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Sofia, Bulgaria

We had a great meal in a kitschy but apparently authentic Bulgarian restaurant last night. I had a veal dish, which I rarely order for obvious reasons, so it was a treat to have it in a clay pot prepared in the local style with peppers and onions, very rich, really delicious. Also sampled a Traminer white Bulgarian wine and another red one whose name I forget… lots of local wines here and in Hungary (one of our Budapest hosts, Krista, is a wine writer and had a lot of advice that we had no chance to take advantage of… next time!). After dinner we went to a super modern hole-in-the-wall bar and the bartender was a woman who had lived in the U.S. for six years so spoke perfect English. We chatted with her a bit, and when we queried her on local politics or protests, she looked a bit nonplussed. I don’t think most tourists come here and ask about such things. She eventually told us about her uncle, who had been a dissident spraypainting poet, writing satirical poems on the walls to impress his girlfriend. As our bartender put it, “every other” Bulgarian was an informer, so the police knew it was him, and he was shot by them at the foot of her building, wounding him in ways that took him a very long time to recover from…

The hangover of anti-politics that the failure and fall of “really-existing socialism” left behind is pretty palpable, both here and in Hungary. Not much graffiti here even, just a tiny bit of nazi skinhead swastikas and a Stop Bush stencil … mostly everything is in Cyrillic so we can’t read it at all… here are some shots I grabbed as we walked around today. Nothing particularly revealing, but they do show the charming, crumbly old capital of Sofia in a good light I think…

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Romance of the Train

A very short entry, mostly photos, of our trip from Budapest to Sofia… we slept through the night to the rhythmic clackety-clack of the train, a great sensation. It was very hot so we kept the windows open, amplifying the sound but cooling us down. By morning we were well into Serbia, and stopped at the Belgrade station for about 45 minutes before continuing on east/southeast. Here are pictures of the trip during the day yesterday:

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48 Hours in Budapest!

Wow! What can I say about two dawns in 48 hours, a ridiculous amount of drinking, walking, bicycling, and making great connections with new Hungarian friends? Great, simply great! These are the kinds of serendipitous and enthralling moments we travel to find. Big thanks to Reka and Krista for their amazing hospitality. Here they are with Rob on day two at one of the numerous drinking spots they took us to:

Reka answered my plaintive email (via Justin Hyatt: Thanks Justin!) and met us at the station as we arrived. She took us on a bus ride to an outer neighborhood of the Pest part of Budapest (we stayed mostly on the Pest side, flatter, more popular, lots to do) where we were given an empty apartment on the 14th floor of an old housing tower, from which I took this photo:

Not super glamorous for sure, but a great gift. We arrived at 11 pm and by the time we’d dropped out stuff and enthusiastically went back to the city for drinks, it was about 1:30. Reka took us to the top of the old socialist department store, now converted to regular supermarket and on the roof is a brand new open air bar, with dancing and other hang-out spaces scattered around on the top floor just beneath it.

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