Several years ago, while I was still living and working in Brussels, I received a call in the middle of the night telling me that I would need to be in Bulgaria to defend a client’s business venture. Shortly I found myself in Sofia, the capital.
Bulgaria is squeezed in between Romania (where I’ve still never been) and Greece (where I have). Just to the west is Serbia (where I’ll be going this summer). Its language looks like a cross between Greek and Russian. To make matters worse all the street signs were in Bulgarian but the map given to me by the hotel showed the street names only in English. Despite this handicap I was able to find my way around the city, including witnessing the changing of the guard at the presidential palace and a variety of ancient churches. Dominating the skyline is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral:
While grabbing a bite to eat at a street-side cafe I became acquainted with the local beggar boys (to whom a shake of the head means “yes”). While prevalent, it seems they are outnumbered by the approximately 6600 street dogs (to whom shaking of anything seems to be a trigger for gnashing and drooling anything that looks edible).
I was only one afternoon and night in Sofia. The next morning a driver picked me up for the two hour ride to Plovdiv, the “City of the Seven Hills,” where the international meeting I was attending would take place. For the next three days I alternated science lobbying work with nights out on the town (including some variant of belly dancer and the local hard liquor). Plovdiv also is the site of some ancient Roman ruins, not the least of which was an old amphitheater now used as a concert venue:
I’m happy to say that the meeting was successful for my client (though he would lose that success two years later after someone else represented him). I’m also happy I had the opportunity to visit such an interesting country, and to do so even before making the acquaintance of friends who hail from there.
Meanwhile, I’m busy planning for the next trips. More on that in future posts.
David J. Kent is an avid science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, now available. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.
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