We here! Hello cobblestone roads, red rooftops, and me making pretentious and generalized European statements. Watch out Europe, the American is in town.
I arrived on the bus from Istanbul in the evening, walking from the terminal to the hostel where I will be volunteering. I fell into a positive, feminine environment with three other international volunteers and a kind, yet shy, Russian boss. We fell into a little life for the next few weeks, each working a shift in the hostel during the day and cooking together at night.
Volunteering at a hostel gave me housing for free, along with food, for the small price of a five hour work shift five days a week. This left room for a hike to the Rila Mountains and a trip to the Black Sea. The work was simple, reception and cleaning. I found I loved working at the desk, interacting and joking around with all the guests. Although customer service is often considered a less desirable job, I find I really enjoy it because of the interactions. I hated working somewhere where I couldn’t chat eye to eye with people.
Sofia is a charming city, super quiet and low-key for a capital. We found it hard to find bars open late as there was a strict noise curfew at ten p.m. The city is packed with second hand stores, to my delight, along with sunflowers. I LOVE sunflowers and riding through the countryside was incredible, as field and field of sunflowers would pass you by. There was a huge local market we would walk through in the mornings, often the only foreigners. This was all a welcome change from tourist crazy Istanbul.
My highlight of my time in the city was by hike to the seven lakes in the Rila Mountain range. The hike was hard at times, (and cold!) but the views were worth it.
Before I left for Macedonia, I took a weekend getaway to the Black Sea with a fellow volunteer. We couchsurfed with the nicest Bulgarian man, who fed us dinner every night and kept us entertained with hours of karaoke. The Black Sea was fun to see, although a bit touristy. However, I felt super European as I laid my towel down next to rows of topless women and chubby men in Speedos.
My next stop was Macedonia, with a small detour at the border police station…