Thursday, December 03, 2015

Rules of Attraction

Sometimes, you really can't quite put into words what it is you like about a person that has you pine after them regardless of the fact that they don't treat you the way you want them to, and when your friends ask you what exactly you love about them, your answers don't come out in a remotely coherent fashion. 
The same applies to things or places. Sometimes you grow very, very attached to grubby old objects or fall in love with cities that are not on everybody's top 10, nor on their top 50, places to see before you die. Everybody knows that I have become quite attached to Sofia over the past 3 years when I visited the city on business about 20 times. The logical question is that people often ask me if I would recommend it for a weekend trip. I am always a bit hesitant to do that, though, as even though my first visit back in 2008 was a private one and I liked it even then, I don't want to overhype it and end up with friends blaming me for "wasting" money on airfare and hotels.
However, it is not the type of city that has any must-see sights and weirdly, it was not built near a river, as most capital cities are. There is a pretty impressive mountain, though, and perhaps this is what makes it oddly familiar for me, as in my native Klagenfurt you can see the mountains from many parts of the city as well. For some reason I am wary to recommend it to others for fear of hyping it too much and leaving them disappointed. After all, streets and houses look shabby even in parts of the city centre and you really need to watch your step if you don't want to risk tripping over a broken tile or a hole in the pavement at times. Taxi drivers are mostly maniacs with Formula 1 driver aspirations and you fear for your life as you realise there is no seatbelt in the back row. They also invariable have the radio tuned to some Bulgarian version of turbo folk and if they don't smoke while driving, the taxi will smell of stale smoke. Oh, and they like to talk on the phone and watch a movie on a tablet while racing. Just so you know. At times, you will also see menus and street signs in cyrillic only (it certainly helped me to teach myself the alphabet pretty quickly) that make ordering food or navigating a challenge.
These things aside, I really like that there are really interesting little shops and cafés and service is usually pretty good. The metro is cheap and efficient (there are 2 lines only) and for the equivalent of 0.50 € you can enjoy safer transport than in the backseat of a kamikaze taxi. And the food! Food really is delicious and much cheaper than in most parts of Europe. I have raved about the amazing tomatoes and cheese before, but if you ever visit Sofia in summer, tomatoes and other locally grown vegetables are out of this world and you have to try them. Since Bulgaria apparently produces 85% of the world's rose oil for the perfume industry, you can buy cosmetic products based on rose essence very inexpensively throughout the city (just avoid the overpriced offerings at airport duty free!).
If you are planning to visit, let me know and I will share some of my favourite places with you.


Anonymous alcessa said...

The thing is, I was talking about you to my husband only yesterday, for a similar reason (he "knows" you ever since you posted your Topfen-cake recipe and was happy to "get reacquainted" with you after you posted the Kipferl-recipe ... :-)): we are both interested in local music productions (aka Weltmusik) in countries like Kazakhstan or Belarus and similar and I was wondering whether you were ever told anything about those when visiting these countries. Singing and/or music instruments (traditions), band names, singers, anything. While some countries (i.e. Tuva or Georgia) are quite present in Germany and it is no problem to buy a CD or two, others are more difficult (which is why I cannot pose more specific questions, as I am not well-acquainted with music styles in those regions) ... Or do they feed you with turbo folk all the way? (elevators, shops ...) :-)

12/03/2015 02:33:00 PM  
Blogger onemorehandbag said...

sorry for the delayed reply - did not want to type on my phone: I am happy your husband associates me with yummy baked goods ;-)
Unfortunately, I am no expert in world music (my mum shares your passion) and did not come across any music stores in BY or KZ. In fact, most places I went to in Minsk thanks to a colleague living locally I usually go to hipster cafés and in Almaty the motto seems to be BLING!!! which means I didn't get to hear any music of that genre in either of the two.

12/04/2015 10:46:00 AM  

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