Sofia in Picture.

Dobre došãl! Добре дошъл! (That’s welcome in Bulgarian, ya dafties).

I spent five great days in the capital. After only planning a day visit, I met some great folk and loved the city. Here are some of the sights I took in during my visit.

“While two Bulgarians are arguing, a third one always wins.”
Двама се карат – трети печели

(Bulgarian Proverb about strength in unity).

 

P1000912

”Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. The posterboy for every Sofia tourism campaign.”

 

P1000917

”Sofia”

 

P1000921

”Levski Stadium”

 

P1000922

”Life after Revolution”

 

P1000928

”Chupa Chups”

 

P1000934

”The former house of the Bulgarian Communist Party.”

 

P1000945

”Difficult following Cyrillic signs..”

 

BULGARIA

”Until next time, Sofia. Благодаря ти..”

 

Feel free to follow, comment on or share the Wide-Eyed Scotsman if you find something of interest/ potential value. I regard this personal project mainly as a facility to continue my own education. If you believe the content could impact, intrigue or inspire (or if there are any constructive criticisms) then your interaction would be greatly appreciated. 

Aidan X

 

 

 

Advertisements

Crossing Borders. A Three Part Series.

Part 3. Sofia & Stefan.

Now I was focused on finding somewhere to camp. Being on the outskirts of the city would prove to be an advantage, even if I still had to be fairly cautious. I started to walk along the road and my bag weighed me down again. ‘Why did I bring so much?’ Very generously a taxi driver stopped and offered me a lift. I told him I was headed to a fairly large district on the very edge of the city, Boyana. It took its name from an old orthodox church dating back to the 1600’s. The day after I managed to get a swatch of said decrepit temple, but thats another story all the gither. Originally I planned to make my way up past the church and to a waterfall some way into the national park. So I would find somewhere for the night before embarking on any sort of waterfall quest and head for the Boyana waterfall the following day. Despite the language barrier the taxi driver seemed a good man. His wife and child were in the back and we shared some laughter about the comical situation now taking place. They weren’t even going this route in the first place but he took me further down the road in my decided direction and let me out where it was easy to navigate and settle for the night.

There and then I found myself in the middle of this great, stretching road which went on and on until the heady beginnings of the city of Sofia could be seen to commence. Behind lay nothing but neglected fields of despondent, moribund grass. I could only gaze forward which in truth to anyone passing through on an ordinary day in Boyana, Sofia this road would have been just like any other road. Not for me. ”Fuck” I thought to myself. I couldn’t believe I was there. And so quickly aswell. How did this happen? Why did I do this? What do I do now?

I skipped along the road (like a mad fanny to be honest) and cried out cheers of an unburdening joy. ”Yasss!!” A possessed loony among streams of cars passing me on each side, drivers bewildered at the exhilirated ginger traveller playing a game of proverbial chicken. I didn’t care. My hopes now are maybe they read the situation exactly how it was and felt a deep sense of gratitude for witnessing my watershed moment. Or maybe my wishful thinking played no part in their experience and they only seen some foreign alien prancing about oddly on the road. But whatever meant nothing to them meant everything to me. The demons within me who had held me back for so long fought hard to derail me and they didn’t go down without a fight. I had learned to resist however and inspire the adrenaline to sail through me only to instill happiness, periods of absurd peace of mind in situations where usually i’d lose the nut. These weren’t the times when such calm feelings were expected yet for many years I had waited, dreamed and worked for times like this. Truly the small moments that make life worth living.

P1000904

”My Watershed Road”

It was too late to enter the city at this point so I searched for a nice spot to pitch my tent. A single person Ferrino Lightent 1.. Snug and secluded. It’s actually class and I seriously regret not using it more. (I only used it twice through my whole trip; this night and then another time outside Bordeaux Airport behind a bush.) Along the road and to the right there was this small lake, kinda like a pond, and a wee dusty beach area on one side. Cars surrounded the pond and the owners sat outside, fishing quietly. The beach area was empty. I kept my distance and went there, far enough to be left alone or to not disturb anyone around. Well I started to set up the Ferrino for the night until a young guy came along and asked me to leave. It was a private fishing lake. I had no idea but I wouldn’t cause a fuss. I started to repack my things into my bag, gutted with my predicament. Then the same guy stumbled around for a bit, spoke on his phone with someone in Bulgarian. He returned to me shortly after.

