I hopped on a night train from Zagreb, Croatia to Belgrad, Serbia and was lucky enough to share a cabin with a Serbian boy who spoke perfect English and we had such good conversations for a couple of hours. At some point we decided to nap before reaching Belgrade. We had 2 separate checks of passports and one check of train tickets, which was slightly annoying to be honest…but that’s the pain of travelling through countries that are not in Shengen. I still don’t understand how and why this was, but often times really heavy smells hit us on the train, it smelled like petrol or oil, burned or melting metal, dirt, and something toxic… I kept on suffocating and breathing in my jumper quite a lot.
We finally arrived in Belgrade at around 6am, and my next train to Sofia was at 9.25am. I bought my ticket to Sofia and decided to walk around and hopefully grab coffee before my next train. The heavy smell continued to hit me – now even more than before once I was out of the train and walking on the streets. What surprised me was that the streets were full of people by 6.30am. I felt the stink settle at the back of my troat and the difficulty breathing put me off exploring around the train station, so I just went to a shop to get food for the 9 hour journey and went back to the station.
On the journey Belgrade – Sofia I travelled with a guy from the Netherlands, and a girl and her mother from Spain who were all visiting the capital for a couple of days. We spent a lot of time talking, and frying up in the train that had no air conditioning and no big windows to open. Again we had one too many checks for the train tickets and from border control.
After what felt like an excruciatingly long journey from Belgrad, Serbia to Sofia, Bulgaria I was happy to be greated at the train station by my best friend’s sister, who took me to their house where I stayed for a night. A day or two of rest were due before my best friend was back from the sea side and we could meet. It’s been 9 months since the last time I saw my best friend Niki and that was when I went to visit him in France. I cannot stress enough how wonderful it is to see him and spend time with him again. We met at the train station in Sofia like we did when we first met and went round Sofia, chatting, catching up and searching for a few more things I needed for my journeys. Time flies when you are enjoying yourself so much, and before I realised it, two days have passed and me and Niki were to meet my Aussi friend Pete at the airport in Sofia to begin yet another adventure.
We showed Pete around Sofia, the most important monuments like the palace of culture, the St Sofia statue, a couple of churces and so on. We also kept on educating him about everything Bulgarian- so he got to learn a lot about the different dialects, the food we have, the cultures and subcultures influenced by the TV and music too, the different periods Bulgaria has been through – from its founding in 681 (AD) through the different kingdoms, the Ottoman occupation, Bulgaria’s role in WW2, the communist rule…and the current politicians ….carrion…mafia etc.
After a small tour of Sofia and of course dining at an authentic Bulgarian pub we all went to Niki’s house where we stayed the night before heading to the Rila Mountains, where we were to hike to the Seven Rila Lakes.