Balkans – End

The Balkans are a fascinating, very diverse region in Southeast Europe which had to deal with a lot of conflicts in recent history – the Breakup of Yugoslavia and the resulting Yugoslav wars made it almost impossible to travel the region from 1991 to 2001.

A lot has changed since those darker days and most of the countries are back on track, the reconstruction is in its final stages and the tourism is on the rise. Changes can also be seen in the countries which haven’t been affected by the wars – Bulgaria became part of the EU, developed it’s infrastructure and is seeing an economic growth, even though this growth decreased recently.

Learnt so much about the Balkans during the trip. I find it so rewarding knowing that this was a region previously so foreign, so completely unknown to me. But now I know just a little teeny bit better.

Yay! Done with this!

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Sofia, Bulgaria

 
 
 
 
Ah, the iconic Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia. 
Sofia, such a lovely name for a city, in my view. 
 

In Bulgaria, nodding means “no” and shaking your head means “yes”. Some know that if they’re speaking to a foreigner, they do it the opposite way.
‘Is this the way to the train station?’
‘-shakes head-‘
‘It isn’t?’
‘-shakes head-‘
Bulgaria.
1 euro = 2 lev
My first impression… It was cold, I could smell weed in the air for some reason, and I noticed the peeling walls and worn-out buildings. I was a little taken back at the start, because it seemed too obvious, the crumbling paints. It was rather different from Italy and Switzerland; though I had heard that Eastern europe is different, the rather stark contrast did catch my attention. I would soon grow used to it though.

This is apparently a pumpkin, a useless inedible one. Because mankind always tries to make useful things out of useless things, they decorate it, using it as an art piece. Or, if you cut it into half, you can get a spoon! Wow.


During the Christmas season, some restaurants switch into Christmassy tablecloth, and Christmassy napkins. I haven’t observed that in Singapore before, though I wouldn’t be surprised if there are restaurants or eateries like that, but I also wonder if it’s because of the greater emphasis they place on Christmas and its meaning.

Here I met an Irish girl who’s teaching in the UAE – Ireland recession a couple of years ago, and she said it wasn’t unusual for people to go to the UAE to teach. This idea was planted in my head
During the tour we tried many local dishes, such as banitza, the Bulgarian yogurt drink, the sour yogurt soup with cucumbers that I struggled to finish… Bulgarian yogurt – what’s so special about it? Well apparently, there’s a kind of bacteria that grows only in Bulgaria due to the optimal conditions here that allows it to grow. Other countries that want to imitate this can’t, because of this bacteria that’s the secret to it. Except for some countries such as Japan and Singapore, where there’s some trading agreements / treaties between the countries that allow for the export of such bacteria which grants them the condition to make Bulgarian yogurt.

She also showed us this
Wall to wall poetry project
Poems in EU
Apparently EU is doing this poetry project where different countries and their poets leave their poems on the walls of other countries. For the one above, it’s by a Hungarian poet and speaks of freedom and peace. Interesting project which I’m going to google more about


Initiatives around the city
I thought it was a good idea, then I talked to one of Mira’s friends who was an architect and he said such projects are ‘shallow’ in the sense that they don’t make actual changes, he wanted to do something greater like designing seats that allowed you to sit, and then had an under layer that could emerge to become rain covers. Something like that. Still, it’s interesting to hear about how important he feels his job is, his ability to change people’s life by setting a street this way, or that.
These are interesting ‘basement shops’ found at random parts of the streets. This was because during the Soviet times it was easy to just open your basement window and then you can set up a shop using your basement. Such ways of setting up a business continued through the times.

The night
30 lev for my bus to Macedonia (32 original, 30 because I’m a student; she says) = 15 euros




Russian Orthodox church


another angle, because i like
 

Kratuna

 
Went for the Sofia food tour!! Such a great idea, Singapore (‘food haven’ or so we claim) should do something like that, really.
 

 

 

Painting these boxes to increase vibrancy of the city

this zebra picture illustrates a common matchstick box design used during the Soviet times




 

These are interesting ‘basement shops’ found at random parts of the streets. This was because during the soviet times it was easy to just open your basement window and then you can set up a shop using your basement. Such ways of setting up a business continued through the times.
 
 
the night 

 

I went swing dancing with Mira and her friends – more like I watched; i am a klutz
it was nevertheless really interesting, especially since she picked it up only when she was 25
she carries with her an air of confidence, a never-stop-trying, an unshy, unbothered, air that i would like to emulate. 
reminders to self