Better second time round

Trip Start Feb 04, 2007
Trip End Mar 09, 2008

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Flag of Bulgaria  ,
Sunday, January 6, 2008

I'm not sure if it was the change of accommodation or the bright blue sky accompanied by non-stop sunshine but Sofia was really nice this time around.  I know my last entry describes it as drab-ville (which is the reason we opted to stay only 1.5 days before our flight) but if this were the only time I had seen the place I would think it was a pretty nice spot.

Perhaps it was because Sofia was draped in a brilliant white cleansing curtain of snow which covered the litter and the city's rough edge.  Perhaps the cold weather has deterred the beggars and petty criminals who formerly congregated on street corners.  Perhaps it was because it was the first day, in what seems like years, that we have experienced an above zero temperature.  [A sweltering 5 whole degrees!]  Perhaps it was because sunshine really does affect your overall outlook.  Who knows why but Sofia has really improved in the last few months.

We self-navigated via the Sofia Tourist Information city tour which led us through the snowy parks, along the city's freshly snow-cleaned, yellow brick road (yes, really) and enabled us to gaze in awe at the city's most beautiful buildings and churches some of which we had somehow missed the first time round.

A brief stay but a very pleasant surprise.

* * *

There was never meant to be another blog entry for Sofia. We didn't think a great deal of the place on our first visit. We are here reluctantly only because there's a cheap flight out to get us on our way to South America. I even paid an extra twenty euro on the tickets so Claude didn't have to spend her birthday here such was the esteem with which we viewed it. And yet somehow, this time, we have had a blast.

Staying in a different part of town is one factor, and all part of the random selection that affects your enjoyment. But more than that, I came to the conclusion that snow hides a multitude of decrepit sins. You may have parks covered with little but dirt, broken glass, garbage and a few homeless people, but come the snows all is glossed over and it looks ready for the Queen to take a frosty stroll.

The second factor is that the sun came out, which made everything look that much more shiny and new. Truly cultured visitors should see through this. Truly cultured visitors can, however, get stuffed. Sun makes a city far nicer than biting wind and an endless grey.

The presence of the sun also brought me my first sight of how all the snow goes away. Yes, it melts, but I had always imagined this to be a fairly tranquil process. This didn't factor in epic puddles (including one ice covered one I thought was pavement and stepped clean through, ankle deep as it was), nor for large spears of ice to tumble from rooftops. If that rooftop is more than three storeys above you, pick a casket.

We struggled to think how to capture this phenomenon, as photos of stalactites on a fifth storey roof don't work out well. Then we found the perfect encapsulation in a nice old Audi 80.

Not two weeks ago I would have thought it best future travelers avoid the place or spend no more than a transit night. A very enjoyable bit of being wrong.
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