…continued from Part 4.
When we finally made it to Sofia, it was past midnight and the train station was closed, despite the arrival of trains. You may be thinking that this means that the vendors are closed up and the ticket windows are dark. What it means in Bulgaria is that ALL of the lights are off, all of the informative signs have been put away, there are zero employees and if someone stabs you, you will die because no one will find you until the morning. If our trip was depicted in a cartoon, this would be the part when a tumbleweed blows by.
Maybe six other people got off the train with us and they seemed to know the route, so we just followed them with our fingers crossed. We quickly realized that we were underground as we marched through this sketchy tunnel that immediately gave me the feeling of being led to a gas chamber. Once we made it to open air without having our organs removed and sold to the black market, we were immediately met by robust men repeating “taxi” like they had Tourettes.
*Traveling Tip: Never use the cab drivers that are at the train stations. Walk a few blocks away and pick up a cab, then make sure that they turn the meter on. When possible, have the hostel arrange a taxi pick-up for you.
We said no to the taxi men, but I will admit that these mother-fuckers were pretty intimidating. When you imagine a Bulgarian, that’s exactly how they were. Those dudes had definitely cut off a finger or two in their time. Possibly ripped out a human heart with their bare hands. We hadn’t arranged for a place to stay in Sofia because it was a sort of last minute change of plans. We spotted a Marriott sign off in the distance, so the three of us, and all of the wild fucking dogs, walked toward the light.
What stuck with me was how dark the city was. In Romania and Bulgaria, when the people are asleep, the city is not only asleep, but it feels like a ghost town. Insert tumbleweed again. This was not the case so much in Budapest and Istanbul, but those are much bigger cities and have much more tourism. That might sound scary, and at first, it kind of was nerve-racking walking around in the dead of night with no lights and little signs of human life. But I very quickly grew to love it. They don’t waste resources! It’s a beautiful thing. Even in the hotel, you had to insert your key card into the light switch to enable it to turn on. Meaning, you can’t leave the lights on.
It’s not just electricity, it’s all resources. They don’t blindly waste them the way we do in the First World. I bet you would rarely see someone running water in Bulgaria and Romania to wash dishes. They probably all fill a bowl with soapy water and then just use that. And they aren’t obsessed with everything being disposable or convenient. At the grocery store there were no bags. “Paper or plastic?” is not a phrase that you hear there. Bags were not at all available. It was incredible. I would stoked because I’m a hippie. Well, my friends unfortunately call me that, but I just call it being right and smart. How fucking hard is it to just bring your own bags to the grocery store? Or cut your own damn apple? When I see shit like apples pre-cut, so they need to be put in a plastic container that will immediately be thrown away, I get pissed. When did we become such lazy assholes that we would rather suffocate the planet with plastic instead of simply cutting an apple, or god forbid, eat it straight? When did we start believing that we are superior to the Earth? I would LOVE to move to a Second World country so that I can contribute to a society that has common sense.
Pardon the rant. Back to the hotel, which was dirty and dingy and just sad. The hostels that we stayed at for approximately $12 USD a night, were WAY better. I have no idea why people have such an aversion to hostels. I think because of that damn movie. Forget about that horror movie! That would be like watching a zombie movie, and then being scared that every person you come across who coughs, may be infected with a ficticious zombie virus.
We only had the following afternoon in Bulgaria because we wanted to make sure to get four full days in Istanbul, which was the next and final stop. Raven and I decided this would be a perfect day to get tattoos since we didn’t have time to do any real sightseeing. I researched tattoo shops while Fat Face and Raven went back and forth showing each other funny videos on Vine, or whatever the hell it’s called, and I brainstormed on a design while she popped blackheads.
When we got to the shop, I explained that we just wanted a simple side view of a train and that we didn’t have much time because ironically, we had to be on a train in a few hours. Our artist walked right over to us, squatted down on the floor and started sketching a little train. It was really cool and unpretentious of him. He, along with all of the people that we crossed paths with in Sofia were friendly and lively. Very different from Bucharest, so it left us wondering why all of the Eastern European natives were telling us to do Bucharest instead of Sofia.
We got onto another fucking train, and headed East to Turkey. Our experience on that train is a prime example of how travelers just have no idea of what is going on. Before the border, we were cattled off of the train and wrangled into a concrete room that had border patrol men who didn’t even a little bit pretend to give a shit about our visas, and then we stood around for what I would guess was two hours, having no idea what in the hell was going on. We were expecting to get on a train in Sofia and then get off in Istanbul. Of course it was not that simple. Smuggling Syrian refugees was involved as well as peeing in a hole in the ground… so stay tuned!