear to a labour camp, where he survived 11 days. His statue is meant to represent all those artists and cultural icons lost to this dark period of Bulgaria’s history. I have to say that I am impressed by how Bulgaria does not shy away from the darker side of its history

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The ancient Roman theatre at last! This venue is still used for concerts. Our guide says that the acoustics are amazing and you can’t even hear the traffic from the boulevard down below when a show is going on!

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I had seen this house from below and was glad to get a closer look at it.

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We finished our tour at a church where we learned a bit about the reunification of Bulgaria in the 19th century. More on that later as I went to the reunification history museum today.

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From this church, it was a very short walk back down to Knyaz Alexander. I was famished, but also exhausted so I just wanted something quick and maybe an ice cream. Earlier, I’d spotted a donair place across from the sushi restaurant, so I headed there. I ordered a small donair on “Arabic bread” for a mere 2BGN. The cashier asked me if I wanted tomato and I made a motion that everyone I’ve made it to has thus far understood to be, “Give me everything.” My sandwich was really good! Just the right size, with lots of seasoned chicken, fresh veggies, and the right amount of garlic sauce. Yum! I then got a strawberry gelato for the two block walk back to the hostel.

My first few hours in Plovdiv were very positive. I’d read many times that Plovdiv is more tourist friendly than is Sofia and has more to recommend it. I tried to go to both cities with as open a mind as I could, but I have to say that I agree with those critiques… Plovdiv just felt more welcoming. More in my next post!

Maluk Izvor to Plovdiv

I was really starting to wonder if I was ever going to make it away this week. I really need to do a blog post about the reality of “being able to work from anywhere.” But I managed to wrap up most of my work last night and only had to do a small job this morning. I woke up around 6:30 and, really, I just wanted to go back to sleep, but I had to get up if I wanted to do that job and still be on the road before noon. One good thing about being up that early was that it was my turn to roust the dogs after all the times they’ve woken me up, bwa ha ha.

We got back by 7:30 and then I did the unusual thing of going right to work without having my coffee first. You can’t really sip a drink and transcribe effectively at the same time, but that’s what I did. I was bringing the computer with me and it’s the first thing that needs to be packed into my bag, so I couldn’t get anything else done until the work was sent off.

I was finally done around 9:00 and got to work packing and tidying up the house. I wanted to leave with just my little backpack and my purse, so it was quite an effort to whittle down my things to just what would fit in those two bags. I’ll have a lot of hand laundry to do while I’m on the go and will be glad to see the washing machine on Tuesday!

I knew there were a couple of buses leaving Yablanitsa around 11:00 and that the next ones weren’t till just past 2:00. Max offered to take me into Yablanitsa, so I asked him to leave around 10:30 and he obliged. We got into “Yab” as a bus was pulling away. The direction it was going, Max thought it might be going to Sofia. I bolted out of the car and a lady on the sidewalk yelled to me, “To Sofia?!” and I replied yes. She flagged the bus down for me. WOW. So that got me on the road to Sofia at 10:45.

We took a different route in than I’m used to and it was slower even if we had the same number of stops. So we didn’t get to Sofia until 12:15. I had a look at the electronic board and saw that there was a Vitosha company bus to Plovdiv leaving at 12:30 from sector six. Talk about good timing! I used the bathroom and then went to look for the Vitosha kiosk so I could buy my ticket. As it turned out, it was the first one as I came out of the bathroom. Easy! But only because I could read Cyrillic. Otherwise, I’d probably still be in Sofia… My ticket was 14BGN. I grabbed a croissant for a snack and headed for the bus.

There, a man looked at my ticket and mumbled something as he pointed to my croissant. I think he was telling me no food on the bus. I couldn’t get him to say anything clearer and I knew I had a few minutes, so I hurriedly ate it and then he let me on…

The ride to Plovdiv was surprising. I expected a lot of “civilisation’ between the two cities, but no. How can there be so much space in such a small country?!

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We pulled into Plovdiv at 2:30, so the ride was exactly four hours door-to-door from home, as I’d been told it would be. By car, though, Plovdiv is only two hours away.

It was only 1.5KM to my hostel from the bus station, and most of that was through a park, so I decided to walk. My phone did a good job of getting me there.

