28th already, wow. Still quite upset I lost my headphones; I must still be in the mourning period. Anyway, need to book some flights today. Sofia’s been nice, but I need to get up North to meet Ilona soon, catch up for a few days. Kyiv looks like it might be nice. I’m going to book Kyiv, I think. Or...wait, maybe...hold on.
My last three meals have been various quantities of pizza; this is not a good pattern. Break it Alex, break it!
There are a few things I forgot to mention about the night before last. First, on some streets in Sofia there are these knee-high kiosks which you have to kneel in front of if you want to buy cigarettes or alcohol or what have you. It’s a hangover from Soviet times where people would be selling things out of their basements, and it’s a feature of the city that persists to this day. The setup of one in particular was not dissimilar to a prayer mat in front of an altar, though the subject was decidedly less than holy.
So, to return to the near-present, after recovering from a packed night at around 1pm, Mina and I went to find this “famous” Bulgarian pizza she’d talked so much about (hence this morning’s lamentations). She explained the keto diet to me on the way; it sounded like a lot of pork and butter. How that’s healthy, I don’t know. The pizza place was nice enough, but Mina was disappointed by the price, drawing attention to the cat that you can buy large slices off the street for £1, instead of the £9 one we just had. I can now confirm that, after another late night, a £1 slice of pepperoni at 5am was much better.
Mina also told me how her date went yesterday. Apparently, it was awful. The guy was so boring. The guy was so difficult to talk to, and no less boring, and the meal took so long to finish that there was no quick escape either. What a tragic end to a holiday crush.
I felt it was time to re-establish diplomatic ties with the surly man how sleeps below me. It turns out he has a health condition which means he can’t sleep at night (why so much snoring then?), so when that madman kept jumping out of bed and woke him up, he defaulted to me, hence his strong accusations. But now our issues have been resolved. He took a while to get to the point, because almost as soon as we started talking, he veered into a conversation about peoples and nations and the fundamentals of the human condition and about how France was still “fucking over Algeria” (his words, and his home) and that Ghaddafi was assassinated because he knew too much about Sarkozy and he wasn’t useful anymore as an associate.
This pizza isn’t settling well at all. I take back everything I just said.
Hooray, I’m struggling to remember the things I’ve done! I’ll do my best.
To summarise the day before yesterday, Mina and I got lost in the exact same place as before, but instead of turning back on ourselves and leaving the way we did before, I insisted we should try a different way. This led us around a block of brutalist flats and across a building site in a much longer roundabout way. In the evening, I went out again and got smashed in the way that 20-somethings do and made friends with an art historian at the bar. We talked about all that sexy classical art and architecture, and I felt fully vindicated in my choice of education for a far too brief moment. I crawled into bed around 6 a.m.
Now onto yesterday. I slunk back out of bed around midday, having been gently awoken by the old Israeli man coughing up his lungs in the bathroom. I’d heard from my bunk buddy that he absolutely hated anyone who spoke German due to the war. For someone his age, I could understand if that is based on personal experience, though of course it’s still not the best attitude to take. Then again, traumatic circumstances affect us all deeply, regardless of how long it’s been since. It was already past lunch by the time I made my way downstairs, only to fall into a very one-sided discourse on Libertarianism with an enthusiastic Irishman.
“How you doin’ mate, you alright?”
“Not too bad, yourself?”
“Yeah, all good, cheers.”
“What do you think about French Politics?” It was that kind of morning, or afternoon I suppose. It went on for two hours and I wanted to die, politely as possible so as to make it look like it wasn’t a result of the excruciating conversation. I endured the talk on the virtues of a Libertarian business model and the effect of the Afghan exodus on Western democracies, without any food, while nursing a hangover. Jesus Christ.
Sorry for the pause, I just had a chat with an easy-going Croatian man. HIs childhood friend is about to make it big as a Hollywood screenwriter/ producer, so next week he’s spending a hectic few days pulling double shifts at the family business as well as helping his friend. In two years, he’s become an uncle twice, built his own house, had three of his grandparents die, and is now working on a professional movie with his mates. A very eclectic task sheet.
After excusing myself briefly to grab a slice of pizza again (the man from NYC had a few things to say about its quality) Mina, the Irishman, and I decided to go out for a wander, because otherwise I would have done nothing all day and felt rather guilty about squandering the little time I had. Along the way, I stopped to take photos so often that the other two actually had to stop and come back for me, as they kept losing sight of me. Then, our walk was abruptly interrupted by the appearance of Elena, one of the two friends I’d made on my first night out. Consequently, our whole plan of walking around the city was thrown out the window in favour of walking around the city... with Elena.
The three of us managed to insert ourselves in to Elena’s plans by being offered a place at the dinner table, along with another of her friends. Mina and I took her up on her offer, but the Irish Libertarian exercised his personal freedom and declined, possibly because of the awful weather and his incompatible outfit. I’d bought all the bad weather with me, apparently. I considered it a beautiful English summer myself.
On the way to food, Elena took us down the Sofian equivalent of Shaftesbury Avenue, which she was very proud of. I had no idea Sofia had any significant theatre scene, which in hindsight is a bit silly since I’ve been hanging out with actors and artists at bars all week. Never mind. The point is that I like the idea there’s a big theatre scene here. I’ll have to come back and check it out sometime. We continued our walk down alternately colourful and drab, brand new and crumbling buildings, and I asked what desserts Bulgaria was known for. Elena thought for a moment, but replied that they didn’t, really. They did have “Banista” - a pastry with eggs, cheese, and yoghurt – which I need to try, even though it’s not really going to satisfy my sweet tooth.
When we finally reached the restaurant, it was around 5:45 and we were starving. The place was certainly designed with hipsters in mind; lots of wood, comfortable shades of paint, metal banisters, and menus pinned to small notepads. Elena’s friend arrived a little later, and I tried a turmeric drink advertised as healthy but was harder to drink than some shots of alcohol. To complete the ambience, the food was unfamiliar to me in design. When my order arrived, the description was made clearer to me. I could see it was three eggs, a modest number of walnuts, all set in yoghurt. It wasn’t for me. However, the mango and cherry cake I found afterwards was spectacular, once again confirming that dessert is undeniably the best part of any meal. But then, that’s not very specific to Bulgaria.
We went out for a few drinks afterwards, where I met another of Elena’s friends. This one was an actor who was exhausting herself trying to rehearse for her final assignment. The National Academy for Film and Arts, as it turns out, was literally next door to our bar, which explains why I’ve met so many of their students this week. Apparently, the acceptance requirements are insanely high. You need to be great at every aspect of film and the dramatic arts. If you don’t meet their expectations, you don’t get in. No second chances. No wonder she’s so stressed.
That would’ve been the end of the night, but as I was settling into bed I got a message from another new friend, Fabienne, asking if I was out in town. After hurriedly throwing my clothes back on I went out to meet her and was taken around some more underground spots over the next four hours. No early nights for me. One bar was lite entirely by candlelight, which lent it a particularly moody, brooding atmosphere. It felt like the sort of place you would plan crimes in hushed voices.
Yesterday (29th August, sorry for the confusing timeline) was another late start, followed immediately by a message to come to lunch. All I seem to be doing in Sofia is eating and drinking, which is a nice change of pace after North Macedonia (it’s good to take breaks from being a tourist), but not very beneficial when you’re supposed to be giving a first-hand account of a new city. I’m sorry that I haven’t been doing Sofia justice, readers. This is why I hope today is different. I should probably get on with it then. See you in a bit.
Well, I definitely did have a day. But I didn’t stay out late tonight for a change! Tomorrow I need to get back up to date, though. I’m starting to slip behind again.