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To Sofia with Love

[Sofia, Bulgaria]

I love my hometown in the summer. The weather is warm, the parks are green, and the streets are lined with outdoor cafes. Many people leave the city to go to beach resorts in the Eastern part of the country, along the Black sea, and the city is not as crowded as it normally is. There is nothing better than strolling through the city center, then sitting down for a coffee or a cold beverage. I spent the last two days in Sofia doing just that.

When I was here last Christmas, I grew accustomed to joining dad on his daily walks, and we resumed this habit since I’ve been back. He’s been recovering from surgery – he had three cervical spine discs replaced in March. He’s just now beginning to have enough strength to make it down (and later up) the six flights of stairs in our condo building, plus a walk around the block. He recently extended his walk to the National Theater building – one my favorite buildings in Sofia, designed by Austrian architects and built in the 1930s.

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Dad in front of the National Theater

Part of his walk is a stop in a neighborhood cafe, which also offers incredible cakes and sweets. We’d go out for an afternoon walk, then sit there for a decaf espresso and a piece of cake.

I also caught up with a few friends. On two of those occasions, I spent a few hours sitting at an outdoor cafe along Vitosha street – one of the main thoroughfares in the city, lined with shops and cafes.

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Vitosha street during the day

The people watching is superb – young people, old people, people dressed up or down, rich people, beggars, and a relatively new addition – refugees from the Middle East. Bulgaria is on the forefront of the refugee wave, as our Southeastern border is shared with Turkey. The news are full of reports of illegal immigrants being caught along the border – trafficking is big money. In the most absurd of news stories, it was reported that someone who had already been caught taking people illegally across the border was awarded a government contract to transport refugees legally (those who come across this way are eligible to file for asylum in Bulgaria since it’s the first EU country they reach). We have so many refugees now that there is section of Sofia called little Baghdad. However, many refugees don’t want to stay in Bulgaria. My dad, while sitting on a park bench a few weeks ago, struck up a conversation with a young Afghani refugee. I am not sure how they understood each other, since the refugee didn’t speak Bulgarian and his English was limited, but my dad figured out that he wanted to go to France.

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People watching

After a couple of days in the capital, I will myself turn into one of those people who leave the city to go to the Black sea. I have not been there since 1987 – I think it’s about time. 🙂

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Vitosha Street at night

 

 

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