The train arrived in Sophia on Friday night just before midnight. As the train began to slow down I went into the corridor to see what station we were approaching. I saw a young man near the exit and asked "Sophia?". He shook his head and said "Da". I was about to sit back down when I remembered that "da" means yes. In Bulgaria shaking the head means yes and nodding the head means no. I never did get used to that.
My first night in Sophia I stayed in a room with a family that Maria in Brasov works with. However this place was several miles outside of town so I moved to Hotel Maya in the center of town the next day. It cost 40 lev a night. The lev had recently been pegged to the German deutschmark, so that came to about $20. It was nothing fancy, but adequate and convenient. I spent the day looking for tourist information, which was difficult to find. I don't think Bulgaria gets many tourists. It being Saturday, I went out at night and accidentally crashed a bachelor party. I was in an Irish Pub (Irish Pubs are everywhere) when a group of topless women showed up. I hate when that happens. I would have left immediately, but I had just gotten a pint and, you know, what can you do? While finishing this beer I talked to some of the people present and was told that they were all European Union workers who were assisting the Bulgarian government get into shape for EU membership. One of their numbers was getting married, hence the party. Of course after meeting some of the people it would have been rude for me to leave, so there I was. Interesting night.
The next day I went to some museums and walked around town. Sophia has a few interesting sights, but nothing really spectacular. A Russian man tried to sell me cans with Cyrillic writing on them that he insisted contained caviar. I wasn't interested. I went to a flea market and bought a silver Omega pocket watch from the late nineteenth century for about $80. I got it checked here in the U.S.; it is genuine and in excellent working condition. After the flea market I ate at a nice restaurant for just a few dollars and turned in early, only to wake up early with a mild case of food poisoning. Oh well, it happens.
The next day was Monday,the thirtieth of October and I was feeling somewhat down from the food poisoning. I decided to recuperate and stay until Wednesday and see how Sophia celebrates Halloween. I went to the Bulgarian National History Museum, which had recently been moved way out of town and took a while to get to. It was nice but had no English language information, which limited me a lot.
The next day I bought a bus ticket to Veliko Tarnovo for the following day and then killed time until the evening. It was 31 October and I was interested in seeing how Halloween was celebrated in Bulgaria. As far as I could determine, they don't celebrate Halloween. The only party I could find was in the Irish Pub the EU workers hang out in. It was ok, but nothing compared to the Halloween parties in the U.S. Or the bachelor party in that pub the prior Saturday night.
Sophia is OK, but comparatively speaking, not very photogenic. I took a picture of the Church of St George, which is a converted fourth century Roman building, and the Alexander Vevski Church, just to have some pictures of Sophia.
From Sophia I headed to Veliko Tarnovo. I was back tracking over the same ground I had covered by train, but went by bus this time. The buses move a lot faster than trains in Bulgaria.