I passed Plovidiv’s “Singing Fountains.” Not quite as impressive as those at the Bellagio, but the air coming off the water was wonderfully cool. Keep reading for visual proof of how hot it was…

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I made it to the hostel I’d booked at for a mere 15CAD per night. The reviews for it were mixed, but most agreed that the bathroom was unacceptable. They didn’t have any payment information for me, so I decided to check it out and if it was bad, I’d go to the next one on my list, for 22CAD per night (both prices for a private room with a shared bath). Well, the first hostel was gross, so I went around the corner to the next one, which was brand new. Worth the extra 20CAD!

Here is the outside. From what I’ve read about European “guest houses” or hostels, this is fairly typical in that the hostel is just one floor of the building. I wasn’t sure I was at the right place and the gentleman in the white shirt that you can just barely see asked me, “Hotel?” and when I said yes, he pointed upwards.

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The entrance was rather off-putting! When I came in tonight, it was pitch dark and I had to use my iPhone flashlight!

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At the end of the corridor, you turn right to get to these stairs:

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And then, you follow the instructions on the steps. They amused me! Read the steps from the bottom of the photos up.

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So the top step in this photo says, “Keep…”

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And that continues with, “Walking. You are are awesome.” LOL

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After three flights, I finally got the first sign telling me that I was, indeed at the right place!

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There was a fresh paint job here.

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This is what greeted me at the top of the building (fourth floor). Reception area ahead of me, bathrooms to the left, my room (I would soon learn) to the right.

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Kitchen to the right of the entrance (behind my room). I really appreciate the cold water!

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Ladies Italian-style shower room. I was surprised that the vanity and toilet barely get wet after a shower. The hostel provided shower shoes! I had my own, but I do use them outside, so theirs are preferable since the bottoms aren’t dirty.

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My room is marked staff…

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It is tiny.

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But satisfactorily appointed for my needs. I like the big wardrobe.

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The door makes me think of the floors in the new part of C&C’s house!

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View from my dormer:

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There was a good breeze coming from the window and a fan so the room was not as hot as one would expect.

 

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I wanted to go exploring, but was shocked by how inappropriately dressed I was for the weather — in a tee-shirt and long skirt! My clothes felt so heavy and sticky and I wished I had a light sundress. And then, I remembered I had one! I’d packed my Chrysalis cardi in case of cool weather. It was time to try it out in dress mode! Yes, ladies, I will do a proper post about this item. I’m getting close to being ready for that. 🙂 This is the cardi styled as a “Grecian tunic.”

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Can you hear my sigh of relief at getting into something so light and breezy?! It looks pretty cute with my Ipanemas, too!

It was almost four at this point. I scrapped my plans for a late lunch and decided to have an early dinner, then get a snack after my walking tour.

The hostel is right off the main street. Here I am at one end of that near the Roman stadium (not to be confused with the Roman theatre). I will have more details and pictures when I do my post on the walking tour.

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The largest mosque in Plovdiv. Can you tell what is so odd about it? If so, can you explain why that is? The palm trees are NOT native to Bulgaria. 🙂

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I passed three thermometres that put the temperature at 46C. 115. OMG.

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Tunnel under the Roman theatre…

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Neat house at the top of the hill (I’ll have a better shot of it in my next post!).

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Right outside my hostel… I am going to check it out. 😀

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One really annoying thing about the drive to Plovdiv was that every few kilometres, there was a giant billboard announcing the “Happy Grill” restaurant chain’s sushi menu! We passed at least six! So you can imagine what I wanted for my late lunch! There are tons of Happy Grills all over Bulgaria, so I wasn’t surprised when I found one two blocks from my hostel. I got prompt and excellent service in English and asked for a big beer! The sushi menu was interesting (I particularly liked the idea of the Mexican roll featuring cheddar), but promising. I ordered two rolls (one with mango and shrimp, the other more traditional with just raw fish (tuna, salmon, sea bass), seaweed, and rice) for a total of eight pieces and they were really good! Add in the ginger and the soy sauce and this was better sushi than I’ve had in Mexico. I would not hesitate to eat sushi at another Happy Grill. But it wasn’t quite enough and I debated whether to order another roll or dessert. The suggestion that I try the Oreo cheesecake did me in. So I had that with an espresso. 🙂

I went back to the hostel to change into my walking sandals and to double check the start point for the walking tour, which was just past the Happy Grill restaurant. I got there around 5:45, with the tour starting at 6:00.

