SOFIA, BULGARIA 10th OCTOBER 2013
WARNING: 'EXCESSIVE AMOUNT OF INDULGENT PHOTOS WITH GRATUITOUS CAT PICS'
(but who cares)
We parked on the spot where Desi grew up opposite the hospital where she was born. Her childhood home was compulsorily resumed and bulldozed within 24 hours by the communists back then. They proposed to build some elaborate edifice but the block has been empty ever since. Her super human effort fighting bureaucracy and corruption has resulted in her regaining title although the land is still used as a bus carpark.
John and Desi walked with us through Sofia city and the next day we drove 100kms east, up in the mountains to Koprivshtitsa. Desi has family links here too. This historic town in central Bulgaria is culturally significant because of it's preserved authentic Bulgarian architecture and it was here that the first shots were fired in the April Uprising of 1876. The homes that we walked through were the homes of revolutionaries. It seems to be a folk music epicentre too.
Food in Bulgaria is good and cheaper than anywhere else in Europe that we have been. People in northern Greece go there to go shopping. We shopped at an impressive supermarket called 'Fantastico'. It's a Bulgarian chain that competes with international foodstore chains and even has it's own DIY store. We dined at Desi's nearest local suburban restaurant. It was good food and even better wine. In fact the wine was the best I've had in Europe. A really delicious complex cab sauv for only $13AUD. I could go a case of it.
To paraphrase the BBC. "Bulgaria is one of the EU's poorest countries. Transition to democracy and a market economy after the collapse of communism in 1990 has been slow and painful. Organised crime and corruption has deterred investors and hindered growth. People protest in the streets often, the word "Ostavka!" (Resign!) is written on rubbish bins". There was a heavy security police presence outside a parliamentary building when we walked by. Suffice to say there is a level of public dissatisfaction that is palpable.
We had a great time catching up with John and Desi including finding out that John, who has only just moved to Bulgaria, did a celebrity chef spot for an Austrian magazine when living in Vienna. John thought he would get lots of excited enquiries about where to buy Ausie Roo meat but instead had to parry lots of comments about how dare you eat those lovely creatures.
And of course Bulgaria is the home of Lactobacillus Bulgaricus, one of two vital bacteria in Bulgarian yoghurt. Bulgaria exports the dry starter culture world wide because for some reason the culture loses it's qualities when used to start successive batches when outside of Bulgaria. Only in Bulgaria does the culture remain undiminished. Strange but true.
On the morning of our departure, John gave us a lift to the bus station where we caught a bus south to Thessaloniki in Greece. He tipped us off which was the highspeed, hair raising bus company to avoid and the one we chose, Eurolines, was excellent. New Mercedes bus with only three passengers and no one smoking. A dream run as we bussed out of Sofia and an eye opening good time enjoying John and Desi's hospitality.
|OUR HOSTS DESI AND JOHN|
|STANDING ON THE VERY SPOT WHERE DESI'S CHILDHOOD HOME ONCE STOOD|
|TRAFFIC CONTROL BOX AND THE STATUE THAT REPLACED THE ONE OF LENIN|
|STILL THINKING UP THE CAPTION FOR THIS ONE|
|AND STILL, THERE REMAINS GREAT BEER IN LIFE FOR THOSE WILLING TO TAKE THE JOURNEY|
|SIGN OUTSIDE THE OLD COMMUNIST HEADQUARTERS|
|THE BRAND NEW SUBWAY SYSTEM|
|FROM DESI'S KITCHEN|
|FROM DESI'S LOUNGEROOM. THAT PEAK IS AS HIGH AS MOUNT KOSCIUSZKO|
|VIEW DOWN TO THE LOCAL RESTAURANT WITH THE TOP QUAFF|
|AND THE TOP QUAFF IN QUESTION|
|IN CONTENTION FOR THE BEST CREME BRULEE IN THE WORLD|
|PORTRAIT OF THE CULINARY ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN|
|HEADING OUT FOR OUR TOUR|
|BIG GRAFFITI ART|
|MUSEUM HOUSE, KOPRIVSHTITSA|
|TIMBER CEILING DETAIL|
|MORE TIMBER CEILING|
|CIRCA 1840. HOME MADE PAINT THAT LASTS. RECIPE AND METHODS LOST|
|PAINT COLOURS THAT LAST|
|NOT SURE WHO'S UNIFORM BUT VERY SNAPPY|
|LUNCH ARRIVAL BEFORE THE CATS SPOTTED US|
|CAT WORKS THE ROOM|
|PUSHING THE LIMITS|
|LOCAL EGGPLANT CREATION. MY WINE, ANNE'S ROSEHIP SIP|
|MOBILE SAW MILL|
|I'VE GOT SO MANY PICS OF KOPRIVSHTITSA HERE, ONE MORE WON'T HURT|
|THIS MONEY, SEX, BLACK FINGERNAILED DEMONIC CASINO AD INTRIGUED ME|
|I SO WANT THIS SIGN FOR MY SHED|
|IN ANY LANGUAGE. (FANTASTICO)|