Saturday, August 29, 2009


So far I'm very pleasantly surprised by Bulgaria's second largest city. I arrived by bus yesterday afternoon and walked from the bus station down a quiet tree lined street past the University and into the main square, found a tourist information center and the post office where I mailed some postcards. From there I headed down a very wide pedestrian-only avenue lined with nice shops and restaurants. Lots of people but not overly touristy. After 15 minutes I arrived at a 500 year old mosque and turned right, winding my way up cobblestone streets towards my hostel and the top of the hill settled by the Thracians some 5000 years ago.
A little history.... As I said Plovdiv was settled about 5000 years ago but it was Phillip II of Macedonia (Alexander the Great's pop) who put it on the map in 342BC. The Romans conquered it a few hundred years later and "Romanized" it. There's a magnificent 2000 year old amphitheater less than a 5 minute walk from my hostel. t seats 6000 an is used today for concerts and plays.
I had some local fare for dinner in a very quaint outdoor courtyard adjoining am art gallery on my way to the amphitheater. It was a mixture of cheese, sausage, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes and egg baked in a locally made earthenware crock with a liter of the local Kamenista lager for about $4.50 US. It was so filling I couldn't even finish. Well that's enough for now... I need some breakfast.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Day 3 Sofia

Not much to update today. Woke up late, almost missed breakfast. Walked most of the city today, Sophia's not a huge town. 1.5 million people and the "old town" is fairly compact. You can walk from one side to the other in less than 30 minutes. Saw the requisite orthodox churches and went inside my first mosque. Oh! Gotta run. Free pasta and a beer at the hostel comes out 7pm... don't want to miss a free meal! Booked my stay in Plovidiv and will head to the bus station tomorrow to catch a 2hr ride to Plovdiv.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sofia, Bulgaria

Sofia. Wow. It's been a whirlwind couple of days. Left home Monday morning 9:30am heading to Newark airport. Flew to Washington DC, then overnight to Paris and on to Sofia. Grabbed a cab from the airport and made it to Hostel Mostel around 3pm local time on Tuesday. (7 hrs timezone ahead) Still bleary eyed from traveling and barely checked in, I met Mark from somewhere in England and we headed out to grab a few beers. I was worried about being lonely on the trip... definitely not a problem. (there's still no substitute for friends and loved ones though). Went out for a late night bite to an awesome outdoor cafe with 10 of my new friends... 6 Americans, 2 Germans and a Brit. Everyone is saying how odd it is that there are so many Americans lately all over Bulgaria. Anyway had a great time and went with another group this morning to the Rila Monastery in the Rila Mountains about 2 hrs south of Sofia. Shared a cab with Jens from Cologne, Matteo from Milan and some guy from Hong Kong who's name I will never be able to pronounce. What an amazing place... 1000 years old, beatiful setting in the mountains. I could have easily spent a couple days there. Had some delicious grilled trout right out of the stream that runs past the monastery. That's all for now... heading out to dinner. Tomorrow I'm doing a walking tour of Sofia and begin planning my exit to the ancient city of Plovdiv.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I land in Sophia, Bulgaria Tuesday morning, August 25th. The "plan" is to spend a few days in Sophia before making my way east to the Black Sea coast, stopping here and there along the way. Then I'll head south to Istanbul for a few days before heading east again to Turkey's capital city of Ankara, then into the surreal landscapes of Cappadocia and south to the Agean coast, where I'll make my way back north and west along the coast visiting ancient ruins. From there a ferry ride to one of Greece's many isles, then visit a few more isles before touring the peloponnesian penninsula and heading to Athens to meet up with my friend Ira for the final week. Home again on October birthday. So I'll have plenty of time (8 weeks) to cover my suggested route but I have a feeling the time will fly by. We'll see how it goes.

Eight weeks is a long time to be gone and I know I'll miss my friends and family back home, especially Kelly-Jo. I think that will be the most difficult aspect of my trip. But staying in hostels along the way I hope to make some traveling friends to combat the loneliness. Again, we'll see how it goes.

My backpack weighs in at just under 22 lbs... plenty light. Andrew and I did 55 miles on the Appalachian Trail in 5 days earlier this year and I carried the same pack. It weighed 30 lbs for that trek and it was no problem despite all the rocks and elevation changes. Traveling light is the way to go. There are two schools of thought... bring lots of clothes to a place and change every day, or wear the same clothes and just change towns!! I'm opting for the latter.

That's all for now... have to study up on my Bulgarian and repack my pack a few more times... :-)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Post number 1

Well, I'm in the homestretch now... final preparations for my travels through Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece. I created this log to let the folks back home follow me on my trip.