This is Button Plaza (you’ll learn why tomorrow) and is a very popular meeting place for locals.

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Behind it is the municipality building (town hall).

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As I waited for our guide, I spotted Atlas on a rooftop.

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That’s it for tonight. It’s crazy late!

First Weekend in Sofia, First Evening and Morning

This post will share some general thoughts about my weekend in Sofia and then I will do a couple more posts about the tours I did on Sunday. I did some wandering around on my own when I arrived Saturday and saw some things that I revisited on Sunday. So future posts will have more details on some of the things I photographed in this post, which covers up to 11AM Sunday morning, ie. my departure from Malak Izvor, the ride to Sofia, my arrival in Sofia, the hotel, my first evening, and my first morning.

So Max showed up as promised Saturday morning. We discussed a few things, then he left me to book a hotel before driving me into Yablanitsa to catch a bus. I was surprised by how hard it was to find a hotel. I’m past the point of wanting to sleep in a dorm or in a roach motel and all the reviews for anything affordable were offputting. I finally found something that had the right mix of location, price, and positive reviews. More on the hotel in a few paragraphs. 🙂

Max thought there was a bus at 1PM, but there wasn’t… There are a couple of signs around the plaza in Yablanitsa showing the schedule and one of them had the 1PM bus crossed out. Damn. I managed to decipher the sign and figured out that there should be another bus at 2:15, so I sat down on a bench for a long wait. An old man came to me multiple times offering me, I eventually figured out, a lift to Sofia, but I wasn’t that desperate. It was just too odd!

Thankfully, the 2:15 bus did materialise! It was a whopping 6BGN/4.50CAD to go to Sofia. I should stress that I’m being sarcastic!

Off we went. At first, the scenery reminded me of the Okanagan.

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But then, it got greener and more lush.

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The villages all looked the same, white houses with orange roofs.

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All the signage on the bus was en français.

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I don’t know if all of Bulgaria looks like this, but, dang!

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See what I meant about all the villages looking the same?

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Approaching Sofia, we passed immense sunflower fields.

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The bus had an ashtray!

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Coming into Sofia, I saw a restaurant menu that made me hungry. The third item is what caught my attention, пица — peetsa. 🙂

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I arrived at the huge and still fairly new Централна Автогара — Centralna Avtogara — the bus station. From there, I got a taxi to my hotel. I’d done my research on taxis and knew not to get in one without posted prices and a working metre. The price was 0.79BGN/KM and I’d calculated it shouldn’t cost more than 5BGN to get to my hotel… I was right! I was so pleased that taxis are as cheap as I’d been told they would be. Here is a map of my universe this weekend:

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So I stayed at Hotel Zenith. The location was absolutely fantastic, just 10 minutes or so walking from nearly anything you’d want to see in Sofia, but on a quiet street. The staff all speak English. I forgot to grab a picture of the outside, but it’s really unassuming, just a small sign saying “Hotel Zenith.” The carpet inside is ugly, but the hotel is new and clean:

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Here’s my room:

I hadn’t had lunch and it was almost 5PM by this point. Famished doesn’t even begin to describe my mood. I decided to head to Vitosha Boulevard, Sofia’s pedestrian street, as I figured it would be my best bet for finding food quickly.

I have no idea how I picked the restaurant I did, but it might have had something to do with the fact that someone asked, in English, if they could help me. I was seated and given a huge menu, in English, with pictures. It was more like a catalogue! They had everything from burgers to pizza to sushi!

I’ve been meat deprived since I got here, so I decided to take a chance on their bacon cheeseburger. I didn’t bother with the fries, but, damn, the burger was good! Look at that thick bacon! This was exactly what I needed. I asked for no mayo on the burger and it came with ketchup. Not my first choice, but mustard is not common here so I didn’t even try. I like dill pickles now, so I liked the added flavour in the burger. The meat was seasoned, too. A great burger by any standards.