”Bring your stuff over here man.”

We walked around the lake to the busier side and stood next to this old wooden cabin with some benches outside. I was allowed to set up directly beside it. Phew. After I had my things sorted, Stefan invited me for a drink at the benches outside the cabin. It was his uncle’s place and they made their business by charging folk to fish on the lake and supplying them with food and drink. He spoke better English than me to be honest. We spoke a lot about his life in Sofia and his future, his dreams. It was cool to speak to someone like me apparently and he hoped one day the opportunity for him would also be there to venture out like me. But money was an issue. Bulgaria is officially the poorest country in the European Union and Stefan would only make 12 Euros for a 12 hour shift. 1 Euro per hour. I felt guilty turning up with all the bullshit I had in my bag. I tried to level that with advice of my own and stories from where I’d come from. With each passing topic or story I felt proud and extremely grateful for my start in life. There’s an unsettling discovery to be found in conversations like these. And even if I couldn’t help be born into my opportunities it certainly didn’t lessen the effect of his words.

I didn’t get a great sleep. The cabin was directly beside my ‘watershed’ road and cars drove past frequently as if the traffic never stopped. When I woke up all the fishermen were still by the lake, fairly obvious they had stayed the whole night. Stefan took me to a tram station, much further into the city.

”It’s important to help others out I mean.. isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?”

Where would I be if it hadn’t been for people like those I had met in my cross country adventure? Without hesitation these folk saw me as another person in need rather than an unwelcome stranger. Stefan later told me that his uncle was ready to let me stay at the beach the previous night but they were concerned about others mugging me for all my stuff. He said anyone like me was particularly vulnerable. I didn’t resemble anything other than a lost foreigner. He fed me Bulgarian sausages in the morning and helped me find my way to the centre without hesitation. We could all learn a lot from a young guy like him.

Stefan.. When you’re reading this, I want you to know how grateful I am for that time and all the help you gave me. You didn’t need to do any of that but since you did there’s nothing but love on my behalf. I look forward to the mad adventure we take on when I come back to Sofia.

Once again.. Thanks mate.

P1000908

”Boyana, Boyana”

 

Crossing Borders. A Three Part Series.

Part 2. Eugene & Monica, Bulgaria.

I shuffled past the various cars and trucks who sat attentively in an orderly fashion at the first border patrol, leaving Romania. The road stretched on for a good while with nothing but green grass and the base of a cemented broken road barrier surrounded by the broken segments of its former upper layer. Wild masses of green bush overflowed and the painted road lines had faded to such an extent it was difficult to tell if they were lines at all. At the end of the road there was a sharp turn where the Bulgarian border patrol lay, rendering it invisible from my current view. I found myself in No Man’s Land. Up until now it was obviously easy to be alone on my journey but now I never had a location to comfort me. I couldn’t say logistically ‘I’m in Romania’ or ‘I’m in Bulgaria’. The history of human behaviour will tell you that not having an answer is enough to turn someones life upside down. We crave answers, thirst for knowledge and push ourselves to unthinkable limits for a whiff of understanding. It’s an absurd assurance like this that calms an anxious mind in unsettling moments and keeps the flightful brain from derailing hopeful ambitions. And yet here I was.. free from security. Utterly bereft of my psychological safety net. Except for the Sertraline which often robs me of my own pride in portraying any glory and ridicules me whenever I begin to believe in myself. Considering the circumstances I’ll give myself this one. The road gave me this one.

I sat for a while at an inning in the wall, protected from sunlight by the adventurous shrubbery. This travelling business had really hit me. Emotions ran high frequently. It’s such a fucking buzz. And the adrenaline of pilgramming in these far and distant lands implored me to bask in my awestruck incandescence and lay my spinning head down on my bag for a short time.

‘I’ve come a long way from Clydebank.’

And it’s true. Looking at a globe I could’ve gone much, much further. To the Western shores of the USA, or the most Eastern point of the Asian
continent.

‘In time. Be Patient.’

