Vienna, not quite

Trip Start Aug 20, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed

Flag of Bulgaria  ,
Sunday, January 17, 2010

It snowed all the way from Plovdiv to Sofia, lovely, snow makes even the most poverty stricken countryside look like a wonderland, as I discovered crossing Russia, and Sofia was lovely dressed in white, even though her skirts were a little grubby and tattered. Arrived at 4.30, sunset, and as there was no question of dragging a wheelie bag through 8cms of snow to the hostel, even if I did know where I was going, it was into taxi battle. He only ripped me off for about 3 Euros, not bad, and he did have to drive around to find it, then had to park 100m away, carried my bag and waited till the bell was answered at the hole in the wall that was the hostel entrance, had worse!

Only spent two nights, one day here, the first night was spent playing on the internet and chatting to a German guy sitting next to me doing the same, who noticed that I had exactly (in EVERY DETAIL) two of the same photos of Plovdiv as he did, he showed them to me to prove it. That got us talking!

Spent the next day buying a bus ticket to Skopje, had to crunch across the snowy park to do this, going to the National Gallery and generally walking around (very slowly) looking for the recommended sights and getting frustratingly and stupidly lost for about an hour and a half. While snow is lovely when it is white and crisp, as it starts to melt it gets seriously wet and lethally slippery, I wasn't the only one treading very carefully and going for the occasional slide. I also learned the Bulgarian stomp, used to loosen packed ice from the tread in your shoes!

The sights of Sofia are rather reminiscent of Vienna, there is a distinct architectural similarity, but in Sofia they are few and far between, whereas in Vienna you can't walk around a corner without going oooohh haaa look at that!! Plus there is no Stalinesque at all in Vienna, at least not that I saw, even the ugly apartment blocks there have a certain grandeur, that Sofia cannot pretend to.

The National Gallery had a "Faces of Modernism" exhibition on. It was all about Bulgarian (faces of) 'modern' art, if you call the early 1900s modern. There were a couple of notable French artists, Segal for one, and a lot of Bulgarian derivatives of French pointillism and cubism. Lots of female portraits, as in Plovdiv, but they had graduated to portraits of breast feeding women, they were strangely over presented numerically, to the point of voyeurism, I thought. I did like some of the sculpture though and got to take pics. Don't know if it was allowed or because the staff on the top floor were too slack to care, those on the painting floors certainly cared. Interesting to see strategically placed buckets to collect the drips of melting snow from the ceiling, but this was a minor inconvenience compared to the poor curation in one major part of the exhibition where the spot lights cast shadows from the frames over the works and worse still over illuminated the light tones to the point of making them glow, while the darker colours just disappeared into colourless blackness. Leaving a flat, black and white effect, just not good at all.

Nedsky Cathedral was built as war memorial to the many 1,000's who died ridding the Balkans of the Turks during the war of 1777 to 1778 (short for a war I thought). I'm beginning to realise how far the Turks spread their wings of war. Rather dark and meditative inside, it was nice to sit in there for a while.

The small Russian church, was just that, very Russian and very small, with gold onion domes. Walked down to the National Theater, had a beer, watched kids ice skating in a small park opposite, wandered back to the hostel via a Xmas tree and a bar playing some nice music.

And I guess that was Sophia!

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travela on

My humblest apologies for misspelling Nevsky, its not NeDsky!!

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