Greetings from Sofia,Bulgaria

SO-fia (Bulgaria)
1st June 2013

So here we were in Manchester Terminal 1 again for another one of our European escapades. This time it was Sofia Bulgaria which had the honour of our visit. We've been calling it "Sofia Bulgaria" now for months and not just "Sofia" to differentiate from Sofia Vergara with whom Google insisted on filling the first half a dozen pages of their search engine. It also proved as an useful reminder for some as to where in Europe we were going.

We've also been practicing our pronounciation of Sofia as the capital city is said SO-fia with the stress on the 'O' instead of So-FEE-ah as we would expect.

With an extra charge per piece of hold luggage we were sharing a suitcase for this trip, which saved us money but caused us stress at check-in when we were 1.4kg over our limit! Luckily was had some spare capacity in our 50x20x40cm cabin approved suitcase, although it took some vigorous stuffing to transfer enough clothing to get us within the 20kg.

Julie's anxiety cranked up a level.

Having bought a couple of things in duty free we then tried to stuff some more into our little suitcase. What were we thinking? I was literally on my knees on top of it trying to close the gap enough to pull the zip shut. Then the zip bust! I could feel Julie's heart sink as the bad omens descended.

Over the last week we foolishly watched two plane crash films (Flight and I'm So Excited!) and she was in all seriousness considering not coming. Just when it felt like it was all falling apart I managed to re-engage the teeth and the zip miraculously closed.

Bouyed by our change in fortune we relaxed a little over lunch before heading over to the gate but Julie's face couldn't lie however and was a picture of complete dread. Her fear of flying is not getting any better no matter how often we do it. I think this is flight number 36!

At least now with Easy Jet we could pre-book our seats (for a fee) which meant there was no unsightly scrum to get onto the plane first to secure your favourite spot. Ours is just behind the wings so that Julie can see that the jet engines aren't on fire!

Seatbelted securely ready for take off Julie clenched her fists hard as we hurtled down the runway. Within minutes we were up and above the clouds and seatbelt sign pinged off. It was possibly the smoothest ascent we ever had.

Sitting comfortably we began a game of scrabble which in the end I thrashed Julie 297 - 160. I did have an unfair advantage as in addition to a bottle of prosecco that we shared with lunch and the several other rounds of drinks we enjoyed (all required for Dutch courage) she also had 30mg of diazepam befuddling her mind!

The drink kept on flowing on board our three hour flight. We apologised to the lady sat in the aisle seat but she utterly charming and we chatted for the last hour of the flight.

She was called Jane and was with a group of fellow retired friends who got together and formed a club. They were from Morpeth Northumberland and on their way to walk the Pirli Mountains.

The last hour flew by and we were soon descending towards Sofia Bulgaria where we landed smoothly. Julie clenched her fists again but this time in truimphant celebration. "Yay, I've done it again!"

We were picked up from the airport by someone from the agency (Bg Apartments) through which we had booked our accomodation. His name was Mikhael and we followed him to his car. It was a cool evening, about 9pm local time and just getting dark. He said that unfortunately the forecast for the next five days was unseasonably cold! "Last week was 30C, next week will be 30C but this week will be dull, cloudy and rain"

"A bit like home then" we joked disguising the fact that we're always a little disappointed when the weather is poor, if only for the photographs.

Mikhael drove us the short distance (about 5km) to the city centre. Driving up a dingy back street we came to our apartment on ulica Uzundzhovska. Dark and graffitied to oblivion it didn't look the most welcoming of places but it was actually in an excellent location just off Vitosha Boulevard, the city's main shopping street.

We parked up, walked towards a pizzeria and entered the aparement block. We all squeezed into the elevator. This is always the one and only time Julie would step into one, when we're being shown to our apartment.

It was one of the smallest we'd been in, with only just enough room for the three of us and our luggage. Julie's sense of claustrophobia worsened when the lift began to beep with a warning and Mikhael said "oh, it's because we're too heavy for it"!

Julie began to break down as we reached the 5th floor. As the door opened she couldn't get out quick enough.

We were very pleased to find that the studio was very nice and spacious with a large fully equiped kitchen, flat screen TV, comfortable bed.

We had booked through and their photos on-line didn't do it justice.

Once the formalities was over, i.e. paying for the accomodation in cash ( 280 rent, 30 for the airport pick up and drop off on Thursday and another 30 for a welcome pack of groceries) we said good bye to Mikhael and cracked open a chilled bottle of Bulgarian white wine.

Half an hour later we decided to go out and party on!

From our apartment, after walking down the 5 floors the main street was literally a stumble away. When we reached Vitosha Boulevard we turned left and the next but one was a lively cafe bar called Memento.

We pulled up a stool and sat outside.

I had a local beer called what looked like Wymehcko but having been studying the cyryllic alphabet before this trip I worked out it was probably pronounced more like Zhuymenko.

Either way it was still a mouthfull to say but at least it was a tasty lager.

Julie had an easier one to pronounce as it was a glass of Sauvingon Blanc, but Bulgarian of course.

I think the cool evening air all of a sudden hit us and we ran out of steam. We wisely decided to head back to the apartment after we paid 10.80 Bulgarian Levs for our round which was a very reasonable price.

Back up the 5 flights of steps we climbed and sat up watching a local music channel. They were showing a Judas Priest video. I was surprised by how popular Rock was in Bulgaria.

The shuttle bus that transfered us from the plane to the terminal played AC/DC and Mikhael was playing Born to be Wild.

Whilst listening to Kiss sing Crazy Crazy Nights we messed about with a photo app on the iPad. We were trying to recreate one of the funniest moments in living memory. Whilst in the "quiet carriage" on a train down to London using the mirror image option of the app we managed to make my face look like an arse! [arse_face photo]

We almost exploded trying to contain our laughter.

We couldn't get the same effect this time and after fiddling with the UV filter effect for a while we agreed it was time for bed.


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