Tuesday, March 14, 2006

travel travel

One of my new favorite spots in bulgaria is the sofia central bus station. I wager that anyone with an inquisitive mind and fascination with public transportation would feel the same way.For this bus station, you can get almost anywhere via a direct bus to your destination city or one further down the line. at 7pm, 8-10 buses depart to all different directions of bulgaria, and rain or shine, those buses are always full. This friday, as I sat in the front seat of a bus bound for Shumen (home of ben and jen of shumen), I marveled at the array of people traveling around the country- to shumen, plovid, dobrich, varna, pazardjik, viden, instabul, greece- everywhere. and with a varied assortment of luggage, newspapers, and snacks, one can't help but wonder the what and the why of the travelers. how many of them commute? the bus to plovdiv is a double decker, and every night its packed full. as i looked out my window into sector 26, the plovdiv sector, I saw people sitting calmly, people stuffing their luggage under the bus, people snoozing, and people reading the newspaper. something about those newspaper readers really triggered my mind, and I wondered if it was possible that these people commute to sofia? everything seemed so normal and undercontrol- as if people had made these trips before a hundred times. outside the buses, girlfriends and boyfriends shared hugs, kisses- husbands and wives, cousins, and other close relations shared long goodbyes- and it makes you think- is this event only today? do you go through this process every week? so i am truely amazed by the sofia bus station- people always coming, always going...who knows what their business is?

today that person will be me. the mysterious person traveling for mysterious reasons. Only for you, dear reader, is the mystery about to be solved! with my bags packed and an extra hour to spare, I am going to Istanbul! that's right, Istanbul, the former center of the Byzantine Empire, former largest city in the world, formerly called "constantinople," and I'm going!!! after 4 1/2 months at work, its time for a little pochevka! (break!) So I am catching an 11pm bus out of sofia, meeting up with Christen (PCV from the city of Sliven) and her sister Kelly (visiting) in Plovdiv, and heading for the border! We should arrive around 7am- IF there are no delays crossing the border! Hopefully we picked a good company, because there are many horror stories about bus companies that really just operate for smuggling cigarettes and liquor back into bulgaria...so keep your fingers crossed that we don't do accidentally do anything illegal!

While we are there, we will see the St. Sofia church (sofia, is this region of the world, means "knowledge"), which if i am not mistaken, was at one time the largest church in the world? or something?? anyway, Istanbul is this amazing city where "east meets west," as the city straddles two continents; europe and asia. After Constantinople was taken over by the Turks during the Ottoman Empire, this once over-whelmingly christian city is now FULL of mosques...many of them gorgeous- so expect pictures!

part of me thinks that taking vacations like this while being a peace corps volunteer is ridiculous. My friend Monica, from Vanderbilt, recently returned from 'alterntive spring break" in guatamala, where she was working with Peace Corps Volunteers doing physical labor of some sort. Since I am in Europe, its infinately easier for me to travel to other countries than say, a PCV in guatamala. While Bulgaria is far from a perfect country, the infrastructre is WAY more modern that some other peace corps countries, so it is really easy for us to move about. PLUS, since Bulgaria itself was part of the Ottoman Empire, many Turks live in Bulgaria, and many Bulgarians live in Turkey. That means that travel between the two countries is frequent and CHEAP! I am traveling a total of 24 hours on a bus (provided no border delays) and the entire ticket will cost me about ~$50! you can barely get a ONE-WAY ticket on southwest for that price, *and* I'm going to another country and attempting to speak turkish!! (this is the part where everyone comments on the sensibility of my trip, rather than the extravagence of taking an international vacation :) )

okay, well a nice part of my extra hour is up- so i better gather my stuff, double check for the passport, and jump on the bus to sofia!


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