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Etiquette stops at the hotel door 

Street life in Sofia


When we got to Sofia, our hotel included a direct view of the St. Alexander Nevsky church, then a museum.  It was the very center of town, and there often was not one car to be seen on the broad boulevards of this, another city that called itself the Paris of the East.  We visited an old monastery outside of town, which gave us a hint of the orthodox Christian tradition of Bulgaria.  We filed past the tomb of Georgi Demitrov, Bulgaria's counterpart of Lenin's tomb.  I must not have walked fast enough, because the woman in peasant clothes behind me pushed me ahead with her fist whenever I slowed down.  Lines were a serious matter behind the Iron Curtain.


There was a desk clerk at our hotel in Sofia who was happy to practice her English with us.  She was about our age, and her English was excellent.  Her family came from the Lake Ochrid part of Yugoslavian Macedonia, but they had moved to Bulgaria to get better medical treatment for her sick father.  This was a new concept to us -- moving to Bulgaria for the medical care.  We resolved not to get sick during our stop in Macedonia!


She spoke to us in the hotel without any inhibitions.  Her brother had been dragged into a police station, and they had shaved his head.  Her sister had been picked up for having a skirt too short.  The police tattooed circles around each leg below the knee so she would never be tempted to wear a short skirt again.  And so on.  We recounted our story from Bustend, and she was not surprised.


Her shift was over at 1:00 am, and we politely offered to wait with her at the bus stop in front of the hotel until her bus came.  She apologized, but had to decline.  She could lose her job if anyone saw her on the street with us, even in front of the hotel.  Those were the facts of life.  We kissed her good-bye, then watched out the window until the bus came.

Next chapter: Skopje, Belgrade, and Sarajevo

Richard, Julie & Gary; Sofia hotel

Wedding in Bojana, near Sofia

Last updated September 2, 2002