Yelling on the Street

Trip Start May 24, 2006
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Trip End Aug 02, 2006


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Flag of Bulgaria  ,
Saturday, June 17, 2006

I had a bad experience upon landing in Sofia. I was half awake, I'm fairly lost and trying to find out if I have any accomodations or if I have to find my own. So I was lucky enough to bargain a guy to 7 euros a night at a hostel, but I have to check my email first. So I decided to go to the place in my lonely planet guide. So I took the tram. No one spoke English to me when I bought my ticket, but I wanted a day pass really. But she couldn't understand so I ended up with a single ticket. I get on the tram and this lady starts taking tickets. No problem. But she's pretending to check tickets but she keeps looking at me. She's headed straight to me but ignores other "locals" on the tram. She gets to me and sees my ticket and takes it away. She never turned it over and makes it seem like I just gave her a purple piece of paper. Then she demands five levya. I say no. She tries to explain but I said I don't understand. A yelling match between people on the tram and her ensues. Only one lady ended up helping her out. But I keep saying I don't understand. I get off and they get off too. I was hoping just to get away from them but they wanted to take me to policija. They show me a pamphlet about how to validate tickets. I didn't even see the validation machines on the tram. It looks like a handle to hold onto. Not validation things. Furthermore I just entered the city, the backpack should show that. A yelling match ensues. I tell them I just got here and I don't like them or the city. She keeps demanding five levya and even pulls out her wallet. I think maybe, she's wanting a bribe or something. But the brochure did say five levya. I tell her I'm lost I don't know and I want English. They don't try to explain further. Eventually some ladies on the street get at her too. I sensed that one lady was telling me just to leave. So I did. I mean I did tell the tram lady I was going to leave her country if she was going to be inhospitable and targetting tourists and backpackers.

I know they want the easy money by tricking a tourist. But it's not doing anything good for the tourism industry if they do that. These stories will get around. So I ran and hid but they didn't follow. Now I'm at the local telecommunications building and using their internet cheap and I found a well recommended hostel for about 9 euros. Not as cheap but looked more hospitable and happening. I know Bulgarians aren't like this though. If I didn't know nice ones, I truly would've gotten back on the train and left elsewhere - it was so frustrating. All for five bucks too. I didn't want to pay and the police won't bother just for five bucks. And the tram lady doesn't get paid enough to deal with this. It all worked out. Except for that cop car that passed by once and it looked like she was in the back seat. That didn't work out. But now I'm far away from that place and I'll be staying somewhere safe.

Edit: Please, PLEASE, read the addendum below. This experience was a minor blip upon my stay in Sofia. It was not a reflection on my view of the city. I said that in the paragraph above too. I had a wonderful time in Sofia - especially in its nightlife. I repeat, I will never say "I had a bad time in Sofia" because I actually had a good time overall.
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bsuarez
bsuarez on

Addendum
I must stress that while my depiction of events probably exaggerates things, I was never in danger, no one intentionally was out to hate me and the whole situation was not malicious. And the tram lady was just doing her job. And a lot of the situation could've been averted had I just done what I should've done.

I posted the original entry directly after it happened, so of course it was fresh in my mind and it sounds so much worse than how I currently recall it.

I was tired and annoyed that I had not gotten in contact with many of my Bulgarian friends because simply, I didn't have much contact info on them and I strongly believe that my emails I sent before my journey got messed up somehow. I tried to contact many of my Bulgarian friends, but after talking to them when I got back, I found out that they never got any of my emails.

So when I arrived in Sofia and had no guarantee of seeing anyone I knew, I was a bit disappointed. I was hoping to have some info on where to stay, how to navigate the city and what to do in the city. However, I had nothing. And quite unfortunately, the same happened in Skopje. I had not yet seen any of my Valleyfair friends, yet a big part of the journey was to see them. So I went a whole month without seeing a familiar face, and I had been feeling fairly burnt out at that point.

So when some lady asks for 5 levye (which is only a little more than what you'd give to three hobos on the street if they ask for change), I should've just given her the money. But I opted not to. So I really got what I deserved. 5 lev is nothing really compared to what the Krakow trolley police charge. I was really lucky to have run off in Krakow before I got charged with a 25 buck fee. What I got in Sofia was a good lesson on why you have to know how to ride a trolley with a ticket. For all those times that you can get on a bus, train or trolley without paying, there's going to be that time when someone will check. And I admit I went around quite a bit without buying a new ticket in many places. And 5 levya was not even nowhere near how much money I 'saved' on public transport in Prague or Budapest or Istanbul or etc.

So in conclusion, I make it sound like the people in Sofia are all like the tram lady. This is completely false. Bulgarians are amazing people, especially those who helped yell at the tram lady for me, and those in Hostel Mostel (BEST HOSTEL EVER), those at El Corazon, etc. etc. I knew from my Bulgarian friends, that they're always friendly and helpful. Even during the stressful situation, I knew that the tram lady was an exception and not the norm. But in reality, I was probably the person most at fault for this experience.

And I had a blast in Sofia due to Hostel Mostel. They were so pleasant and comforting when I arrived in Sofia. They fed me and boarded me for five days. I stayed the longest in Sofia of all places. If the tram lady really had ruined my experience, I would've left Sofia a lot earlier than I had. But Sofia was great, and it could've been a lot better had I stayed longer and had gotten in contact with Alecks, Lubo, Denica, Toni, Kami and Borjana. I just missed most of them had I just stayed a little longer.

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