Wednesday, April 11, 2012

So far, Sofia, so good

The "Sofia" chapter of this story is not done, but now's as good a time as any to upload some photos.

I landed in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, on Monday. Went to the home of my Couchsurfing hosts Petar and Stoyanka, in Lyulin, which is a district a few km from the center of Sofia. It looks a little like this:

Looks so Soviet-era! Big concrete block buildings as far as the eye can see! What the hell, communism. The apartments are small and the buildings look kind of worn-down. On the upside, once you know where you're going, it's not bad. It's dense, anyway, so there are little squares with places to eat and supermarkets and stuff, and there are a lot of people walking around. Beats US suburbs in that sense. Still, it's not really a "neighborhood" or a "suburb"; more like a "housing complex."

Petar and Stoyanka (and their young daughter Vesi, and Stoyanka's mother) are great hosts. They've really made me feel at home here, even though I sort of landed with no idea what to do besides a vague mission to buy a motorcycle and not much of a notion of how to do that. I've met another fellow, Ilian, who may be able to help with the motorcycle, and in the meantime, Petar and Stoyanka have supplied me with a room and lots of food, even in their small apartment. So generous!

The main part of Sofia, however, is pretty:

(the Free Sofia Tour came highly recommended. it was pretty good.)

It's an old place: Roman, medieval, Ottoman-Turk era, communist-era, and modern.

Fun Fact #1. In communist times, there was one big "department store" that sold everything. Foods like sugar, appliances, etc. I guess it used to be a big deal if you lived out in the country to come into the city and buy something. Anything! There weren't things all over the place!

Fun Fact #2. After communist times, they tore down all the Lenin statues, which left them with empty spaces, so they were trying to fill them. They came up with this lady on a pedestal in the right of this photo (right under the traffic light):

Why? Because she's St. Sophia. This is such a mess:
- St. Sophia was Italian, not even a little bit Bulgarian
- the city of Sofia is named after its Hagia Sofia church (not to be confused with the one in Istanbul), not St. Sophia, because she's not even a little bit Bulgarian
- St. Sophia became a saint because the Romans murdered her three daughters when they wouldn't convert to Roman pagan ways and she died of grief; this is not the triumphant statue you want above your city
- they put a bird on her left arm and some leafy thing in her right hand; the leafy thing symbolizes victory (the opposite of St. Sophia) and the bird is some other pagan symbol (which annoyed Christians)
- the Christians were further angered that she shows a bit too much cleavage.

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