Monday, June 21, 2004
Sofia -> London -> Home
Monday morning in Sofia, I set out to have a big breakfast and pick up some food to carry while in Bulgaria, where food is so inexpensive - tomorrow night I'll be in London where everything is very expensive. I'm in a hurry because I need to make arrangements to pack up my bike and pick up my backpack from Hotel Baldjieva and get a ride to the airport. The flute player at one end of the metro station sounds much better than the harmonica player at the other, so he gets the ctotinkis from my pocket. It seems to me that everyone in Sofia has a coffee and cigarette for breakfast. Alternately, you can get chicken soup, bread and coffee for not much more than 1/2 a lev, and I think some have this three times a day, or maybe a pint of Zagorka instead of kafe with the noon the meal.
I buy cheese at Hali and catch a ride back to the airport from Hotel Baldjieva, snapping my last photos of Bulgaria from the truck window as we head out of town.
If you go, pick up a copy of "Sofia, Inside & Out" at any hotel counter. It is a great free English-language magazine full of useful information and surprisingly frank commentary. I carried, and constantly referred to, a copy through the whole four-day event (particularly the "Vocabulary" section).
Back in London, my bike never shows up at Heathrow (so, when they find it, they send it straight to my home in the USA!) Surprisingly, I find that when I glance at a sign and look away, my mind subconsciously transliterates into Cyrillic - the second time it happens I have to go back and look again to verify that the sign really is in the Latin alphabet! One more night at Earl's Court where an Englishman introduces me to a youth backpacking across England who happens to also be from North Carolina. "You were in Bulgaria THIS morning?!?" they ask incredulously.
Traveling is easier with my bike lost, yet I still manage to miss the flight out of Gatwick. The attendant finds me an alternative flight through Detroit and sends me on my way.
Monday morning in Sofia
In the background, the minaret of the Banya Bashi Mosque points to the heavens.
What a great ride it's been - what a wonderful time in Bulgaria. Climbing, scenery, camaraderie, it's all here. I cycled alone enough to relish my independence, stopping where I pleased, and learning to live in a new land. We cycled together enough to horse around, challenge and encourage each other. The course was challenging, yet fun. The dining and accommodations were exceptional. A truly memorable randonneuring experience which I highly recommend.
The Russian Church of St. Nikolai "The Miracle Maker"
Make a wish, and put it in the wooden box by the sarcophagus
The pictures I missed: