Sofia as well as I can remember it...
Trip Start May 16, 2006
30Trip End Aug 16, 2006
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Day one was spent recovering from the bus trip. I stayed up about 40 hours straight, with perhaps a 10 minute nap on the bus. A new record. Day 2 was spent on a tour sponsored by the hostel. It was a law student in Bulgaria .it was a 4 person tour, made it very interesting. I think that was my first mosque entry, but definitely not my last. One small thing I found especially interesting was a very large neon sign on the side of an important building. The sign simply said a number, nothing else, roughly 115 if I remember correctly. Of course I asked my guide what it was and, much to my surprise and intrigue, it is the number of days until Bulgaria will (probably) join the European Union. EU dynamics are extremely important and interesting in Bulgaria and Turkey, and the importance to citizens is immeasurable.
Day 3 was spent trying to get to the top of a mountain overlooking Sofia. Directions were bad and transportation inscrutable. We eventually settled for a support of an abandoned cable car that provided a decent view, halfway up the mountain. That night, through an odd series of events, we ended up dining with a middle-aged bulgarian couple. Only the guy spoke english. We (a brit, an australian, and myself who spent those few days together) did the standard prodding about culture and politics in order to get the opinions of a local. Very interesting.
Day 3 was spent on a thoroughly disappointing trip to the Rila mountains outside Sofia. I was invited on short notice to join the hostel-sponsored "tour" to find that it was simple a 2.5 hour drive there, then we get 2 hours to see the mediocre monastary and get halfway up one of the mountains, only to rush back down so that our driver didn't leave us (we only got 2 hours), followed by another 2.5 hour drive back. Lame. But, the mountains were very nice, and I'm sure given more time it would have been a great trip.
Then I took the night train to Istanbul.