Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Impressions from Sofia #1

Today I’ve been in Sofia for 1 week. I arrived late at night on Feb 18. The next morning I woke to SNOW. This was my first impression of Sofia. The first few days that I was here, it snowed most of the time, with occasional breaks, but it was cold, snowy and stormy. The freshly fallen snow is beautiful to look at, but difficult to walk in – you really have to pick up each foot, one at a time and be careful that you don’t fall.

Some places shovel the sidewalk in front of their building, others don’t. On the narrow street near our apt. it is easier to walk in the street, as the cars help melt the snow. One block away is a major street, which leads to the nearby mall. We’ve discovered that everyone walks on the tram tracks along this street – again, the tram melts the snow, and it’s much easier to walk there. You have plenty of time to see the tram coming, and there is enough room to move over to the side and get out of the way. Unfortunately, once the snow starts to melt, it’s pretty disgusting...

At this point, it’s warming up – at least during the day – the sun is shining and it’s really quite pleasant. Although the mornings are very cold – (-) 10, it doesn’t really feel that cold – it’s more of a dry cold, and it’s bearable. Inside, the heating is very good so you can even wear light weight clothes – I don’t think I’m going to need the heavy sweaters that I brought with me!

One thing we’ve noticed – many of the tram drivers are women. We have yet to take a tram – don’t know where they go or how to use them – we get around by taxi (quite cheap here compared to Israel). I’m glad that I’m not driving here – if I thought that driving in Israel was crazy – well, as one of my co-workers put it – “driving in Bulgaria is an extreme sport.” He is absolutely correct – cars don’t always follow the lanes (if there are such things, I’m not quite sure), and there are a lot of cars making left-turns into oncoming traffic, including in front of trams! Many of the streets are very narrow, with cars parked on both sides and very little space to drive between them, which of course slows things down quite a bit! Our offices are right across from a big hospital, but the entrance street is very narrow, and I have no idea how an ambulance would get by in a hurry!

I will end this with one other comment on my first impressions of Sofia – the people are very friendly and pleasant. Many of the younger people speak English (well, where Ellis and I work, they all do), and our impression of the Bulgarian people is very positive – we’re looking forward to trying to communicate with them in Bulgarian – wish us luck – our first lesson with a private teacher is tonight! Do’vizhdane – Goodbye!

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