We spent several holidays here in Sofia, starting with our 20th Anniversary! That’s right, as of December 12, Howard and I have been together for 20 years. We celebrated with a delicious dinner at Moma, an authentic Bulgarian restaurant. Sofia has some fantastic places to eat. It was hard to decide where to go. There were so many great places to choose from, most are very reasonably priced too.
A few days before Christmas we headed out to Borisova Gradina Park for the German Christmas Market. We had some snow the day before so a lot of the sidewalks were slippery. The boots I have with me weren’t very good in the snow either. Last spring we sent most of our winter clothes home, thinking we would be sticking to warm climates for the rest of the year. The boots I kept with me are from a steam punk clothing site so they look really cool, but they aren’t real leather, have no ankle support, and I lost one of the heels the day we started out on this adventure. The heel was lost somewhere between Logan Airport in Boston and our Airbnb in Lisbon, Portugal. I almost threw them away then, but ended up taking them to Greece on the odd chance there would be a cobbler there. It was funny to find almost most every other shop in the center of Hiraklion was a cobbler. So I got my boots fixed. They still suck for walking on cold, icy pathways though.
I held on to Howard’s arm as we zigzagged back and forth through the park, expecting the Christmas Market to be right around the next bend. This park is huge. There is a stadium at one end, an outdoor beer garden and stage that’s open in summer, wide open spaces with monuments and statues, an old and unused Olympic swimming pool complex with a full diving platform, narrow trails through the woods, etc. It seemed strange that there weren’t very many people around. It was a bitterly cold day, but the Market must be attracting some people. Eventually it got dark and we found out selves scrambling through the woods along the side of a road trying to get back to down town. We walked 14 km (8.5 miles) through snow and ice that day and never found the Christmas Market.
The next day we woke up determined to find the Market. After all, that’s one of the reasons we wanted to come back to Europe in December. Information online was not very specific about where exactly the Market was, it just said it was in Borisova Gradina Park. We noticed there was a little part of the park across the street from the stadium. It must be there. It wasn’t. We decided we were going to check every park around downtown. It has to be somewhere. We finally found it in the City Garden, right in the center of town.
Unfortunately, the Market was pretty small, all the booths were really close together, and there were about 5000 people there. It was so crowded you couldn’t tell if people were in line at a stall or just stuck in the crowd. We navigated through the thrall and out the other side of the Market where we could breath. We had read a lot of stuff online about how this Market is becoming one of the best in Europe, but I was really disappointed. I much prefer how it was last year in Lisbon, where every little park had it’s own Christmas Market. They had everything from the huge Wonderland Market with well spaced booths, a stage, Ferris wheel, etc. to the small market in the square by our apartment that had maybe 8 stalls and a ride for little kids, and everything in between throughout the city.
Despite the disappointing Market, Sofia is a great city and it’s been fun to explore. The city sits at the foot of Vitosha Mountain and is one of the oldest cities in Europe. People have been living here since 7000 BC! Much of the city lies on the the ruins of the Ancient Thracian City of Serdica. A section of Roman Serdica was discovered in 2010 – 2012 when they were expanding the subway system. Some of the ruins have been preserved and other parts were incorporated in to one of the subway stations. There is also an ancient Roman Amphitheater that was unearthed during the construction of a hotel, so the hotel just incorporated it into their lobby and changed their name to the Arena di Serdica Boutique Hotel. We were planning to check out this hotel and go to a museum on New Years Eve Day, but that didn’t happen.
Two days before New Years Eve, we went out in the afternoon to run a couple errands and grab a drink near our apartment. We were heading to the grocery store and I must have stepped on a loose brick or something because my foot turned sideways and felt like it had detached from my leg. To make a long story short, several hours later and with much help from Howard I had made it home, even up the 6 flights of stairs. My peroneal tendon on my right foot was no longer attaching the muscle to the bone, like what it’s supposed to do. I am now trapped on the sixth floor and not supposed to walk. But the worst thing about all this, and what almost made me cry, was as soon as we got home that night, Howard said there was a cigarette butt stuck to my ass from falling on the sidewalk.
This isn’t the first time I’ve fallen down on this trip. I am kind of a klutz. The first time was in Lisbon when I tripped on a cobble stone and landed on my face. The only thing injured was my pride though. In Hiraklion, I was walking along, looking up at an impressive fortress and stepped in a hole in the side walk. I landed on my watch and that was my biggest concern. I didn’t want it to be broken or even scratched. A group of women surrounded me and I didn’t know exactly what they were saying but I believe they were discussing the hole in the middle of the sidewalk. Then there was the bike crash in Krakow. That actually did hurt but I was fine after a few days. This time I’m not going to be able to walk right for another couple months.
A few days after New Years, I started to go a bit stir crazy and had to get out of the apartment. My foot was so swollen the only shoe I could get on over the Ace bandage was my slipper. Howard helped me down the stairs & across the street where we had a nice sushi lunch. Next I made it half a block up the street to the New Fox and Hound, a cozy little English pub. I’m so happy this place is close by, they have friendly staff and great food. I should also add, having slippers on in a bar is quite comfortable. Afterwards, Howard got me to the foot of the stairs in our building and ran to the grocery store for a few things. Going up the stairs isn’t that hard, I just go very slow. So slow that the hall lights turned off on me. There is a switch you can press on every other landing but that would have meant letting go of the hand rail and fumbling around in the dark looking for the switch. I decided to just Bird Box it up the stairs. At least I got out of the house for a bit.
Later that week Howard went out and got a pair of crutches for me. I feel like I have a little more freedom now. We even managed to make it to the main walking street the other day. On the crutches I move painfully slow though, and because I don’t have any gloves right now, my hands were freezing.
We survived the holidays here in Sofia, but I’m starting off 2019 with a limp. Because of my ankle we decided to stay here an extra week. Our plan was to go to Istanbul, Turkey next. There is a night train from Sofia with private sleeping cabins we were going to take. Instead, we’re taking a bus to Bucharest, Romania. Istanbul is a huge, spread out city with a lot of hills and Bucharest is a lot more compact and flat. It will be easier for me to get around there. Plus we found a fantastic Airbnb in a building with an elevator. Unfortunately Bucharest is cold and snowy just like Sofia. I guess I’m going to have to get some gloves.