Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Taxi driver takes a rest

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sofia in Autumn

If you don't look quickly, you might miss it, but Sofia does have a colorful Autumn for a short period. The leaves on the trees turn color before falling down and blowing with the October winds and rains.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Sofia Marathon

The 27th annual Sofia Marathon was run today, and I had a chance to catch the runners passing under the pedestrian bridge near NDK (National Palace of Culture). The 26-kilometer race attracted more than 120 participants, but there were many more runners circling back up Bulgaria Boulevard for the shorter 8.5km and 3.5km routes.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Concert: Lika Ashkenazi and Dulce Canto

Two concerts in two nights, and the kind of music we heard couldn't have been more different.

We went to the Jewish Community Center to hear Bulgarian Jewish singer Lika Ashkenazi and the Dulce Canto vocal group performing Jewish songs. There were a lot of speeches and presentations of bouquets of flowers, as the concert was celebrating the release of Lika's 5th CD, Shalom Aleyhem, pictured below.

The music was all familiar, and it didn't matter if it was in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino or Bulgarian. Lika and the group represent the Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria "Shalom" at many song festivals both in Bulgaria and abroad. The Dulce Canto vocal group started in 2004.

One of the highlights of the program was a duet between Lika and our friend Shlomo Amitai, who taught the group the song Yehi Ratzon, which is on the CD.

When the performance ended, the audience, an older group and one that was a bit more behaved than the ZZTop crowd, was invited for snacks at the back of the hall.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Concert: ZZTop Rocks in Sofia

We didn't know when we bought the tickets two months in advance that the concert of ZZTop, the legendary rock group from Texas, would take place outdoors at Sofia's Akademik Stadium on a freezing October night. But, at least it wasn't raining.

We met Jodie's co-worker Dennis and his family and went through the frisking of security guards at the stadium entrance, only to somehow lose Dennis's wife and son for quite some time. Inside the stadium we took our seats and covered our ears at the loud noise from the warm-up band on the stage.

The crowd was a mix of older Bulgarians and younger ones, but hardly any teenagers. It wasn't clear if the thousands who had braved the 5 Degrees Celsius were true ZZTop fans, or just people who wanted an excuse to hear American rock music.

We wondered how Bulgarians could drink so much cold beer on such a cold night. Jodie borrowed my gloves, but what disturbed her more than the weather was the smoking. Even though we were outdoors, the smoking was horrendous and Jodie's throat became dry. And someone nearby was smoking a cigar.

And then, ZZTop came onstage. The band was formed in 1969 and is still actively touring together with the same three guys. The drummer's last name is Beard, but he is the only one of the trio that doesn's sport a beard. The guitarists' beards, black clothing, hats and sunglasses are their trademark.

As for their music? It was loud. We didn't recognize much of what we heard, including songs like "Cheap Sunglasses" and "Going Down to Mexico". But when they finally went into a medley of what we knew, from "Gimme All Your Lovin" to "Legs", I was standing and rocking like the most diehard Bulgarian fans, although it wasn't clear if this was because of the music or because I was fighting off frostbite.

The concert lasted about 90 minutes and we prided ourselves on our ability to find a taxi home very quickly. It was quite an experience. (The picture below was not taken by me).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Exhibition on a Bridge

Under the slogan "View Past, View Future", Sofia Architecture Week was marked by a poster exhibition on the pedestrian bridge leading to the NDK, the National Center of Culture. We walked across the bridge and noted the posters, some showing remarkable buildings in Sofia from the late 1800s, and others very modern constructions.

It was quite interesting to see the posters set against the background of the modern, and not always beautiful buildings of the city.

The poster below shows the Europe Tower, and behind it you can see the Sofia Hilton Hotel.

I particularly like this last shot, showing in the poster a tram from the 1880s and on the street below, a modern Sofia tram.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The End of Crime as We Know It

The cable TV package that we have is supposed to provide us with the optimal selection of English channels that are available here in Bulgaria – which, aren’t very many. Most of the channels are either Bulgarian shows, or English shows which have been dubbed, instead of with subtitles (a VERY annoying practice!) The other problem that we have, is that there are only 3 channels that we can actually find an on-line schedule for, so that we can know in advance whether or not there’s anything worth watching. After that, it’s a matter of flipping through the channels at certain set hours when the programs change, and taking pot-luck.

One of the few channels that we’ve enjoyed watching (for lack of anything better to see) has been FOX CRIME. A few weeks ago, just before we left for Israel, I noticed that we were no longer receiving this channel – there was a notice saying that we were not authorized to watch this. Since this has happened in the past, I figured I’d deal with it when we got back.

When we returned to Sofia, I spoke to the woman from Ellis’s office who helps with this type of problem – she told me that I had to speak to the cable company directly from home, as they would give me instructions over the phone. She gave me the number, told me which number to use when I heard the menu in Bulgarian (I actually did understand some of the recorded message!) and yesterday, I called.

There was someone there who spoke some English, and after following the instructions that I could understand, we finally got all the other channels working except FOX CRIME. He finally told me to bring the box into the cable company, and gave me instructions as to where there was a branch nearby -about a 20 minute walk from our home. So, despite Ellis’s misgivings as to the outcome of such an adventure, we set off this morning to locate the offices.

Under the NDK, the National Center of Culture, is a whole shopping center of clothing centers that we didn’t know was even there – worth investigating at some time in the future. We found the offices of ITV Partner with little difficulty and the worker spoke English. I explained the problem, and he checked the box. What we discovered was that, although when speaking to them over the phone we were told that FOX CRIME was included in our package, they were talking about the DUBBED version – apparently, they no longer had the rights to the ENGLISH version (if they ever actually had them at all….) and so there was nothing wrong with the box, and we are now left with one less channel to watch….(since coming here, we already lost CNN to Al-Jazeera).

But, we had a nice walk, saw some new sites along the way, and at least we know where the cable offices are in case we need them in the future.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Back in Bulgaria, in time for Winter

We've just returned from an extended vacation in Israel, where it is still quite warm. But back here in Sofia, the cold winter weather has arrived. This morning when I walked to work it was 16 degrees Celsius, but by day's end it was down to 6 degrees, and during the night it will dip close to freezing. Did I mention that the skies are grey and that it's been raining?