I live in Bulgaria now and yes, it's as weird as it sounds
I've been in Sofia, Bulgaria for 10 days now. Admittedly, I haven't done much yet to explore the city outside of the area I live in so I recognize this is probably skewing my perception. I have a couple upcoming camping and hiking trips and a day planned to visit a village I'm hoping will change my outlook.
Sofia is filled with some pretty incredible history I've only just begun to learn about. The entire city is built on top of original Roman ruins and I walk by them every day. Seriously... pieces of roads and buildings thousands of years old are just like, hanging out, all over the place. To think some homeboys like 2,000 years ago were standing where I was and laying the same stones I'm staring at now is pretty neat.
The food here is so damn delicious. I've been to a bunch of different restaurants and I've never left disappointed. Our first full day we had a huge family style dinner at a traditional restaurant with almost the entire group. They served us a 3 course meal of yummy salads, vegetable stew, potatoes slathered in butter, and the best meatloaf ever.
We were also entertained by some traditional Bulgarian dance which was lovely at first, and then got really weird. This guy put on a terrifying mask and was hopping around with cowbells on his waist (click here to see for yourself). But otherwise, it was a fun evening with so many friends.
We celebrated the 4th of July scrounging up as many "American" foods as we could put together. We had PB&J, sausage on the grill, McDonald's, brownies, jalapeno poppers, apple pie, and on and on. It poured rain for a while so we took it inside and after a few hours of drinking that turned into 3 hours of extremely passionate Disney karaoke. I hadn't laughed (or sang) that hard in a while. My friends are insane.
One night this week a few of us found a trampoline gym and hopped around for a couple hours which was super fun. Random, but really fun. And exhausting.
I haven't done much else just yet because my tracks are only just getting started. I hit the workspace about every day, and my business partner is finally back from her vacation so I'm happy to be back in the swing of things with her around.
The bad... and the ugly
I say living in Sofia is weird because I'm not a huge fan. Many of my friends have been bungee jumping, spelunking, hiking to the famous 7 Rila Lakes, and yes, Bulgarian nature is undeniably gorgeous. But here inside the city is a totally different story.
Sofia is still very much trying to recover from its communist past. Many buildings are totally decrepit or abandoned altogether. The sidewalks everywhere are such a busted mess it's like the city has a permanent vendetta against toes. There is endless graffiti of swastikas and the hammer and sickle. Anyone over the age of 25 don't seem to smile much.
I've found it difficult to get into a groove of day-to-day livability. There are umpteen mom and pop shops but they all sell the most random assortment of cheap, useless crap it's near impossible to tell what the store is until you get inside. I would have no idea where to go if I needed something specific. I have not been able to find a well-stocked grocery store within a reasonable distance of my house.
That said, there's a lot of hope for Sofia. The youth are very expressive with their fashion choices and are always out and about having fun in big groups. Certain parts of the city are more put together than others. There are many nice parks for people to stroll around and hang out and there's no shortage of quality bars and restaurants.
I don't expect every place to be pristine and perfect. I don't expect nor want to be totally comfortable everywhere I go. That's not the point of this adventure. I can't read or even remotely guess what any given sign says. I rarely can communicate with service people ordering a taxi or food at a restaurant. But I'm here, dammit. I doing it.
I still have a few weeks to go. Maybe my perception will change with time. As of now, I'm missing Valencia and I don't think I'll be too sad when it's time to leave here.
Time will tell!