Sofia and Plovdiv, Bulgaria

The most important thing I have to say about Bulgaria so far is they have awesome ice cream. I consider myself quite the strawberry ice cream connoisseur at this point, having taken a nice ice cream cone with my daily constitutional for almost a month now, and so far Bulgaria is the best hands-down. They dip the cones in some kind of sticky stuff, then in brown sugar. And they display the ice cream in these huge ice cream piles covered with decorative toppings, like giant ice cream mountains from some magical happy land or something. Way cooler presentation than your standard boring american ice cream tub. And it tastes really good too. The ice cream more than makes up for the fact that they put sour yogurt in their cereal instead of milk, and only seem to eat Muslix. And for the fact that they put ketchup and mustard on their pizza. I tried to set one pizza guy straight on this issue and only met with resistance. At least that’s better than Macedonia, where I had a pizza with sour cream on it. Gross. But Macedonia gets points for having 20-cent ice cream cones. Yes my culinary experience of Europe is isolated to pizza and ice cream. If these Europeans had macaroni and cheese and peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches I’d be eating those too, but (unfortunately for them) they dont.

Sofia was actually a pretty cool town. I was expecting some downtrodden post-communist city, but it’s actually very clean and quite elegant. Lots of big grand-looking buildings. I watched the changing of the guards at the President’s building, which while smaller than the more-famous Buckingham Palace one, had much more goose-stepping and boot-slapping. It was pretty funny. I stayed at a hostel called the ‘art hostel,’ which is covered with paintings done by visiting artists who they let stay there for free. Very cool place, and I met some cool people. Sofia seems to really have a thriving youth art scene.

Sofia also has tons of Orthodox churches, which I spent most of my time going to. I’ve come to the realization that I know absolutely nothing about Orthodox Christianity. I think I’ve been in enough Catholic churches to know kind of what the basic procedure is; where I’m supposed to stand, how to be respectful, what some of the symbolism is etc. And I can muddle my way around in a mosque, where being respectful mostly seems to involve taking your shoes off (I actually think, given the current, um, aromatic nature of my feet that taking my shoes off would be more disrespectful than leaving them on, but who am I to argue?). But in an Orthodox church I’m totally lost. I dont know where to stand, or if I can sit in any of the chairs around the sides of the room (and why are they just on the edges of the room? are they special chairs?) There seems to be a lot of candle-burning that goes on, and staring at icons. And awesome beards. At an Orthodox church in Sarajevo I got scolded by an old lady for standing in the wrong place. She then proceeded to offer me a handful of red-painted eggs, which totally freaked me out. Later on I figured it might have had something to do with it being Orthodox easter, but I was pretty suspicious at the time she might be casting some evil Orthodox egg-curse on me. So far I’ve seen a couple normal sunday services, a baptism, and a couple weddings. Orthodox (at least Bulgarian orthodox) weddings are cool because at one point both the bride and groom get to put on these fancy king-looking crowns and walk around a table together. I’d marry a bulgarian just for that.

From Sofia I went to Plovdiv, which while the second-largest city in Bulgaria, seems much smaller than Sofia and very laid-back. It’s built around three little hills overlooking the Maritsa River, and there are ruins everywhere. Mostly Roman (from back in the day when Plovdiv was Philipopolis) but also some pre-Roman Thracian walls and fortifications and stuff. Did you know Bulgaria was where Thrace was? I didn’t. There’s an incredibly well-preserved Roman theater where they still have plays and concerts. Also a very intact Old Town where most of the buildings are built in Bulgarian National Revival style (from the 1700s). To my astute eye, National Revival appears to mean they paint fancy baroque flourishes on the outside of the houses. Some are all white with only blue painting, so they look like they’re made of porcelain. It’s a very cool city. They had fireworks last night which had something to do with the VE day anniversary. Actually this whole week I’ve encountered WWII-related celebrations. In Skopje I watched a free outdoor rock concert for the anniversary by a band called ‘Bllh, Bllh, Bllh!’. They rocked, I guess. The Macedonians seemed to like it.

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  1. Ian
    May 12th, 2005at8:40 am

    You better be careful spending so much time in churches and mosques – you could end up on a watch list and be forced to live out your years behind the remnants of the iron curtain munching on sour cream and ketchup pizza and red eggs. On the positive side, at least you could marry the bulgarian chick of your dreams and wear the little crown deal. If you do mak it back, you can alwyas go the mail order bride route and score some Bulgarian females via the web. I get e-mails about that kind of crap all the time. BTW, are you still finding the women of eastern europe to be incredibly hot? I think you mentioned that early on and I was just wondering if its holding true.
    I’m glad you caught a Bllh, Bllh, Bllh performance, I haven’t seen them since Bllh joined but I’m sure they still rock.
    Well, its almost my turn to get back in the ticket line for the first show of Madagascar – gotta go.

  2. May 14th, 2005at3:52 am

    i would like to point out to all the Patterson-Shaw relatives who read Taylor’s blog that this post is largely focused on his limited desire to try any new food whatsoever whilst in Europe. this fact disproves once and for all the family-wide belief that Taylor has a more sophistocated palette than i, his younger sister. end scene, and i win!

    i mean, i would have at least tried the chicken.


  3. taylor
    May 15th, 2005at7:44 am

    Oh, I think our relatives are all too aware that both of us are equally picky eaters. I dont think I’ve ever been accused of having a sophisticated palette by anyone, especially not anyone who’s been to thanksgiving. And, for the record, the whole only eating pizza and ice cream thing was a slight exaggeration. I eat spaghetti too, and bread sometimes.


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