Wednesday, 16 June 2004

Two Days in Sofia

"Spider" tow trucks grab cars from tight spots.
Having contacted Lazar by email, I head out for bike inspection. Why do I always go the wrong way on Vitosha Blvd? When I realize my mistake I correct by taking Vassil Levski Blvd - kind of a beltline. I find myself entering a long tunnel with no lights and fast traffic, so I pedal fast to avoid being run over. In the darkness I hit a pothole and blow out the rear tire just before emerging into daylight. Bulgaria, and SVS, is famous for potholes ("Dupkas" they call them - ДУПКА - I like this word; I can imagine a wheel dropping into a hole with a "Doop" sound and then cracking against the sharp opposite edge with a "ka!"), but I've managed to hit the big one before the ride even starts. I discover I've banged up my rear wheel pretty bad, but it's still ridable, at least enough to get me to bike inspection.

Narrow tandem electric trolleys offer continuous dependable service.
We are to meet near the Gold-plated onion domes of Alexander Nevski Cathedral, but I arrive late and can't find anybody. I despair for a while, thinking I've blown it before the ride has even begun, but manage to meet up with Lazar later that day as they're assembling the start/finish archway. The bike shop near TS Hostel does what they can to fix my rim, it's better, but it's not really repairable. They carry a bike with an...interesting...choice of names: "Drag"!

Mr. Balanski pulls up with three 15-year-old cyclists from Isperih (Chavdar, Deniz and Docho).

Docho asks, "Do you ride fast or slow?"

"Slow," I reply.

"Great! You ride with us!" he laughs.

Mr. Balanski is admiring my bike and explaining things to the boys. Docho seems to get a kick out of the word "Brooks Saddle" - it must sound funny in Bulgarian.

I didn't try this vodka...
(Related article in the Sofia Echo)
A beer to calm my nerves and back to the apartment for the last minute packing and early to bed.

A Cathedral in Sofia

A Cathedral in Sofia

Goth youth hanging out behind a Medieval statue.

Street Vendor's Liquor-flavored Ice Cream.

Padmini sings with a Gypsy band in a restaurant

The Restaurant

Traffic cops get their own towers at intersections
Maybe they're operating the signals?

Cathedral Mosaics

Alexander Nevski Cathedral - where's bike inspection?

St. Alexander Nevski was the Russian Tsar who
saved Russia from the Swedes in 1240.

Alexander Nevski Cathedral

The St. Sofia Statue

St. Nikolai - The Russian Church

Gathered in Sofia the day before the ride.
Deniz-Sabri Uksel, Lazar Vladislavov, Me, Docho Dochev, Chavdar Chernikov,
Dimitar Balanski (crouching), ?, Stanimir Gyurov

The start/finish is still under construction

The weeping lion at the eternal flame for the unknown soldier

Gare - Train station

Fortune Tellers

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