Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Bulgaria September 2022

If you are reading this, Alin our driver, picked us up in his Toyota Prius. Which means we are on our way to Sofia, Bulgaria. This will be our fourth country for this trip, bringing my total to 74. 

Kudos to Alin, he drove us from Brasov, Romania to Sofia, Bulgaria. We left at 8:00 am and arrived at 7:30 pm.

The craziest part of the drive was the border crossing. Romania and Bulgaria are in the European Union but not in the same status (above my pay grade). When crossing from one country to the other, you go through customs and immigration. For passenger cars, this is only a formality that takes five to ten minutes. For trucks, it may take days. The line of trucks was ten kilometers long.


We made several pitstops, the longest was for lunch at Shtastliveca ("The Lucky One") in a small hilltop town in Bulgaria called Veliko T─ârnovo.
We got a text from Alin, he got back to Brasov at 4:00 am.
Today, our first full day in Sofia we have a cooking class with Beni.
We walked over to our meeting point, Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. On the way, we passed a swap meet where they had some cool old cameras. We were told they were all functioning.
We met Beni at 11:00 am. She took us to the butcher and vegetable market to gather what we would need for class.
We will be making Moussaka, a traditional Bulgarian meat dish as well a salad.
Once the shopping was done, we walked to Beni’s apartment which she shares with her cat Miss. Greta.
We learned a lot about Bulgarian traditions, made a great meal, and enjoyed eating it.
Of course, Miss. Greta had to join us for lunch.
Next on the agenda is a Graffiti Tour, not until 6:00 pm.
We walked over to our meeting place for our Graffiti Art Tour, the Saint Sofia Statue, on the way we passed the parliament building.
Our guide, Tsvetan gave us a detailed history of Street Art. We learned that it started in New York City with vandals tagging buildings and evolved into street art and murals. Though Tsvetan said the movement started in New York City, he agreed with me that Philadelphia also has a claim to the origins of this art form.
In Sofia, Tsvetan's organization is working with artists, building owners, and the city council to use street art as a way to beautify the city.
As we walked through the city, we came across an area where they found Roman Ruins while building the subway.
The artists put some meaning into the art, though the meaning is not always clear.
Almost all the art is done with spray paint over multiple days. Sometimes by a single artist, and sometimes by a group of artists.
The walk was two hours, and we only saw a sampling of the street art in Sofia.
This last mural was painted on the side of the firehouse for their 100th birthday. If you look closely at the top, they are firefighters around the candle singing happy birthday.
What a great tour.
Today is the first day of school for the children of Bulgaria. On this special day, the younger kids get to drive their toy cars and motorcycles to school. They close the road for this. It is a big parade. Here is the school parking lot.
Before our tour, we walked through the park to see some water fountains.
If you look in the background of this picture, you will see American Capitalism is on bright display. Please let me know if you spot it.
We met for our tour at 11:00. This is a walking tour through Sofia.
We saw several churches, the last operating Muslim Mosque, and the largest Synagogue in all the Balkans.
The tour was informative. They say the city of Sofia has been inhabited for over 6,000 years. Many of the buildings we saw are built on top of the foundations of past civilizations.
We stopped by the presidential palace. This building is strictly used as an office. The president does not live here.
Behind the palace are some Roman Ruins. They believe this is the oldest building in all of Europe with the original roof.
We stopped by the national theater before ending at the orthodox cathedral we saw yesterday.
Today we went in and took some photos before we were kicked out. No Photos Allowed.
After lunch, we went back to visit the Synagogue. As I mentioned, this is the largest Synagogue in all of the Balkans. The Jewish People of Bulgaria faired a bit better than most of the Jewish People in this area.
On the way, I had to stop and get a Bulgarian Doughnut from the Bulgarian Doughnut Lady.
Before World War Two, 50,000 Jewish People were living in Bulgaria. They had immigrated from Spain. Or one might say they were expelled from Spain.
While Bulgaria allied with the Germans, the King of Bulgaria kept procrastinating sending the Jewish People off to the concentration camps. Finally, the war ended. Bulgarians claim to be the only country on the wrong side of history that spared the Jewish People.
Though things did not get better, once the Soviet Union took control of Bulgaria, all but 5,000 of the Bulgarian Jewish population immigrated to Israel.
After the visit to the synagogue, we stopped at a wine bar to celebrate our last night in Sofia and Bulgaria.
If you are reading this, we are on our way to North Macedonia.

Cheers

DUG

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