Thursday, January 04, 2007

Saturday Afternoon in Sofia

We spent the rest of the day Saturday visiting churches. We stopped by a few other sites of interest, including the presidential residence, where two soldiers are permanently on guard and have a changing ceremony every hour. (The top photo was taken in front of this.)

There is a lot of culture in Sofia – museums, orchestra, opera. The middle photo shows the National Theatre in the background and a public ice skating rink in front. In front of the theatre, we stopped for awhile to watch an old Bulgarian man playing fetch with a cute little dog. The dog would take a tennis ball and go up toward the doors of the theatre, which was at the top of an incline. He would then lie down and slowly let the ball out of his mouth. It would roll down the ramp and he would start to give chase as the old man gave it a good kick. It was a nice scene, especially with everyone at the ice rink also having a good time out on this cold, but sunny, day.

After we had walked for quite awhile, we stopped for a coffee and had an interesting cultural experience. In Greece, ‘nay’ means ‘yes,’ but in Bulgaria it means ‘no.’ The Bulgarians also shake their head side-to-side to mean ‘yes’ and up-and-down to say ‘no.’ All this made for quite a confusing scene. I tried to go to the restroom but there was an employee standing outside of it. I thought maybe it was temporarily closed for cleaning or something, so I motioned to ask if it was ok for me to go in. She vigorously shook her head side-to-side and I started head back to our table before she stopped me and motioned for me to go in.

Meanwhile, RM asked an employee if they had espresso and they also shook their head side-to-side. He then asked what else he could get before they made it clear that they did in fact have what he wanted.

Later in the afternoon, we hit the open-air market (also sort of a black market) which is located in between the beautiful 5th century St. Sofia Church and the Office of the Patriarchate and Holy Synod. The bottom photo is of the market with the Patriarchate in the background.

Brendan and I asked discretely about ancient coins and ended up having a fascinating conversation with a coin dealer. He explained the Roman coin system and we then bought a couple ancient Roman coins for dirt cheap. (The coins are apparently dug without proper authorization at various archaeological sites. There are so many such sites that they can’t possibly all be explored. It’s like finding an arrowhead in the US.) Of course, there’s a danger of buying fakes or reproductions, but we were convinced that the ones we got were real. Plus, they’re so cheap that you can’t really go wrong. I got a small coin from the reign of Antoninus Pius (138-161) for only $3!

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