Showing posts from June, 2009

Varna in June

Jodie writes: On Friday evening, we headed to the airport for a short flight (40 minutes) to Varna. Varna is located on the eastern side of Bulgaria on the shores of the Black Sea. We’d been following the weather report all week which was predicting showers but we had blue skies and warm weather the whole weekend! Just another reminder not to trust the forecasts.

We arrived at our hotel around 9:00 pm. The hotel itself, Modus Hotel, was one of the nicest hotels we’ve ever stayed in – modern, very aesthetically designed, and very comfortable. And the location was perfect – 5 minutes' walk to the sea, and right next to the beginning of the pedestrian mall.

As our weekend package included a main meal, and we still hadn’t eaten, we decided to eat in the hotel restaurant. Dinner was served on the small patio next to the dining room. What a meal! The waiters wore gloves when putting down our silverware, there were candles on the table, and everything was served to perfection. We shared a …

Never trust the weather report

Every morning when I (Ellis) wake up, I check the weather forecast for Sofia. If the forecast calls for rain, I know it will be a sunny day. If the weather forecast says the sun will shine, I know to bring my umbrella.

Today there was a 30% chance of rain in Sofia, and right now says there is thunder. Well, the thunder part was true about 30 minutes ago, but only a few drops of rain fell and most of the day was fair.

When we traveled to Koprishtitsa, we never expected to arrive in the middle of a snowstorm (no forecast of that was posted anywhere). And this weekend we're going to Varna on the Black Sea. The weather forecast says 40% chance of rain, so I know it will be hot and dry. No, wait, I'll bring an umbrella just in case.

Jodie is on the phone

Life is bearable in Bulgaria for Jodie because of our phone line. When we first came, we assumed that Skype would be sufficient in our daily connections with family and friends back in Israel. But Skype means that the other person has to be seated in front of his or her computer, and except for the ability to see the other side in a video image, it wasn't the most convenient way to stay in touch.

Just before Jodie came to Bulgaria in February, she arranged an Israeli phone line through the Internet. This line allows us to make calls to Israel, with a local Israeli phone number. People calling us are charged at local rates as well.

Jodie spends, literally, an hour or more a day talking to her friends and our family. We initially had a 500 minute a month package, but now we've raised it to 2,000 minutes a month. The price is cheap, and the service, keeping us in touch, is huge.

Jodie was going to write this article herself, but she was too busy talking on the phone.

Lines in the Sky

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Yes, it is a plane! There are frequently jet planes flying high over our heads leaving white contrails (vapor trails) behind them. This is a picture taken at sunset from our balcony.

Walk to Health

I (Ellis) walk to work every day. No matter if it's rain or shine, hot or cold, I enjoy the exercise and the fresh air. When I first arrived in Sofia, I walked to work up Cherni Vrah, the main street running through the Lozenets neighborhood, alongside the trams and the traffic. Then I discovered that a quieter, nicer walk went up Kozyak Street, past the United States Embassy. But finally, after consulting a map, I found that the shortest distance between two points went straight up cobblestone streets behind our house, up a steep hill and past a hotel complex, and through the oldest part of Lozenets.

I can walk to work in 17 minutes, even taking into consideration having to cross over the busy Yaptsarov Boulevard near the office.

Walking to work has kept me in good health, and I've even lost some weight (an entire hole difference on my belt). Nothing can stop me, not even a bit of snowfall in the winter, or a drenching torrential rain just a few weeks ago.

I have convinced Jodie…

The difficulties of learning Bulgarian - part one

Jodie and I have a weekly lesson with a private teacher. After a few months of studying, we are familiar with some of the basics, but our knowledge of Bulgarian is still at the beginners' level. The fact that we work in English-speaking environments and never have real chances to practise our Bulgarian certainly doesn't help.

The first obstacle we had to overcome was learning a completely new alphabet. In the Cyrillic alphabet, C is S, P is R, 3 is Z, and there are some letters similar to Hebrew ones, and other ones that are completely unique. And we're only talking about the capital letters. It gets stranger still when you realize that M is M, but m is t. Does that even make sense?

Learning Bulgarian is a work in progress. When we figure out what the sign says, we'll let you know.

Driving in Bulgaria

Driving in Bulgaria seems to follow its own set of rules – but not necessarily according to the law. Here are some of the things that I’ve observed (Jodie):

1. Sidewalks are made for parking – passageway for pedestrians is of secondary importance.

2. Stop signs and Yield signs are followed only if there is really no other way for the driver to quickly cut across on-coming traffic.

3. If it is more convenient for the driver to reach his destination quickly by driving the wrong way on a one-way street, then this is perfectly acceptable.

4. Whenever possible, and in order to move quicker, open up a new lane and move forward ahead of all the cars sitting in traffic.

5. It’s perfectly acceptable to stop your car in the middle of a narrow street to let passengers on or off, or whatever you need to do. You can ignore the growing line of cars in both directions who are waiting for you to move so that they can continue on their way.

6. Right of way is determined by the size of the …

Mom visits!

Mom was our first house guest, and joined us for the weekend. We took her to a flea market in the center of the city, attended Shabbat morning services at the Sofia synagogue, ate out at two of the restaurants near our home, and showed her what our lives are like in Bulgaria.

Sirens in Sofia

It's not only in Israel that sirens sound and people stand to honor the memory of those fallen in the past. Today at noon, Bulgarians stood to honor one of the country's most beloved heroes and revolutionaries, poet and rebel Hristo Botev, who gave his life in the uprising against the Ottomans in 1876.

According to the Sofia Echo, "people stood still for a minute until the sirens stopped. Even traffic on Sofia's busy roads was halted for one minute." From my office window, however, I noted that a few cars kept driving on the road. Also, the siren lasted about two minutes.

We Fly To Rome

What we really like about living in Sofia is the ability to hop around Europe. For the three-day Shavuot Holiday weekend, we looked to see what flights were available, and then chose our destination. Rome! Jodie had visited the city at age 18, but I had never been. We flew to Rome on Thursday night, and enjoyed walking the streets of the Eternal City. And the spaghetti, Chianti and the Italian ice cream = we loved it!

You can see more of our pictures from the Rome vacation by clicking here.