Balkan Boob Jobs
Trip Start Aug 09, 2009
108Trip End Oct 23, 2009
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He actually scoffed at the notion that I actually fly places and have been paying to ride the Balkan bus. Yeah, crazy concept I know! As much as I hate to have to pay for a hot crowded busride, I don't want to end up in 50 pieces in some dumpster behind an Albanian 7-11. He was kids play though compared to one of the people sharing our room.
She was mid 30s and from Finland, and I was making small talk by asking how her vacation was so far. She said that she had been in Skopje for 11 days now and trust me, one is sufficient. So I wanted to know the usual such as if she had been to Lake Ohrid or elsewhere prettier than Skopje, and she said, nope, just Skopje. Now enquiring minds have to know what in the world one does for almost two weeks in this town, and against my better judgment I went there. The bait was already dangling and I took it hook line and sinker.
She enthusiastically told me she is on a medical holiday to make herself "pretty." Now I fully realize that beauty is in the eye of the beholder but I looked at her from head to toe trying to figure out if she had already been made "pretty" or not and where this procedure had taken place on her body. She saw me looking and volunteered, "I think you call it a boob job. I had a boob job."
Now having never had the procedure myself, I cannot even pretend to be the world's leading authority on the subject, but common sense tells me that a hostel is probably not the best post op convalescense facility. First off, she is in a room with five guys and in a top bunk to make matters worse. Seems to me going up and down that ladder would hurt a little bit as her newfound pretty jiggles inside her tee shirt. Second, I just plain wouldn't want everyone knowing all my personal business such as that.
She never did offer to show me the doc's handywork other than pulling her tee shirt tightly across her newly enhanced chest so ladies, I cannot say first hand or not if a trip to Macedonia is worth it for a cheap fun bag enhancement
The journey out of Skopje to Sofia was not bad at all and was the best busride I've had to date in the Balkans. Only six of us on board...Didn't make a million stops...The temperature was just right. It doesn't get any better than that. Sofia is a big city that sprawls out from a pretty lively core. I don't expect to see any signs boasting about awards for prettiness but it sure is a great laid back place to just wander around. It's flat, on a grid system and I have taught myself the Cyrillic alphabet so getting around is hassle free now. I can just sound out the names as written and match it up to a Roman alphabet approximation on my maps.
Have you ever noticed one of those afternoons where there is absolutely no temperature. I mean the air is not cold or not hot and just feels perfect with no humidty. Add in bright sunshine and streets shaded by huge trees and it just meets all my requirements for a great walk. I wouldn't go burning up those frequent flyer miles to come here but for me it's the ideal urban environment. If you haven't figured it out by now, I really enjoy cities and uncovering what makes the place tick. I am really into this place and what it has to offer people watchingwise.
Sofia didn't burn up too much memory on my camera card because try as I might, I just couldn't get the proper camera angle to make the drab architecture more photogenic. One of these days I am going to start in Poland and travel all through Eastern Europe and beyond taking pictures of all these fine Soviet inspired creations.
Travel always brings new experiences and an entire city full of basement shops was new to me. There will be a regular store such as a minimart of one of dozens of bra stores at street level but look close and there is a window down at the sidewalk level below the display of lingerie or digital cameras. People stoop down, tell the person on the other side what they need and the transaction is completed through the window. It was mostly package stores but also some such as tailors and other service oriented places. Now that is an efficient use of space.
And speaking of sidewalks, this is one city where care is needed. Remember the old saying step on a crack and break your mother's back? Well here, step on the wrong crack and break your own back. The sidewalks are mostly concrete slabs laid out and many are loose. If you step on the edge of a loose one, the entire thing will pop up. It's like one of those cartoons where someone steps on the edge of a rake and the handle pops up and hits him in the face. It's not as extreme here obviously but you get the picture.
Certain slabs give access to whatever fancy underworld lies beneath the surface and these are held in place only by who knows what. Some of them are falling inward due to a lack of support underneath and others feel like they could give way
Sofia and its million and half people go back over 7,000 years as a municipality. I used a pedestrian tunnel to cross under a main street downtown and saw all these excavations down below that looked as ancient as the old babushkas selling their crap from blankets sprawled along the walkways. I didn't think much of the ruins until I was looking in a guidebook later on found out this stuff dates back to the 4th Century when Sofia was called Serdica.
And I actually found a part of Serdica above ground while aimlessly exploring today. My map outlines all the major sites and #26 was tucked away inside the courtyard of the Sheraton. Not knowing what I was going to find, I walked through the archway and found a small red brick church and some ruins. I investigated a little further and found out this St. Georgy Church dates back to the 4th Century AD and was built by the Romans
Celts, Byzantines, Romans, Ottomans, Soviet Communists...this ancient city has seen it all and I sensed it walking around. Amazing Orthodox churches are scattered about and there was even one old mosque. I really enjoy seeing how different cultures have left their mark on this city and the most notable is the Soviet influence of most of the buildings. Again, not much to look at but such a great place to wake up the senses and put a face to those endless facts we had to memorize in school. Being in a city that has been at the crossroads of civilization since that time we all read about in world history class is actually pretty overwhelming when you think about it. Where else in the world really has seen so many different empires come in, conquer, flourish and then be conquered themselves.
London and those popular places on the tourist trail are neat but you look at Big Ben and the reaction is like "cool, next site now..." Walk around Sofia a few hours and surprise discoveries like St. Georgy leave you really impressed when you think about how old they are. The best part was that when I walked inside this plain brick St. Georgy the size of a Burger King, an Orthodox priest with his long beard and robe was swinging an incense burner and chanting. Still in use after all these centuries! Sorry Big Ben or House of Parliament...you aren't in the same league with this type of authenticity and history.
Even my short stop the other day in Split leaves more of an impression than looking at some old buildings in Paris
What do we have to show in Atlanta that would wow someone like these sites from thousands of years ago? Actually I got it...America's first public housing project...Techwood Homes from 1936...demolished to make way for the Olympic dorms...Yeah, take your visitors there to that former site...now there's some home grown history to compete with St. Georgy or Diocletian!!!