Wanna thrive in the dust of the universe

After I got dad on a plane (actually he got himself there via tram super early so I didn’t even wake up), I decided to stay in Prague for another week since I liked it better this time. The apartment was really nice, and having a beer garden a 5 minute walk away is handy too.

My days in Prague pretty much consisted of me going to a cafe, wandering across the bridge to one of the vegetarian restaurants I liked, working in a cafe, going to the beer garden and having a beer and working from there, and then going home to bed. Pretty decent routine, although I must say Prague could pick up its cafe game a bit.

Cafe Jedna – This is a modern, airy cafe in an art gallery. Never went to the gallery, but it was a nice place to sit and work.

Loving Hut – Little vegetarian place where you pick what you want and pay by weight. Pretty good.

Dhaba Beas – Vegetarian place that was more in the working district. It was worth the walk across the bridge, because the view of the water is nice, and this place was really good too. It’s also near a Starbucks.

I was a bit sad to go, but the plan was always to get back to wandering around Eastern Europe. So, I flew back to Romania with the intention of finishing up my dental work. But, my dentist was on vacation, and apparently they didn’t have anyone else that could do it, so that put me in an annoying position. The position being that if I wanted to get it done I’d have to extend past the month I had booked, and I didn’t want to do that because I despise Bucharest.

The more time I’ve spent here, the more nooks I’ve found that I can enjoy. But still, not enough nooks. It’s quite ugly, and its reputation for being very corrupt doesn’t make me want to hang around and support that either. So, I opted to let my teeth fend for themselves, which will inevitably mean painful, expensive work down the road, but not more painful than sitting around in Bucharest longer.

I think I covered the major tourist things in my previous post, so here are a couple cafes and restaurants that I found that I liked well enough:

Artichoke Coffee Shop – Nice little cafe by an old church. They had good juice options too for the couple weeks I gave up coffee.

Alt Shift – It started to downpour when I was walking outside this place. Had some nice vegetarian pasta, plus I like restaurants named after keyboard keys.

Burger Van Bistro – With the lack of selection of veggie places in Bucharest, a to-go burger place with a vegetarian option makes the list.

So yeah, for the most part I ate at home.

As soon as my month was up, once again missing water, I decided to head to the Black Sea. So, to Varna, Bulgaria I went. It’s a tourist beach town, popular with Bulgarians it seemed, but overall a pretty good mixture of people. I stayed in a hostel for what seemed like ages, but I actually think it was only a few days.

Bulgaria might be one of the cheapest countries I’ve been to. And it’s very beautiful. However, I will say that Bulgarian people (outside of Sofia) are probably the most unkind that I’ve met. Just real downers, and that’s saying something coming from me. A guy I was with paid for dinner with change (not even really annoying change, just basically some .50’s and 1’s) and the waitress looked like she wanted to kill someone.

I’m not a lay on the beach person, but there were plenty of beach clubs and bars on the beach that were pretty relaxed. For $2/beer, you could just go and chill out for a while. So I did that a couple times, drink a beer and do some work. It’s more of a 2-night place, so I cycled new friends a couple times while I was there, but it was healthy to have some human interaction again.

From Varna, I went to Veliko Tarnova, a historical town on my way to places I actually wanted to go. They do a pretty sophisticated light show celebrating the history of Bulgaria through sounds and lights projected on the ruins of their famous fortress. I imagine it would be more meaningful to you if you knew anything about Bulgarian history, which I do not. It sounded eventful though.

Here’s the fortress during the day, when all of the sun’s light is projecting on it, so it’s not really as interesting.

Archway to the Fortress in Veliko Tarnovo
Incoming armies frequently twisted their ankles
Fortress in Veliko Tarnovo
Army of old people trying not to fall
Veliko Tarnovo
It’s a nicer view from far away
Veliko Tarnovo - Fortress Along the River
Difficult to siege with canoes
Inside of a Church Somewhere
I don’t really remember where this was, the Monastery in Veliko Tarnovo I assume

On to Plovdiv, the recipient of a European City of Culture for 2019, which they seemed pretty pumped about. I thought their hipster old town area was pretty lame, but the fact that it’s buried on Roman ruins is pretty cool. They discovered them under the main part of the city so they couldn’t excavate all of them, but they did a couple of the sections which turned out really cool.

I wish I had taken a couple pictures of the Roman ruins to put here, because instead there’s just tons of text. Oh well, picture some old Roman stuff.

I had heard good things about Bansko, and despite it not being the tourist season there at all – not the summer for hiking nor the busiest season of winter for skiing – I decided to go anyways. I stayed in a guesthouse for a couple nights that felt more like I was staying in someone’s home – the couple that ran it were very warm and welcoming, cooked dinner for everyone (the man seemed to be some kind of chef), and is exactly the kind of experience that people rave about and say make travel and life worth it if you’re not like me and just want to be left alone.

