Sunday, November 17, 2013

When in...Bulgaria?

Greece's unique location provides the opportunity to explore the more remote countries. My friends and I took advantage of our proximity to these less-visited nations of central Europe by traveling to Sofia, Bulgaria for the weekend. Though we were not sure exactly what to expect when we booked our trip, Bulgaria ended up being a pleasant surprise. The central squares and old churches, mosques, and administrative buildings that dotted the small city were breathtaking. We spent much of our time walking the entirety of Sofia, taking in the atmosphere, people, and beauty. 

The trip began with the best walking tour I have ever participated in. The tour guide was funny and knowledgeable. We were able to get our bearings and decide what aspects of the city we wanted to explore more deeply. The weather was perfect- a beautiful fall day. The walk took us past stunning buildings and adorable food and trinket markets. 

The biggest surprise was the cuisine. I did not go in with high hopes. The traditional Bulgarian food was fine, with the highlight being the bread. Much like challah in texture and taste, pitka set our meal off to a great start. Other than Bulgarian, we enjoyed soups (Vietnamese, Indian, Spinach, Vegan, etc.) that exploded with flavor. We also went out to a fantastic Moroccan restaurant. Who knew Bulgaria had such an international palate?

My friends and I also visited a communist propaganda museum that I would recommend to anyone and everyone. We took fantastic photos with the statues in the park section of the museum.

All in all, our trip to Sofia, Bulgaria was an excellent adventure. Though I think I will visit new nations before I return to Bulgaria, I highly recommend it for anyone in the area.

Friday, November 15, 2013

When it rains, it pours

Now that fall is upon us, the rain is falling as well.  And in Greece, the thunderstorms are no joke.  They come about suddenly but last for hours.  It rains harder than the most intense summer storms back home. The lightning is frequent and lights up the entire street. But what really stands out is the thunder. Rolling thunder, lasting long seconds makes one feel as if the city is falling.  The thunder is louder than any I have ever heard- by a factor of three.

More often than not, the storms come in the middle of the night. The usual street sounds are suddenly overwhelmed by the crash of thunder and the splattering raindrops. And let me say, it is no easy feat to drown out the street noises.

Sidebar: Athens is LOUD at night. Dogs barking and fighting, motorbikes speeding through the street no matter the hour, Greeks screaming at one another, and construction. Beginning at 4 am, workers pound away at the church that I live next to. Jackhammers set the dogs barking again and threaten to shatter my eardrums.  To top it off, Roma (gypsies) drive through the street with a megaphone, broadcasting their willingness to take people's trash. I do not know how, but I have grown accustomed to the noise.  Now, when I go on vacation to a serene, quiet site, I find it difficult to sleep. Who would have thought?

Aaaanyway. These past few weeks, I have found jolted awake to the wind and rain slamming my balcony door. Instead of closing the door and going back to sleep, I slip out onto the balcony and watch the storm. Though the rain comes down steadily, I stay dry. I watch late-night stragglers run for the safety of awnings and the silhouettes of buildings come in and out of view. The sounds and sites of a giant Athens thunderstorm are cleansing and surprisingly comforting. Happy Fall!