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The restaurant served gelato and I wanted some for dessert, but had no luck getting a dessert menu. So I decided to settle up and look for ice cream elsewhere. I did a quick Google and learned “smetkata, molya,” which means “the check, please.” I then walked around a bit and discovered there were at least a half dozen other gelato places on Vitosha. I picked one at random and got a huge chocolate waffle cone, figuring it was my belated lunch. 🙂

I passed a telenor store and popped in to buy some top up cards for my phone. I have not, and probably will never, figure out their pay as you go system, so please don’t ask about it. 😀 As far as I understand it, it’s like in Mexico, where you put money on your account and buy various packages. Because I only use my phone when I’m in town, I’ve just been putting 10BGN on my phone and using it until I run out. Probably not the least expensive way of doing it, but it’s been working fine. I’ve only spent 36BGN for my phone since I got here, and that’s, I’m told, super expensive compared to having an actual plan. Of that 36, I still have money on my phone and I have a 10BGN top up card I still haven’t used. The folks in this store was fantastic and went out of their way to find someone who spoke a smidgen of English even if what I wanted could easily be done with a bit of miming and holding up fingers.

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It started to pour when I came out of the store. And I’d left my raincoat at the hotel! Thankfully, I was wearing my wonderful Ipanema‘s, so I didn’t care if my shoes got wet.

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It ended up raining on and off for a bit longer, but I just got wet once the initial deluge was done.

I passed the courthouse (had to translate that from the French for a second — like in French, it’s a “palace of justice” in Bulgarian), and this would end up being an important landmark since the walking tours started from here.

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I think I have an Irish pub radar. Remember that I found one in Mérida too!

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Bulgarians, like Mexicans, apparently like cream cheese in their sushi. *growls*

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Sofia has a tram system.

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Holy Sunday Church. We will return. 🙂

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I liked the paint job on this building.

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I passed many Mac stores in Sofia, including one almost right next door to the hotel. Didn’t seen any PC stores…

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That’s about the same price as I paid for my 13″ MBA.

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Sofia is full of contrasting architecture like this.

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Sofia has a fairly recent subway system that is expanding.

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This is the south end of Vitosha Boulevard.

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We will come back to this. 🙂

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This is the cultural centre where there are exhibitions and business meetings.

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Mount Vitosha. Wow! I knew it was close to the city, but not that close! Very popular for skiing in the winter.

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So many billboards atop buildings.

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This Starbucks is right by my hotel and I’m proud to say I did not make use of it even though finding other coffee was a challenge (there is coffee everywhere, but I haven’t yet figured out the etiquette for cafes).

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I got in around 8PM Saturday night and went to bed around 11PM. I didn’t sleep nearly as well as I would have expected, considering how comfortable the bed was. I didn’t get up till 9AM on Sunday, with my tour being at 11AM.

I went to Vitosha Boulevard in search of breakfast. I ended up having all my meals there because it was the easiest option, if not the cheapest. I walked around for a bit until I saw a sandwich shop, Makis, that didn’t look too intimidating. They had a beautiful display of fresh sandwiches and a full coffee menu. I ordered a cappuccino and their Makis sandwich, which had ham and cheddar. It was a bit of a heavy meal, but I knew I’d be walking it off!

Let’s do a parenthesis here to talk about the value of learning to read Cyrillic before coming to Bulgaria (or Russia or Serbia or Ukraine or…). It is amazing how many words sound like English, especially on a menu. If you can read Bulgarian, you won’t go hungry. You might not get what you want, but you can very likely find something you like.

Examples:

бургер — burger

дунер — duner (donair)

пица — peetsa (pizza)

хот дог — hot dog

Чедар — chedar (cheddar cheese)

сандвич — sandvich (sandwich)

салам — salam (salami)

супа — soopa (soup)

салата — salata (salad)

I had fun reading everything I could see on Sunday and made out that this is the Sofia Hotel Balkan… then noticed the English next to it. LOL

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I thought this luggage was well designed. Notice the built in zipper lock:

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Pedestrians are controlled much like in London, with barriers to keep them from crossing streets where they’re not supposed to. For many “scary” intersections, there is actually a pedestrian underground passage, where you’ll find shops and restaurants.

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I had no idea how important these three buildings are. We’ll come back. 🙂

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McDonald’s was the first international company to take a chance on Bulgaria in the 1990s and it bought up the best locations in Sofia. There are now a lot of the restaurants around the city, but they’re not a popular chain.

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This is what the word Russian looks like in Russian. 🙂 This phrase is Russian, not Bulgarian, and it says “Russian Standard Vodka.” What did I tell you about learning to read one Cyrillic language being the key to the others? 🙂

 

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This is another Cyrillic font and it gives me a major headache! In this one, the m is the T sound (Т), the u is the I sound (И), and the g is the D sound (Д). WTFBBQ, as my best friend would say.

