I wake up to the traditional Bulgarian breakfast that I already told you about in yesterday’s post, plus a bit of my own Muesli and fruits. One coffee, two coffees and I continue the usual writing, blogging, tweeting and researching iPhone frenzy I have grown so used to over the course of this ride. Inside Pavlina’s apartment I am alone, it is quiet (except for the yelping of a little puppy outside); everything is familiar and safe.
The same cannot be said for the unfamiliarity of downtown Sofia. I’m not one to get scared off by a new place or city, and in fact Sofia intrigues me with this energy of change and activism, with its many cafes, its neat and artsy shops. But it is a tough city to navigate for newbies and foreigners, a shortcoming readily acknowledged by the locals themselves. Firstly, as everything in Bulgaria, cyrilic reigns over all, and although I can now read this alphabet somewhat accurately it takes me a long time to do so. The brain, from lack of practice, feels like it’s peddling through molasses. Not that there is much to read of the kind of signs that are important to a new-comer: street names. These are very few and very far between even though the locals know all the street names by heart (do they study these in school??). There is tons of construction going on, mostly due to a new tram line project, forcing you to cross and re-cross the streets to avoid the mess. When asking for help, some locals are very friendly and warm while others immediately shut down and refuse to talk with you when approached in English. Not for any political or xenophobic reason – they’re simply uncomfortable and embarassed that their English is poor. I quickly switch to Polish to lessen their terror, and with most, this allows me to awkwardly continue our dialogue of streets, directions and destinations.
It is arduous, yet I set out in the persuit of sport clothing, hoping to find those dreamed-of longer shorts or one more T-shirt to add to my minimalist travel wardrobe. No luck! Furthermore, I’m left to fend for myself since the shopkeepers at one sport store claim to “not know of any other similar shops” when in fact there is another place just 100m down the same street…
I find some pants which could work but they are too expensive. Time to abandon this idea – too bad, I’ll make do with what I have and dedicate the rest of my time to more important tasks. Not to mention my dislike for shopping in general…
By 15:00 I am meandering down to the park near the radio station where Yanina from the “Ideas factory” (www.ideasfactorybg.org) has suggested we do a spot on today’s radio podcast about the Ride to Read. She tells me to come around the studio at 15:30 or 16:00 at the latest. Only a few moments go by – I had purposely come to this neighbourhood early to people-watch, sit and relax a bit- when I see a missed phone call from Yanina. I call her back and am surprised to hear her slightly anxious voice “Where are you? Are you coming?”. It seems a bit odd that she wants me at the studio so early, but don’t say anything about it. I run to meet her at the correct spot, quick. The park I was at wasn’t the right one (go figure!).
It’s fun doing the radio interview (and I’ll make it available here on the blog as soon as I receive the link for it myself). Everything is translated live into Bulgarian, and they seem very happy with the whole story. Their appreciation for the project is very visible, as they say “and maybe your story will inspire some Bulgarians to cycle for beautiful cause!”
I hope so!
Only once I get back home to Pavlina’s does reality hit. She is there waiting for me (since I have the keys), and I’m pleasently surprised to see her home an hour early. “It’s only 5pm”, I say, “that’s pretty sweet you got off work early!”. She looks at me perplexed and answers, “No, I didn’t, it’s 6pm!”
Ooohhh! Silly goose…I’ve changed time zones and didn’t even realize it!
Bulgaria is one hour ahead from Barcelona time… and it only took me 5 days in this new country to figure it out. I was wondering why Pavlina left for work at 8:00 when she said she would go at 9:00, why Yanina was rushing me when I thought I was early but was in fact I was late…and why, for goodness sakes, the sun has been setting so early!
Finally, as I reset my clocks, everything makes just a little more sense
Kasia – your time-zone crossing cyclist