Some time had passed and I lifted myself to carry on my merry way into Bulgaria. I stuck the thumb out and a car stopped almost immediately after. Surely hitch-hiking isn’t always this easy? It was a classy Audi brief, real expensive gear. The Romanian couple inside who I came to now as Eugene and Monica were my new guides into another world unknown. I was shitting myself at first in fairness. Aggressive tones, reluctant to crack a smile and despite picking me up they seemed to be stressed out their box. I told them of my plans and they reacted with bemusement.

”Why do you want to travel alone in these countries?”

For the kick I guess. Monica explained that her work took her all across the region and avoiding Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania would be more than wise. These countries were poor and I knew of the risk but I did not feel it would be as bad as what they were telling me then. I believed in trust, and aswell good people. But they spoke positively only of where we just came from, Romania. Everything in Romania is the best in Europe allegedly. The culture, the food, the people. Cluj Napoca has the best nightlife in the world. The women of Romania are the most beautiful you will ever see. I admired their pride. It was quite similar to Mihail. They were driving straight through Bulgaria and onto Thessaloniki in Greece. Very kindly they offered to drop me off in Petric at the Bulgarian/ Greek border. From there I could go straight to Macedonia. This was never my intention but I could sense a great distaste for Bulgaria and so I pondered my options.

We spoke about Romanian history, Dracula and football. A couple of times we stopped at petrol stations and Eugene even bought me some food and beer. ‘Romanian hospitality’ he called it. We even took selfies and sent them to his friend. Monica was driving, and like a maniac too. Dodging and weaving through traffic and overtaking when she had no right. I didn’t think I would see another day. After a while we had already passed Veliko Tarnovo and on the way I decided to get out at Sofia.

They dropped me at a station just outside the city. Bucharest to Sofia in no less than 6 hours. My intention that morning was to simply cross the border and camp  at a river just over the way. I had surpassed that and then some. Spent 0 on expenses, and some memories to boot. Eugene and Monica didn’t believe my decision was the right one to make but I knew that my perspective from the outside would allow me to feel differently on matters like this. The sun shone brightly as if to say I wouldn’t be disappointed. So I grabbed my bag, said my farewell’s and wandered on down the side of the Bulgarian motorway with the city of Sofia clear in my sights..

P1000897

P1000898

P1000899

P1000900

”Sofia.”

Dipping The Feet.

P1000889

One night in Bucharest.

I’ve been back in France for two weeks now, gently relaxing (and working) after a busy last few months, most notably including my time jaunting and bussing across the southeastern region of the European continent. Like almost always my plans never came to fruition in the way that I expected but still delivered on a big time level. I tested myself, faced my challenge and took in some of the most unknown places this side of the world. I didn’t wander into completely untapped parts of the world. I met many like-minded people from all over (special shoot out to the wandering Americans and Australians. I got the feeling they all left together, they were so many) seeking out new adventures, new memories.. new perspectives.

P1000904

On the oustkirts of Sofia.

I originally planned to start in the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia. Things went awry when I missed my flight and decided to fly to neighbouring country Romania. So I found myself starting in Bucharest and then made my way down through Bulgaria, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro & Croatia.

For many reasons I didn’t make the route the way I originally planned to. I missed out on going to Albania & Bosnia, two countries very high on my list for visiting. I didn’t spend nearly as much time in Montenegro as I intended and I never camped out as much as I would have liked. I’m not too downhearted though. I realised whilst spending time in many of these countries that it’s a privilege to jump on a plane with a bag and take an extended holiday in some of the poorest areas of Europe. I was aware of that already but being there hit home more than anything else could have. It was never an intention to go and be a tourist but instead learn from others on their way of life and understand what it means to have what they possess. Therefore I would rather label this as a taster of what’s to come. I dipped my toes in a great puddle of fulfilling water and next time I will dive in head first, the lungs loaded with refreshing air, ready for the deeper experiences awaiting underneath.

P1000952

”ЖП линии.”

