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101: Sofia daytrip to Rila Monastery. 2012/8/10

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[Photo album = stunning Rila Monastery]

Today’s all about Rila Monastery.

Ben, another CS surfer of Michele’s, arrived sometime past 6am.  My alarm was set at 7 anyway.

I have to give big credits to Michele: although Michele was supposed to have an appointment with a doctor at 8 (or so, since it really isn’t easy to understand his English), he offered to ride the trolley bus (No. 1 or 5) and then tram (No. 5) to reach the far-away bus station.  And after getting off the tram with me, he went as far as walking me to the station and checked how to buy the ticket and everything.  (The lady at the ticket booth didn’t speak English but somehow could utter a couple of German words, and she told us to go to the information window, where a rather old lady obviously had seen lots of tourists heading towards Rila Monastery and quickly responded me in English.)

There was a short, round Japanese girl waiting at the station, and she tried to talk to Michele.  As it turned out, she didn’t know whether the bus driver would accept Euro, and since she only had Euros, she asked us whether we could change money with her.  I didn’t exactly have small changes, but I went to ask for her how to find a bank or exchange.  There is a bank not far away.  She went, and after some time returned, complaining that there’s a service charge.  Well, of course: it’s a bank! “I give up,” she said. “If the bus driver doesn’t take Euros, I will just not go [to Rila Monastery].”

After Michele left me for his medical appointment, I thought of how nicely people had been helping me out, so I decided to break a bigger bill by buying some pastries at a nearby “Fornetti,” a chain bakery often seen in Hungary, some parts of Serbia, and obviously Bulgaria.  The Japanese girl rejoiced when I told her I got changes now, and she would like to change 10 Euros.  But then the smallest Euro bill she had was a 20.  I didn’t have a 10-Euro bill and offered to change the whole 20 Euros, but she said that she’s leaving Bulgaria soon and didn’t need all the BGN.

Well, then this is really none of my business anymore.  Sure, she said she’s on a tight budget, and she just finished one year of working holidays in Australia and on the way to finding another such year in Germany.  But if she’s so inflexible as to skip Rila Monastery, one of the biggest highlights of Bulgaria, then it’s really none of my business.

She continued to ask a whole bunch of people to break her 20-Euro bill and finally succeeded when she asked a 6th or 7th one.

During this period a mid-age Korean couple passed by.  The man greeted me in Korean, then asking whether I’m Korean.  His wife soon started to talk to the Japanese girl.  And as the Japanese went away to ask various people to break her Euro bill, this Korean lady turned to me, trying to pick up a talk.  After exchanging some words, she asked whether I am a student, and I told her “no.”  To my surprise, she was actually VERY SURPRISED and appeared almost SHOCKED when hearing my response, “But you look so young!” she gasped.  Well, earlier the really young Japanese girl also thought that I am a student, but I find the Korean woman’s incredulousness to be rather beyond my comprehension.

I think maybe god(s)/God is making up for my having got a really bad haircut.  (That imbecile of a hairdresser actually didn’t trim certain parts, and the back and the side are even uneven.  Gosh.)  But to comfort the Korean lady, I told her I just graduated.

The bus (at 10.15am) was very crowded, full of tourists.  A number of them are French.  The drive is scheduled to take 3 hours but somehow managed to take almost half an hour more.  At some point we paused at a station, and I went for the public toilet.  While there’s a fee, the toilet was dirty enough, the doors couldn’t be locked, there was of course no tissue paper, and the water of the faucet was kept running, probably because there was no way to turn it off or back on.

Anyway, while the ride was very long, Rila Monastery was quite a vision and definitely worth it.

Not long before the returning bus set off (at 3pm), dark clouds started to gather, and sometime during the ride it started to rain.

At least the temperature was agreeable.  Since Michele this morning told me to get a one-day transportation ticket, I got off from the tram mid-way at “Mall of Sofia,” which I saw this morning from on the tram: I decided I really needed facial toning water.  A young lady in a beauty shop in the mall didn’t really speak English and turned to a colleague for help, and this second lady was pretty nice: she introduced to me a couple of brands, and as I tried various products, she kept returning to me to show me some other choices.  Eventually she showed me a HUGE bottle (rightly named “XLarge” with an epithet “Any Size Any Time”) by the brand of “Douglas.”  It’s a 400-ml bottle, and after using it back home I was really glad I got this bottle.

I stopped over a second time, this time for the supermarket “Billa.”

When I finally turned into the small road where Michele’s place is, I bumped into Ben, who was going for a “free walking tour” at 6pm.  I was a bit bewildered, since it was almost 7pm.  Shortly after saying goodbye to him I realized that he hadn’t taken into consideration the one-hour time difference between Budapest (where he came from) and Bulgaria.

Upon seeing me, Michele offered some peaches.  He said he’d like to wait for Ben to cook tortellini.  When Ben did return it was already 9.30pm, and I had eaten way too many waffle cookies.  Ben started to cook some potato wedges.

When I told Michele I would leave tomorrow, which I had already told him, he gave me a distinct “oh – ” with a mildly disappointed/surprised face.  It’s funny that he appeared to want me to stay; after all, we haven’t got much to talk about, even though this morning he did mention that his place “is always free” and I’m welcome to stay some more days when I return to Sofia from other parts of Bulgaria.


8/10記帳:1 Bulgarian Lev (BGN) = 18.99TWD; 1EUR = 1.96BGN
Sofia – Rila Monastery公車票:11*2


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