Sofia, Bulgaria

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Written: Saturday, July 11, 2009

Arrived to the bus station before 6 AM, knowing I would have to wait a while for the girl that was going to host me.  What I didn’t know was that they wouldn’t let me sleep at the bus station.  After somehow finding a way to get comfortable on the disjointed metal benches, I was tapped by a security guy.  I thought he said ‘passport’, so I asked, “Passport?” He seemed thrown off and asked if I spoke English.  When I said yeah, he told me that I couldn’t have my feet up and I couldn’t sleep.  “It’s not a bedroom.”

I was barely sleeping anyway, so I figured I would readjust so I didn’t have my feet up.  Not long after, he came back and told me that he had already told me not to do that.  I told him that I wasn’t sleeping and I didn’t have my feet up, like he said.  He knew that I had him, so he apologized, saying that his ‘chief’ wasn’t there before, but now was, and had personally told him to personally tell me to stop laying down.  The security guy understandingly said that he knew I was tired.  I said it was fine.

A while later, the girl arrived, wearing a Jim Morrison sweatshirt and a backpack.  As we walked outside, avoiding the taxi drivers, she told me to orientate myself with the surroundings and made a big point about the gypsies, saying that they want money and steal.  There was a twinge of anger whenever she mentioned them.  A few blocks down the road, a group of people passed us by and the girl I was with stopped, with a shocked look on her face.  She pulled the backpack off of her back, noting that the zippers were opened.  This made her livid.  She was pleased that her wallet (and presumably everything else) was still there.  This made her further her point about how much she hates gypsies and how I need to watch out for them.  She started saying, “It’s ok if you beat them, the police don’t…”  This made me open my eyes fairly widely, literally.

As we walked past a mosque, the girl quizzed me on if I could recognize gypsies.  “They’re dark?” I surmised.  “And ugly and nasty,” she added.

Still angry about the attempted robbery (which she attributed to them thinking she was a tourist), we heading toward the center.  She asked if I wanted to see the synagogue behind a building on the other side of the street.  I said we may as well, since we were here.

In front of the synagogue, a guy in a flat black hat, with robes and a beard said, ‘Shalom.’  I said ‘Shalom’ back, a bit confused, as he didn’t look exactly like a rabbi.  Had I been less tired, I would have recognized him as an Orthodox priest.  The girl asked if I was Jewish, which I confirmed.  The girl and I walked to the synagogue and a guy with a  yarmulka inside told us to press a button.  As we walked into the doors, a security guard stopped us immediately.  The girl and the security guard spoke in Bulgarian, with the security guard explaining that it was Shabbat and not visiting time.  The girl explained that I was Jewish, but this didn’t change anything for the time being.  Apparently, one can visit on a non-Shabbat day, for about a Euro.

Walking back to the spot where we were going to take a rural taxi to her village, she told me how surprised she was that the Orthodox priest recognized me as Jewish.  When we arrived to the spot, she realized that she had forgotten her key and her boyfriend’s place.  And here I am, in KFC, not buying anything, hiding from the gypsies outside until she comes to retrieve me.


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