Now I’m reminiscing, evaluating, learning & preparing for the future. I look fondly back on some thrilling adventures; crossing borders with the help of extremely generous people.. walking through the cities of forgotten countries in the midst of bringing themselves in line with a standard of the capitalist structure of development, in order to compete with the titan nations of our world.. amongst many other beautiful things I hope to share over the coming weeks. Most importantly  for myself I held an unrelenting feeling of melancholy when I returned home. I wasn’t utterly delighted or basking in the glory of my adventures to share as I had previously expected. Instead I just had more questions. A hunger to continue. To garner up as much of this riveting energy as I possibly can. An energy so engrossing, so magically powerful the brain needs rest periods every once in a while just to compute what the hell is going on and why in God’s name did you feel it was necessary to take such a plunge into the unknown. That is where most people find themselves wanting to take on more and go further out into the foreign lives and societies of others. I’m of the opinion that its easy to fall into a trap of believing we know everything already grâce au monde connecté que nous vivons* and yet myself along with many others, desperate to discover what this life has to give us, are striking evidence that our new abilities to interact may not be as connecting as what is generally percieved. But instead it gives us a flavour of the life we strive for and perhaps desire in order to live what we believe to be a fulfilling life.

I look forward to sharing my experiences with you and I hope that you’re all excited to share them too.

Мерси и Поздрави!**

P1000980

”Newborn.”

Languages are amazing. You’ll have to guess the name of the picture, let me know if you find out by posting a comment 🙂

* – ”thanks to the connected world that we live in” (French)
** – ”Thank you and regards!” (Bulgarian)

Here’s to My Treasure Island..

It’s a new day tomorrow. Wednesday, 30th of March to be exact. And it marks the beginning of another new expedition to add to the previous escapades on record. An early morning drive to Milan in Italy followed by a fairly short flight to the Bulgarian capital of Sofia and I will be ready to take on the lower half of the Balkans. I have my tent, my hammock, my Jack Kerouac books and lavender spray for the mosquitoes and I am ready to go. I hope to take six or seven weeks and make my way through some of Europe’s poorest and unknown countries by throwing the thumb out and taking a lift with some happy locals willing to share their hidden piece of this world with an enthusiastic, ginger, 20 something from a country they might never have heard of (before anyone contests this I’ve had several conversations with people who don’t know what Scotland is. Or if they do, they think it’s a part of England..).

The majority of the countries I will be going through are not the typical destinations at the top of a European getaway wish list. But after doing some research and targeting some adventurous places I decided to go with my final findings. I wouldn’t be human if I wasn’t nervous. It’s a region of Europe which still has various issues mostly linked to the break up of the Yugoslavian Republic and the brutal wars that preceded. This is not my reason for choosing these places and I wouldn’t like to think of myself as some sort of ‘war tourist’ (I don’t know the phrase word for word but I read about some Danish guy being accused of this after visiting Syria.. And after seeing widespread criticism of folk posing emphatically for photos at several commemoration memorials I intend to pay my utmost respect). Most of these countries are trying to move on from the past and bring the benefits of change to help their poor nations. And with the attempts to step away from the limelight for the wrong reasons I hope to embrace the future with the locals in a shared hope of personal wealth and a long-lasting happiness.

I can’t choose a favoured part of the plan I have drawn up for the coming months; I hope to spend time in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, venture through the wilderness of Montenegro, find out more about the Continent’s newest country Kosovo (or South-Western Serbia for when I arrive at the border) and experience the valiant & enigmatic cultures of Albania and Macedonia. Even as I head North to more common-known places like Croatia, Slovenia & Italy, I can’t begin to dream about what is in store for me.

I look forward to the moments that await me and the joy they will bring. In the previous days the thought running through my head has been one of great excitement. Embarking on a trip like this to me is potentially life-defining. Or as we fondly say back home.. ‘One to tell the grandweans‘. Maybe i’m getting carried away and it won’t be anything extraordinary. Or maybe they’ll talk about me in parts of the region as a ‘much loved Scottish explorer’. I don’t expect my name to be up there with Robinson Crusoe after a summer stint in the Balkans, but these are the scope of thoughts that enter play in the preceding moments before an adventure as such. And is it dangerous to aim high? To dream of great happenings and endearing moments? The romantic in me says no. The realist in me says ‘get a f**kin hawd of yersel!‘.

Perhaps striking the balance might be what shapes this chapter as a decorated highlight in the ongoing novel that is my life..


The last few weeks I’ve been exploring various places in La France with my partner. We’ve mainly divided our time between the wonderful city of Lyon and the South of France. Over the coming weeks while i’m away i’ll be sharing various tales from our shenanigans, so keep updated by following the blog at the links provided. Cheers X