Saturday, August 13, 2011

Further Explorations

Dober den!

We continue to explore our new city, by foot and otherwise. Yesterday, in search of bikes--which some people had advised against, but we persisted--we saw much of the southern part of the city. There are lots of large residential homes and then some smaller residential neighborhoods dominated by home furnishing and design shops. Thanks to some tedious internet research by Phil, we found three bike stores; two of them were staffed by very helpful young guys (Vladi and Miky), but they were only selling new bikes. We were looking for used, so we continued on our trek, determined to try one last option the next day.

We finished our walk, famished and thirsty, by cruising into our current fave nabe, southwest of the city center; there are nice little shops and restaurants, and the streets are old and craggy. Think a vastly diminished and crumbly version of the village in New York.

A couple days before, we had seen a very nice looking bakery/cafe ("Sun/Moon"), which, it turns out, is a vegetarian eatery and bakery. Delicious stuff, and a really nice staff. At the end of our stay there, we were chatting with the guy who had served us, and we related our quest for bicycles. His colleague bikes, and she gave us two great resources: one web site, and a tip to turn up at Vasil Levski National Stadium (a few metro stops from us) in the morning, and they'd be having a sort of flea market where we could look for bikes. We weren't that hopeful they'd have the right thing for us, but it was worth a look.

Voila! Two bikes!!

This is Phil's Raleigh "Brazil"

My less cool-looking bike
We rode home from the stadium (yes, we wear helmets) to test out the roads and the traffic. We were given wide-berth, and the ride was quite nice. The pollution is definitely noticeable, but the days have been so dry and clear, it's perfect for biking.

We also had a little accompaniment: this guy started the ride with us and never left my side for about two miles, at which point he must have been dying of thirst and heat, so he dropped off.

Here's little Ivanski, who joined our party at Levski stadium...

and galloped alongside me as we rode home.

Here he is observing the traffic signal with Phil. 
There are many reasons why we're happy to have bicycles. One of them is the scene below.

Traffic accident en route home
Another is the ease of little trips to the market, which we enjoyed on our ride home. The produce is amazing, and mostly quite cheap. The vendors have been incredibly nice and patient as I learn how to ask for certain quantities of things and to understand their descriptions of the prices. Today, though, as I neared the end of my tour around the stalls, I came to the lady who will be known as the Fava Wench (Margaret, you already know where this is going). As I tried to pick out some favas (or whatever they were--they look like favas), she made a big show of calling to her comrades and remarking on my audacity. "Look at her, just picking out some favas!!" I imagined her saying. What could she have been mad about? I was shopping at her stall! As I calmly proceeded to pick my favas, her ire grew. She made a couple of remarks to me, which I didn't understand, and when I replied with the little Bulgarian I know, she scoffed. Finally, I threw down the gauntlet, holding the favas towards her: can I purchase these things or not? She asked me something else, surely to make me look even more villainous for not being able to reply. She was like a caricature of someone just like her: rolling eyes, hand on the hip, cigarette hanging out of the corner of her mouth, guffawing at me... She finally jutted the little weighing basket at me and turned her face in disgust, uttering more insults to her fellow vendors (who, I might add, were NOT jumping on her bandwagon). Well that was it. I slapped her stinking favas back in the pile, thanked her, and bid her good day.

No favas for me: TWO YEARS!!

We've had no other interactions of this kind with anyone in Bulgaria, so I'm inclined to believe she is simply a miserable person, as nice as her favas are.

Tomorrow, I'm climbing Mt. Vitosha (emPHAsis on the first sylLAble) with Ernie and Barb, our neighbors. The weather's been ridiculously nice, so we should get some beautiful views of Sofia and surroundings.

Here are some other random scenes from the last couple days. 

Our house. We have the apartment in the back.

The Police have a major presence on campus--at least near the entrance, where their compound is. We're told that they just built some brand new interrogation cells in these buildings--but they don't hold people there for very long. Hmm.

This is how they treat the Bulgarian flag at the Police Department?

"Standin' on the corner, waitin' for the bus..." This stop is right outside the campus gates, and you can see the big grocery store, "Hit", behind it.

A view of one of Vitosha's peaks on a gloomy day; this view is from campus.

Haven't figured out who this guy is yet, but the sculpture is neat. It's downtown in one of many small parks throughout the city.
An example of the Western European architecture you see downtown, in many colors.

An example of Sofian graffiti; there's lots of it.

The patio at Pastorant, a nice little restaurant at which we dined.

Self-portrait, biking.
Until next time, chao!

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