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A Stroll in the Snow

[Sofia, Bulgaria]

I woke up this morning to see the rooftops of the neighboring buildings dusted with snow! I couldn’t wait to get outside and see what had changes since I’d last been here in 2009.

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After a quick breakfast of banitza – a traditional Bulgarian food prepared with filo dough, feta cheese and eggs – mom and I left the house to run some errands. First, I had to go file a declaration that I live abroad so that I won’t have to pay health insurance premiums. Health care used to be “free” here, but a law change in 2008 established mandatory premiums for everyone. Mom and I took the street car there but ended up walking back, talking about all the changes on the way – how this building is new, and that building that used to be this is now that, etc, etc. Every time I come to Sofia, it’s like discovering the city all over again – small businesses change all the time and only a few stores and cafes and restaurants have stayed the same over the years.

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Another thing that’s new – the street signs! They are more colorful and now have the street names using the Latin alphabet, too!

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We then visited dad’s office, which is just around the corner from where we live. On the way there, we passed Saint Paraskeva church, where we bumped into a film crew in action. At first we couldn’t tell what they were filming, but after a more careful look we recognized an actress from one of the most popular Bulgarian TV shows, “7 Hours Difference.” I had watched the first two seasons in the US after my parents had told me not to call them on Sunday at 8 pm Bulgarian time, because that’s when the show came on TV – I had to see for myself what the fuss was all about!

Saint Paraskeva church, just around the corner from our apartment in Sofia

I took a photo or two, then we decided to keep walking around after visiting dad. We walked by the office of the Bulgarian president where we watched the changing of the guards.

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then walked across the street to the Institute for Archaeology, which also houses a museum. There, we visited a temporary exhibit featuring gold artifacts from the village of Sveshtari in NorthEastern Bulgaria. The village is already known for an Thracian tomb that was first discovered in 1982 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. All the pieces from the treasure were amazing but the most incredible one was a gold diadem. This article by the National Geographic explains more about the site and has pictures of the artifacts as they were found.

After the museum, we walked by the National Art gallery (formerly the palace of the Bulgarian king when Bulgaria was still a monarchy, before WW II), then walked by the National Theater where we found a little German Christmas market. In addition to mulled wine, German sausages and sauerkraut and waffles and beer, there were also arts and crafts made by current students of my old high school – they were selling them to raise money for an orphanage nearby. I told some of them that I had graduated from the same high school back in 1999, and I could see their brows furrow trying to do the math and see how old I was. I did feel old, seeing those 15-16 year olds running around. It didn’t seem too long ago I was one of them!

Next we went to Slaveykov square, one of the most famous squares in Sofia, which is known for its many book stalls. On any given day regardless of the weather, one can find people strolling around and checking out books and magazines being sold by the many vendors there. The square is named after writers Pencho and Petko Slaveykov, a father and soon. Statues of them can be found on a bench on the edge of the square. We wandered around some more before deciding to come home as the temperature started to dip ever so slightly as it got later in the day.

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I thoroughly enjoyed walking around my city! One can easily stroll around Sofia without a plan and purpose just like we did today, and still have a fabulous time stopping at shops, cafes, open air markets and museums or just checking out the architecture. Most of the buildings in Sofia’s center date from late 19th to early 20th century and even though some need work, they are still gorgeous. Now it’s time for some R&R at home with my family!

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