Sorry to lump all of this in to one post but I’ve been pretty busy and most of my internet time has been consumed by writing e-mails and researching where i’m going next.
Real quickly a day-by-day account
Thur 5-May: My last day in Kiev is spent doing some last minute walking around and some shopping for groceries at the aptly named MegaMart. They had a good selection of instant noodles, including some of my favorite Korean brands, which unfortunately weren’t instant. I got to the train station with plenty of time and boarded the train for Sofia. I am paired with a nice Russian woman named Zoya. She is very chatty and maternal. I practice my Russian a lot. There is also a very nice Iranian med student named Rachel who got off at L’viv.
Fri 6-May: Another day on the train. At 10:30 we arrive at the Ukraine/Romania border where we have to wait for two and a half hours while they change the gears on the train. Zoya is very keen on explaining everything to me. Sometimes I understand her – my Russian had improved significantly, but it was still a struggle. After cruising through Romania and seeing the life of 19th century peasants, we arrived in Bucharest. A Swede got in to my car and we started to drink.
Sat 7-May: First day in Sofia, Bulgaria. We lost no time and got in a guided tour of Rila Monastery. It was very beautiful to go through the caves and see the beautiful buildings situated behind the snow capped mountains. We arrived back to Sofia in time for the hostel’s free spaghetti and beer dinner. The Swede and I had stocked up on beer and we began drinking. I passed out on a couch – I was very exhausted.
Sun 8-May: The weather had again turned cold and gray. I walked around an empty Sofia. That city is how imagine many European cities looked at one point in the past. No high rises, no highways really, piles of rubble, slight disrepair but a certain sense of style and history found in the Old World. In the evening I had dinner with an American I met in the hostel and he, the Swede, two Germans and a Dutchman we met REALLY began drinking. Out late till 4am. Drank a ton and had a blast. The Dutchman and the German had a bad time of it.
Mon 9-May: Recovery. Hungover and tired from a lot of moving around. Took it easy around the hostel and started seriously planning my trip to Turkey. Ended up booking a flight to Istanbul (same price and 7 hours faster than the plane) and beginning an itinerary through the country. Chatted with some friends back home and ate some delicious Bulgarian food.
Tue 10-May: One more quick walk around Sofia and then off to the airport. My first plane ride on my trip. I was a little sad to have come overland so far only to make this last small jump by plane, but it only made sense. Th.ed in Istanbul’s second airport which is a bit away from the center. I had to take a bus through the Asian side of the city and over the Bosphorus. It was a revelation. I hadn’t imagined it would be so beautiful. The straights were so narrow and the cliffs on either side were dotted with towns filled with nice houses. All of the other sites were much as I imagined; Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque were huge, the back streets are a spider’s web of history, aromas and people that it was impossible to escape from. This is a city I had always dreamed of visiting and when I was there it felt so right and natural to be there. Ah Istanbul – just how I remember it.