Written September 15.
Back in Sofia, Boyan and I went to dinner with his dad at a wonderful restaurant called Mediterraneo. Sitting in the ambient lighted courtyard, I ordered a mashed potato soup with quail egg, veal scaloppini and tiramisu. The veal was unbelievably tender and flavorful and the soup unlike anything I’d had before. We left the late dinner to meet up with some of Boyan’s friends for drinks in the park and then headed to a house party, where I’m pretty sure a beautiful Bulgarian girl was hitting on me. Sorry ladies.
We woke up late on Saturday morning to a fresh brunch at home with Boyan’s dad – smoked salmon, cream cheese, bread, tomatoes, onion, capers and yogurt with honey and fresh berries. We walked into the city center, grabbing some gelato and walking into one of Sofia’s famous churches and catching a two-hour walking tour in the evening. In Sofia, there is a large open square that is cornered by four houses of worship – The Banya Bashi Mosque, a synagogue that is the biggest Sephardic temple in Europe (Bulgaria managed to save all of its Jews during the Holocaust, most of whom fled when communism came after World War II), the Sveta Nedelya Eastern Orthodox church and the Sveti Yosif Catholic Cathedral. The tour guide called it the Square of Tolerance:
“We’re just a stones throw away from each other, but we don’t throw stones.”
Boyan and I met up with his dad and grandparents at a typical Bulgarian restaurant for dinner after the tour. We all shared some unusual fried bean clusters with soy sauce and garlic (Boyan said you can only really get them at this restaurant and they aren’t typical in Bulgaria) and a tomato/cucumber/cheese salad (very typical), and I ordered a traditional tripe soup and stuffed pork breast. Boyan’s grandparents, who are both scientists (one a professor, one a researcher), spend a month in Georgia each year, his grandfather a frequent guest professor at UGA, and visit their daughter in New York frequently. They made me feel right at home, making sure to keep me going back for food until I was stuffed. It’s always comforting to be around grandparents!
Later that night, Boyan and I met up with some of his friends to go to a club underneath Sofia’s library called “Once Upon a Time Biblioteka.” It was a really fun night – maybe a little too fun – and I ended up going home a few hours before Boyan did. Sometimes you just have to throw in the towel.
We slept in again on Sunday, and Boyan’s dad once again welcomed us to the day with a tasty brunch, this time some Bulgarian flaky pastries with cheese or fruit or nuts in them and some of the juiciest, reddest watermelon I’ve ever eaten. Ironically, Bulgaria’s best and most well known produce originated in America (tomatoes and watermelon) but beats most of the stuff you get at home (okay except Arkansas tomatoes and watermelon are kind of incredible but you know what I mean).
After getting some logistical things taken care of (printing tickets, blogging, uploading photos), Boyan and I left to go shopping at one of his favorite stores. Boyan had lent me a shirt the night before (I only have two button-downs), and I ended up buying the same one. It’s a blue floral shirt, and I do love floral (my other button-downs are floral too…). We grabbed gelato once again and then met up with Boyan’s friend Kosta for homemade sangria (made with homemade wine) and an oversized harvest cookie at a cool bar/coffee shop called The Apartment, which is literally in an old apartment. I actually thought we were going back to Boyan’s place until we got there and I realized that The Apartment was not actually his apartment.
Boyan and I left The Apartment to head to his godmother’s apartment (see what I did there?) for dinner. Her husband is Colombian, so the dishes fell within some unknown exotic but delicious category – grilled peppers (both spicy and juicy red), meatballs, a cold eggplant sauce, homemade bread and fresh raspberries and Bulgarian plums (almost like oversized grapes) for dessert.
After dinner, we met back up with Kosta and another one of Boyan’s friends, Petar, at a chill and cheap bar. We ordered cocktails and some tasty spicy tomato vodka shots with olives (10 for 20 lev, which is about $12). I’ve gained a bit of a fondness for green olives during my trip, and the shots seemed more like hors d’ourves than anything. We left the bar and drove (Petar didn’t drink because he was driving – don’t worry) around Sofia looking for an open kebab shop. It made me feel like I was home, riding around in a car in the middle of the night looking for a late night snack. We stopped at Petar’s apartment for tea, music and conversation and got home at 6:30 in the morning. Just nine hours after and here I am, writing on a plane to Athens, Greece. I can see the coast below me from the window as I type.
It’s always weird getting to a new place, not knowing anything about what it will be like, who I will meet, what I will do. I’m planning on island hopping here, but many of Greece’s islands don’t have a large hostel culture. Ideally I will meet someone who can rent a room with me at my hostel in Athens or Ios, which happens to have a *hopefully* pretty nice hostel. Will get back to you on that one.