Saturday, November 8, 2014

In which Bulgaria exceeds expectations

Just a quick update: Plovdiv is an unexpected gem. The city is beautiful, the beer comes in enormous liter mugs for less than a dollar, the Old Town is well-preserved and architecturally diverse, they let you play on the Roman ruins, everything is unbelievably clean, and unlike Istanbul, it's a manageable size; everything we've done has been easily walkable.

It took us a while to figure out the self-timer.
Also unexpectedly, Plovdiv is a lot of fun. We got an impromptu introduction to the club scene last night, as I chatted up a sandwich man who knew a guy who knew a guy (who says you shouldn't talk to strangers?) It was a good time. We are consequently tired, and started our morning today around noon thirty.

But mostly, I want to talk about food. I'll be honest: I was bracing myself for two kind of unpleasant months of meat and potatoes (or, in my case, potatoes and sauerkraut, I guess). To my surprise and delight, however, I had the best meal yesterday that I've eaten in two years.  Will and I stumbled across a cafeteria-deli that was like walking into paradise: a spread of salty cheeses, a meat counter that included a whole roasting pig slowly turning on a spit, and an enormous selection of pickled vegetables-- picked everything, really-- salads, and olives. We wandered around with our mouths agape for a while, unable to make any decisions at all, much to the annoyance of the servers and other customers (zero points for America's reputation).  When we finally retreated to a table, laden with trays, we had made a picnic: blistered red peppers, grilled eggplant, olives stuffed with almonds, olives stuffed with garlic, feta, a sort of salsa of roasted peppers and tomatoes, some creamy cabbage dish that tasted deliciously (and confusingly) like risotto, sausage, other meat, yet other meat. We ate it all with soft pita-like lavash and washed it down with (you guessed it) beer. For our mealtime entertainment, we watched a bird-like little old lady at the next table over, her tiny face a map of wrinkles and liver spots, demolish the largest sausage I have ever seen, and this in a single sitting.  Do not underestimate the power of Bulgarian octogenarians to pack away sausage, apparently.

All this to say, we're alive and well and loving Bulgaria. Next stop, possibly tomorrow, although we'll see what state tonight leaves us in: Macedonia!

We've moved from Muslim territory to Orthodox land, where sensory overload is the default aesthetic. This church had a beautiful ikonostasis, the icons of saints and Marys laden with silver, gold, and pearls.

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