Istanbul to Sofia... and the run-in with the Bulgarian Transit Kontroller

by - Saturday, April 06, 2013

We'll start this post off on a good note, although I'm sure by the title you know something not-so-awesome happens (nothing threatening me or my well-being... just stupid stuff exacerbated by the fact that I don't speak Bulgarian).
My second full day in Istanbul had better weather, which was good and bad (good because I didn't have to deal with wearing a rain jacket, bad because I'm a moron and forgot sunscreen). Istanbul is built on the side of a cliff (okay... it's just rather hilly, but I swear I needed rock climbing equipment to get back to my hostel). I went to the "mosque" and then wandered over to the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sofia and to the Basillica Cisterns. The last three are all very close although that didn't stop me from walking at least 10km each day I was in Istanbul (up hill, both ways... literally!!). I swear 90% of the pictures that I took in Istanbul are of ceilings. The mosques are amazing, their domes decorated so beautifully and when you're in one, you can't help but to get caught up in the enormousness of the buildings themselves, and the Muslim religion. 
As someone that is not religious in the least, I am often in aw of most sites of worship. I've been to countless churches, including the Vatican, and can't help but to find a peace there. The muslim mosques were no different. And listening to the call to prayer a few times per day was amazing. Yes, there are a lot of mosques, but unlike most North American churches, they're used daily.

My saving grace for this day was that I found the trolley (called the Tunel) up the hill to my hostel. It was probably the best 4 lira I spent while I was there.  Well, other than the 1 lira bagels that I could have lived on.
As I mentioned before, the hostel was great (I'll do a review of them all at the end). The craptastic part was that it was over this seedy Turkish bar that blasted Turkish music at full blast from about midnight onwards. Seriously, it was like being a prisoner of war it was so loud, but with the exception being that I wasn't having water dumped on my face constantly and had no secrets to tell.

The next morning, I was up at 4am so I could catch a 5am bus to the airport to head to Sofia. That part of the venture was fine... except I find it odd (by Canadian standards) to have to go through passport control on the way in and out of the airport. Oh well, more stamps in the passport for me!

When I got to Sofia, I knew that I had to buy a bus ticket for both myself and my bag.  I did so in the little store in the airport and went to wait (in the rain) for my bus.  I got on, and because my bag was so wet, I put it down before punching my tickets in this archaic punch on the wall of the bus.  

In comes in the Kontroller.  A mean looking Bulgarian man demanding 20 Lev from me for not paying. Apparently "not paying" means my bag had a seat before I punched its ticket.  And being the only person on the bus other than the bus driver, I was hooped.  So I paid my fine and then spent the rest of my bus ride to the hostel in a nasty mood, as my $1.50 (2 Lev) bus ride now turned into a $15.00 (20 Lev) bus ride. But really, when you're trying to reason with someone that doesn't speak (or chooses not to speak) English, $15 was the least of my worries.

I'll end this post now... next up will be all about Sofia and the hot New Zealand lawyer that I almost offered to bear children for.

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