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Looking down Vitosha Boulevard to Mount Vitosha.

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Before I close up this novel and move onto the walking tours, here are some general thoughts on Sofia:

-The touristy part is very walkable and feels safe, but I was warned about pickpockets being abundant. I watched my purse! The city is pretty clean, but there is a lot of graffiti. I was struck by how varied the architecture is.

-I was warned by the Brits I know here that customer service in Bulgaria is very “European,” ie. there is very little. It was intimidating enough to go into a restaurant where I don’t speak the language, but being treated like a pest or ignored on top of that was a bit much. I did the path of least resistance thing my whole weekend. I just tried one restaurant after another until I got service. Makis sandwich shop was my favourite place as they were really nice. I ended up going again on Monday morning and the English-speaking guy wasn’t there, but the gal let me muddle through in Bulgarian and it was fine. It would be really nice to get someone to show me how to get seated at a restaurant since I passed a lot of nice little cafes where I would have liked to enjoy a coffee, but sitting myself down, saying “excuse me,” and trying to order at the bar did not produce results. The gelato place was also really good and even though they were more expensive than other shops, I went back several times. 🙂

-I found being in Sofia was exhausting because of how much work it was to do everything when you don’t really speak the language, but at the same time, it was easier than in Yablanitsa because there’s more of everything. I could wait until I found what I wanted, be it a bathroom, water, or meal, in an accessible and non-intimidating location. But for being a capital city in an EU country, I expcted a bit more effort to help tourists. I’ll do a write-up of my bus station adventure in a future post…

-Sofia is apparently the most expensive place in Bulgaria and Vitosha Boulevard is the most expensive place in Sofia. I found both to be inexpensive! I didn’t worry about prices at all.

A Day at the British Museum

The only thing on the plate for today was to spend it at the British Museum! Getting there was super easy. I just had to take the overground from Kensal Green to Euston Station, then walk a few blocks down Gower Street. Since the exterior set for “Sherlock” was literally on my route, with no detours, I stopped for a picture and to have breakfast at Speedy’s Cafe, also featured on the show.

I got to the museum just before 11AM. I had a plan to tackle it. I would start with what I came to see, the Rosetta Stone and the Egyptian artifacts, then work my way down from the top. Ha ha ha ha ha. The British Museum is a warren of rooms and staircases and it was impossible create any sort of logical path through it. I ended up doing the museum very haphazardly, often doubling back multiple times to the same rooms by a different staircase. I’m pretty sure I got to every room, but, obviously, I did not read everything!

I had lunch in the Great Court on the ground floor, a wonderfully flavourful baguette loaded with cheese, pickled onions, Dijon, and more. I could not believe how good it was! A few hours after that, my aching legs shaky, I went to the Great Court restaurant upstairs to have a cream tea. As research had told me, service was dire, but it was nice to sit for almost an hour with my treat and work on my Bulgarian. 🙂 A cream tea is a pot of tea with scones, jam, and Devonshire (clotted) cream. I have a full afternoon tea booked for tomorrow!

I stayed at the museum almost right to closing, going back to see things in less crowded conditions. The order of my pictures will reflect that.

The British Museum was everything I’d dreamt it would be and MORE! One thing that really delighted me was that there were “touch stations,” where you could handle real ancient artifacts.

After the museum, I thought of doing “something else,” then realised that I was completely tuckered. So I headed home, going out again about an hour later to the Kensal Rise high road to get some fish and chips for dinner. That walk did me in. My legs are sore!

Tomorrow is going to be interesting because of my Oyster/public transportation problem. More on that after the pictures. I’ve got some notes, but the pictures are more meant to be things that caught my attention than a way to educate my readers. 🙂

So my Oyster problem. The Oyster card is a prepaid card. You tap it when you start a journey and tap it at the end and whatever your fare is gets deducted from your card balance. I only had enough money left to travel today. I tried to “top up” three times today and each time, the transaction failed. No one at the ticket booths could help me. I called the bank and they said that the money was charged. I called Oyster (yay for Skype on both accounts) and they said there was nothing to do for me since they only refund money to UK residents with a bank account here. So now, I’m out about 60CAD (!!!), although I’m pretty sure I can get my money back by filing a fraud report with CIBC once the transactions post, although that will very likely take months to sort out. But what do I do tomorrow since there’s not enough money on my account to go anywhere? Needless to say, I’m not giving Transport for London my credit card again! Public transit in London is excellent, but you have to be very self-sufficient as there is no help available and the payment system is unnecessarily complicated and convoluted. What I will try tomorrow is a newsagent on the Kensal Green high street who has an Oyster symbol. Maybe I’ll be able to pay with cash…

A Canadian in Belgravia

From the London Eye, I headed back towards the Palace of Westminster to just scope out the area, see what I would come across, and find some lunch. Then, I would head back to Baker Street in the late afternoon to view Madame Tussaud’s, have supper, and then return home.

