Monday, June 21, 2004

Sofia -> London -> Home

The Trophy Cup - back at TS Hostel in Sofia
Padmini is home by now. I stay Sunday night at the TS Hostel in Sofia. I still don't know if "TS" stands for "Tzar Simeon" or "Turistichescka Spalnya", but either way it's a real nice building and I have a three bunk room to myself - quite a deal for 10EU !

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.

The Trophy Cup - back at TS Hostel in Sofia

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.

Inside my room at TS Hostel in Sofia

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).

Inside my room at TS Hostel in Sofia

View from the hallway balcony at TS Hostel in Sofia

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.

Stairwell at TS Hostel in Sofia
Sorry Americans, no elevator!

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.

Sink in the stairwell!?!

Monday morning in Sofia
In the background, the minaret of the Banya Bashi Mosque points to the heavens.

This grand building, "Hali", actually houses indoor food courts

Traffic Intersection Guard Tower

St. Sofia

Heading for the airport

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:

  • Electric passenger train racing between the Stara Planinina mountain range and a field of sunflowers.
  • Motorcycle side-car piled with hay
  • Small sedan with large bales of hay on the roof
  • Village boys running to see the cyclist
  • Man selling peaches from beneath a straw-roofed sunscreen beside the mountain road
  • Mules grazing unfenced
  • Statue on the mountain descent near Sliven - I thought I saw a giant marble Daniel Boone with musket!?!
  • Shopska salad at Bistro Omega - looked like a Cathedral dome!
  • Roadside bushes with ripe Cherries
  • Bike lying at the edge of the field, where the farmer left it when he rode to work
  • High-fashion girls with pointy-toed leather shoes
  • More shots of PEOPLE - I was trying to be careful not offend...

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