[Photo album = Sofia]
Michele had a coffee appointment with friends at 10am. (While never eating breakfast, he nevertheless very sweetly left yogurt and oatmeal for me – that’s exactly what I want!) He very kindly gave me a set of spare keys, and I stayed behind until almost eleven, waiting for someone named V, who managed to procrastinate about getting online…
I wasn’t exactly tired; I simply felt “oh I am not really keen to go out.” Besides, the sun looks blazing enough. But I still managed to set out at almost 11.
When I tried to find my way to the main boulevard “Maria Luiza,” a 50-ish man strode towards me, asking whether I needed help. He was very nice, and when I asked him how to say thank you in Bulgarian, he said something I could not readily imitate, and then he smiled and said I can just as well say “Merci.” Do Bulgarians speak a lot of French? No. According to him, Bulgarians just happened to like to pick up some of these words. (And the next day I found that the English sign of Sofia Central Train Station adopts the French word “Gare” instead of “Train Station.”
I passed a hair saloon and went inside. Some muscular customer in a white tank top asked me what I needed. He helped explain to me that a haircut by a “master” and a “student” costs respectively 10 and 5 BGN, and washing costs 5. I decided to return later.
It turned out not to be so hot, at least not until 2 or 3pm. And as long as one stays in the shade, which is the most difficult thing in Sofia, it can be very agreeable. On the way to meet Michele in front of Palace of Culture at 12, I checked a couple of shops. I’ve been thinking about getting a THIN pair of pants or jeans, just to make sure I won’t be kept out of a monastery again, and one shop has very cheap pairs, priced at something like 400-500TWD each, but a 32-inch mid-waist pair turned out to of an elastic and fitting model. Yeah, it can be fun, if I were in Taipei (and still had a place of my own), but this doesn’t seem very practical in hot Balkans.
There’s also a Samsonite shop. There’s a 115-litre two-wheel duffle with tractable handle, priced at something like 240BGN, which seems fair enough. I started to toy with the idea of replacing this with my current suitcase (the latter having one less-than-perfect wheel).
Michele was a tiny bit late, (the young lady at one of the cafés beside Palace of Culture has big doe eyes, a ready smile, and very fine English,) but he seemed happy enough to see me, and we went for a coffee. We settled at something probably named “Green Caffe,” whose decoration style already caught my eyes earlier, and the waitress turned out to have the best and readiest smiles during the past three months of my journey. (When she heard me asking Michele the meanings of some Italian words, she interrupted to provide the answer – it turned out that she speaks “a little” Italian as well.)
Michele had to leave me after the coffee since his arm started to feel hurt and he needed to take more medicine. I had a big walk in town, checking the tourist info (very helpful) and the bookshop right beside it – the CD collection is limited, even though it has Larmore and Hong’s duet album Belle Vocale, but in any case I got two postcards. Later I checked National Art Gallery (and ditched Ethnographical Museum in the same Palace). The (Canon) photography exhibition wasn’t interesting to me, and the Bulgarian impressionist paintings were only ok.
This morning K sent an SMS asking to re-schedule at 6.45pm. OK. And yet when I just finished trying out a couple of tank tops (roughly 120?TWD each) and was about to go back to get a haircut and check some of the tourist sights in that neighborhood, I got another SMS saying that he finished early and could meet at 5.15pm. It was already 5pm at this point. Fine. So I got some ice cream (very fine even though the waitress shouldn’t be in service industry) and checked “Orange” bookshop for CD (not very impressive collection, even though there are two DVDs interesting enough – one of them is Glinka’s A Life for the Tsar).
Having just finished three interviews today and being still wearing a tie, K seemed happy to see me. We talked a bit as we headed for Anthropological Museum – something LP raves about while I remained suspicious; such museums have never been my cup of tea. Seeing us approach, an old lady at the door said something in Bulgarian: she wanted to tell us that the museum would close very soon. K told her that we were just checking out, and the lady actually told us to go in to take a quick look, and we entered without buying any ticktets(!). Soon some other clerk approached us and told us to go up to the first floor for some more interesting things.
We later settled at the café right beside the museum, the café being K’s favorite. I guess it was fine, but I had a hard time taking all the second-hand smoke from right behind me. By the time we were to leave I already felt not very well.
Since K had no specific plans, I decided to head home and get a haircut before that. It was around 7.20pm when I arrived, and there were two female dressers sitting there, looking very reluctant to interact with a foreigner. A male companion of theirs sitting there tried to figure out what I wanted and told me with his very limited English to come back tomorrow.
It started to rain as I headed home. It didn’t rain very much after I reached home, but lightning continued to flash over the sky several times during the night.
8/8記帳：1 Bulgarian Lev (BGN) = 18.99TWD; 1EUR = 1.96BGN
National Art Gallery學生票：3