Last night I walked the streets of Sofia - in search of what exactly I don’t know. I was struck by how little I knew about the country upon arrival. I had never pictured myself in such a place and may not have even uttered the words, “Bulgaria,” until about 5 years ago.
I remember shamelessly reading off the Wikipedia page, relaying facts about the country to the girl on the other end of the phone who was clearly well versed in everything I was saying. I had met her a few nights before at a bar I used to go to every Thursday night in Alphabet City because of an amazing band from Colombia that used to perform there. Eventually, the owner of the building sold the space for what must have been a considerable chunk of change.
That evening, I sat quietly sipping a cranberry juice when a young woman pulled me from my seat. We danced horribly off-beat to the music and probably should have been stopped. She screamed over the loud speakers that her name was "Desislava,"a name I couldn’t forget if I tried. Not even then did I believe I’d someday set foot in her homeland the way she had mine.
But I am here and happy to be so. The weather is surprisingly mild, which I'm thankful for. As usual, I walked and walked, choosing to forego the map my host thoughtfully left on his desk. If a street looks interesting I’ll simply make my way down it. I seem to find everything I need that way.
I rambled down Maria Luiza, Elizabeth Yosif, and the lively Vitosha Street. Churches everywhere throughout the day seemed to compete for my attention as I stumbled into St. Alexander Nevski and Hagia Nedelja Church, making the sign of the cross upon each entry. I marveled at each building’s remarkable beauty and stature.
I also went to the Sofia History Museum, which saw it’s first exhibition in December of 1941 at 3 Banksi Square, before it was bombed during World War II and moved to its current location. I discovered that Sofia was named after a church in the 14th century, Ferdinand I was an avid reader and passionate about the sciences, and that Bulgaria was once largely inhabited by the Thracians, an Indo-European tribe that dates back to the 5th century BC.
There was a refreshing simplicity to the day, which led to some unique thoughts and discoveries. Maybe I should have visited much sooner.
James, a 34-year old actor originally from Long Island, wrote me to share the best piece of advice he'd ever received. He said: "Best piece of advice someone has given me... hard one, but lately... Just focus on doing one (and only one) thing at a time. Perhaps more generally... Always focus on the positive: in your thoughts and when interacting with others."