I didn’t want to offend them by not eating the food they cooked, so I instead decided to offend them by not going at all. So if I’m going to be offensive regardless, I might as well do it in a way where I’m not in an actively awkward situation.

I got up and did some hiking here, but the bus never came that was supposed to take me up the mountain a ways, so I just sort of hiked around the bottom. It was kind of lame and I wouldn’t really recommend it. After a couple days there, I crossed it off my list of places to stay longer and decided to move on to Sofia.

I hadn’t heard anything great about Sofia, so I almost skipped it. But I’m glad I didn’t, because I actually quite liked the city. It has a small city feel with most of the modern conveniences and good day trips. A couple vegetarian places, which earns a lot of points from me in this meat-fueled land. I stayed at a great little hostel, and then moved to an AirBnb for a week to hang out and get some work done. In the hostel, I was forced to stay in an 18-bed dorm, which cost me about $10/night and included breakfast and dinner. Great deal, and the hostel is great, but really just one rung up on the ladder from being homeless.

Restaurant Kring – This is my favorite vegetarian place I’ve found. The girl working the cash register is really nice and really likes telling people the bread is free and to take more. So if you go, only take one piece because she gets super excited about telling people.

Edgy Veggie – Cool selection of vegetarian and vegan food. I had a quinoa wrap one time and a fake turkey wrap another time. Highly recommended.

They had history stuff here too. Some buried ruins of their own that doubled as an underground passage through the main thoroughfare. I SWEAR I took some pictures of things and my phone is conspiring against me, wiping out a couple weeks of things.

There were a couple day trips that you could do from Sofia, and I did BOTH of them like a good tourist. The first one was to the 7 Rila Lakes.

As you might guess, there were 7 lakes. Situated up in the mountains, it combined quite a bit of driving with quite a bit of hiking. We had a group tour from the hostel, but I don’t really remember them so they must have been kind of lame. Wait, there was an oddly fashionable Dutch guy, hiking around in capris for some reason, carrying his stuff in a grocery tote. He was cool actually. Anyways, here are pictures of that.

7 Rila Lakes
7 Rila Lakes, 100s of rocks
7 Rila Lakes
Also several noisy horses
7 Rila Lakes
This one was created by aliens
7 Rila Lakes
6 of the 7 lakes
7 Rila Lakes
5 of the 7 lakes
7 Rila Lakes
1 of the 7 lakes

The next day I went on a tour to the Rila Monastery. Our car consisted of 4 19-year-olds from Texas studying abroad in Rome, me, and an Austrian girl living in Montreal. It was a pretty monastery and all, but there wasn’t exactly a ton to do there to take up all the time.

There were a bunch of little museums that all cost between $1-$5 to go into. The Austrian Canadian was almost equally curmudgeonly as I was, so we burned time by sitting outside one of the museums deciding whether or not to go in based on people’s expressions as they left. It was not productive, but we decided to go in anyways. It was a bunch of old pots and stuff, totally worth the $2.

There was a large Spanish tour group walking around at the same time, so I was trying to listen in and steal some of the tour. I think they were talking about books, clothes and things.

Rila Monastery
Monk architects smoked some tea and decided to try stripes
Rila Monastery
Not the movie Stripes, I hear that’s terrible
Rila Monastery
Pretty sweet place to be a monk
Rila Monastery
Or a striped animal that relies on camouflage for defense

I was moderately social and went to bars with some people. One bar we went to didn’t have any power. On purpose, like that was its thing. And it’s hidden. You need to go down a side street and knock on a door, and they let you into a candlelit room full of fire hazards. You then have a romantic drink or plot something devious. Obviously no WiFi, boo.

I don’t have pictures, but you can search for them: Hambara Bara.

Across from the AirBnb apartment I was staying in, there was this hipster collective bar called The Apartment. It was literally an apartment where each room was decorated like a living room, and the kitchen was the bar. It was cozy and full of nice people, but let’s be honest, it’s just a really lazy way to run a bar. Instead of going to my apartment and drinking a beer, I could just go to this apartment instead and drink a beer.

And yeah, they had a couple Starbucks and and a Costa Coffee, immediately winning some points with me. Oh, and a Wok to Walk. It’s been a while since I had asian food.

Barista Coffee – This was my favorite place to have coffee and work for a bit. Popular among other people doing the same too.

So, I ended up liking Sofia. Staying in the AirBnb during the week and going to the hostel on the weekends worked out pretty well. In Eastern Europe, the hostel crowd tends to be a bit older, especially after the main tourist season, so I didn’t feel super old.

And here’s a picture of some graffiti.

Graffiti in Sofia
Bulleit was about $3.50 here, not $18 like in Manhattan

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