From the Eye, I headed back towards Jubilee Bridge. The carousel was open.

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This Shakespeare quote about the Thames made me laugh.

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Final glimpse!

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Well said…

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Lots of this signage today. I did better today than I did my first day in Glasgow when I forgot to do this and almost got creamed. I had a Canadian flag on my bag and the driver screamed at me to go back to Canada if I didn’t know how to cross a street!

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The UK’s 24 Sussex Drive and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. LOTS of security, of course! But as long as you were polite and just taking pictures, the police were cool.

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These arches are at the Treasury.

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A few people told me to view the Churchill War Rooms, but they’re rather expensive and the queue was almost three blocks long!

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Westminster Abbey.

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I literally stumbled onto New Scotland Yard on my way to Buckingham Palace.

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I got a chuckle at seeing this House of Fraser, a department store. When I was in the larger cities in Scotland, House of Fraser was always my reference point. I would see people walking with its bright red bag and gauge where the store was in relation to where they were coming from, then orientate myself.

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Vicky, this will have to do you instead of a map. Get on Google! 😉

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Aaaaand Buckingham Palace. Not too many people today.

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Looking towards St. James’s Park.

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I actually saw the Queen come out of the Palace of Holyroodhouse when I was in Edinburgh! She’s tiny!

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I decided to head through Belgravia to Hyde Park.

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There is a public transportation stop called Canada Water?!

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I had my first 99 Flake! It was £1.50 outside Hyde Park, the cheapest Flake I’d seen yet!

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Hyde Park is huge. I just strolled along the edge since I was getting desperate for lunch.

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Came out of the park in front of a pub. How convenient! It was the Paxton’s Head in Knightbridge. I was famished and wanted something of the stick to your ribs variety. Their sausage and mash with loads of yummy gravy and sweet onion chutney at £8.99 appeared to be the best value to fill that need. I asked for a beer to go with it and the bartender actually poured me a decent sized sampler! It was a slightly bitter larger I knew would go well with my meal, so I ordered a half pint. Lunch was really yummy. I wanted to lick the plate. 😀

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I was fading by this point and almost ready to head to Madame Tussaud’s. I passed a pink cab, complete with female driver, on the way to the Knightsbridge Tube station.

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After consulting a map, I decided to make one more stop, Harrods Department Store.

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Here is its famous Egyptian staircase. So gorgeous!

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The store is very, very, very posh and carries everything you can imagine. My neighbour Caroline joked the other day that the only thing she could afford at Harrods was one cookie. She wasn’t exaggerating! I didn’t leave empty handed, though…

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I wanted a Moleskine notebook for travels, but never got around to picking one up. The kind I wanted was £10.95, a better deal than if I’d bought it in Canada! I did comparison shop and was shocked that the next notebook I picked up was priced at over £300 and it was even’t even leather!

Harrods apparently has a strict dress code, something I was not aware of. I must have looked okay in my skirt, sandals, and rain coat. My coat, by the way, is perfect for English weather! I remembered from my time in Scotland that a long-sleeved teeshirt is more appropriate to the climate and that a windbreaker is often all that’s needed versus a coat. This applies to London as well (I’m visiting at the same time of year). Even when the bitterest wind blew off the Thames today, I was very comfortable without having to drag a heavy coat with me.

When I was done at Harrods, I was almost at the end of my energy reserves for the day, but wanted to visit Madame Tussaud’s. I rode the Piccadilly line to Green Park (Buckingham Palace) and then switched to the Jubilee line to Baker Street. If I hadn’t been going to Madame Tussaud’s, I would have continued on the Piccadilly line to Oxford Circle and switched to the Bakerloo line to get me straight to Queen’s Park.

Just in case I had any doubt I came out of the correct Tube station…

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