It’s been some time since my last post; I left Bulgaria in August to return to my hometown in Kentucky. I miss Sofia terribly, it was a place I called home and loved from day one. While I may never be a Bulgarian, I do consider myself a Sofian. The city is a strange mix of elegant and rusty, of nostalgia and hope for the future, of Europe and the Orient, of capitalism and communism. Visitors never seem to know what to expect out of Sofia, but the city is a home to many people who are just trying to live their day to day lives. Someone recently asked me what I miss the most, and I immediately said “the friends who I made that I don’t get a chance to see on a daily basis.” A close second would be the public transit.
I left Sofia on August 26th, just over a month after the Burgas bus bombing. I was surprised that morning when I arrived at the airport and my friend Mr. P who had come to bid me farewell could not enter the airport. Only ticketed passengers could enter the building. I had this cinematic scene in my mind of waving goodbye as I ran to catch my flight, however in true Bulgarian fashion I was shuffled inside and made to wait in a very slow-moving anti-climactic line, all the while needing to use the toilet.
A week earlier I had tried to turn in my identity card, however the clerk at the immigration office told me that I would have problems exiting the country if I didn’t take it with me. I was certain she meant re-enter the country – as a U.S. Passport holder, no one has ever given me gruff for exiting anywhere. She told me I might be able to surrender my card at the border police, but even then I was skeptical. Bulgarian law states that you Bulgarian identity card is the property of the government and loss is subject to a large fine. As I did not know when I would be returning, I would need to surrender my card so that I wouldn’t have any problems if I chose to return one day (summer 2013 I’m hoping :)). Unsurprisingly, the border police did not want my card, and they suggested mailing it to the Bulgarian embassy in D.C. If you’re visiting Bulgaria, this is a good example of the frustrations of bureaucracy.
We’ll see how my identity card drama will unfold…
If traveling from a smaller city in the U.S., I find transatlantic flights are cheaper if you first fly to either New York or Chicago on a separate ticket. By doing this coming into the U.S., I saved $700.00. I arrived in Chicago via Amsterdam in the evening and my friend Ms. T picked me up at the airport. Of all the American cities, Chicago and New York have killer public transit systems, whereas in Kentucky it is virtually impossible to leave the airport not in a car.
I stayed in Chicago for a few days and eventually took the Megabus to Louisville for $14. Megabus is a new phenomenon in the middle of America, starting out in the coastal cities, the company has expanded to include a Chicago-Indianapolis-Louisville-Nashville line, which was great since Louisville is only 6 hours from Chicago and there were no baggage fees. The company works like this: the first ticket sold is one dollar, the second is two dollars, the third is three dollars, and etc. If you’re planning ahead, you can get tickets for less than the cost of driving.
The bus was comfortable and had free wifi, which was a step above the Bulgarian buses I’ve been used to riding. It took about 6 1/2 hours for the bus to get to Louisville, and it dropped us off downtown on the backside of the Louisville Armory.
Living in Louisville, Kentucky makes me pine for Sofia’s public transit. Although Louisville has more than a million people, it took me on average 2 hours to get anywhere I needed to go from where my parents live. In October, I broke down and bought a car, which has made life enjoyable.
As the year is coming to a close, I wanted to take the time to say goodbye to all of my loyal readers and friends in Bulgaria. Although I did not reach my goal of writing about every line of public transit in Sofia, I did cover a lot of the more interesting ones that as a visitor, you might want to use. I want to thank you for your interest in my blog, and as always, if you have any additional questions or comments, feel free to email me at email@example.com.
Have a Merry Christmas!