27 de septiembre de 2011

Saying goodbye to Bulgaria... Exams, snowboarding, parties and food! Days 119-121

Days 119-121:

On Friday the 17th of December, we had our final English exam, with an oral and a written part. It was long but we all passed, the title we received is an equivalent of B2 level (upper-intermediate). It wasn't bad, but the funniest part came after the exam, when we gave a present to our dear teacher Katie (fabulous educator, I wish all of our Spanish teachers were so good and passionate…). After that, we went to a nearby Ugo (pizzeria) to have lunch all the class together. It was our farewell with all this great guys. That night, with 10 grades below zero, we went to Bizarro club with Adri, Josemi, Sofia and Des. 

Marcos, Monroy, Rosi, Mila, Adri.
On Saturday, Adri, Monroy and me met with Rosi and Mila to go to Borovets, all together in Rosi’s car. She drives fast. Really fast. And road conditions were not the best (ice, snow…), so the trip wasn’t precisely boring. At around 11 AM we arrived there and rented the snowboards and boots. Both things, plus 1-day forfeit for the incredible price of… 16 € per person! The price was really low because it was the official opening day for the new season. But in the negative side, half of the tracks were closed and only a few greens and reds were available. We started with the (too) easy green tracks to warm up. But soon we felt that was not enough for us, so we took the lift to the highest station of Borovets. The views from there were fantastic, nevertheless the wind was furious and the temperature too cold, so the snow were really hard and icy. –Ok, who goes first?? ...

Monroy, in Borovets

We did several times the longest red track, with enormous problems avoiding the rest of experienced snowboarders who were overtaking us for both sides. The ride was as hard as the fucking snow below us, we fell off the board many times, our asses could ratify it. It was my fifth or sixth time snowboarding, and was the toughest one. At the end of the session, Rossi and Mila were waiting for us to drink that typical bloody hot wine, not bad, not bad… The way back home was even more terrific than the outward journey... The ice and snow mixed with the darkness and speed, yeah, Rositza for F1!

Our collection in Pacas and Monroy's place, simply ridiculous!

This party was also ridiculous!!! :)

Ronnie was waiting for us at 9 that night, for our farewell party. We took a big pack of beers and went to Malaga’s flat and later to Rock’n’rolla. Great party there, that place is fucking killer! Later, when I tried to enter to my flat... shit! The door was broken (and also my hand 10 minutes later). It was around 6:30 AM and quite cold, so finally we went to sleep all together at Monroy’s flat. We went to Pacas’ room, he was there with no signals of life, absolutely unconscious. Apparently, he had several problems arriving home…  Dubré” (Monroy and Pacas’ landlord) came the next morning to check the flat and we all woke up then… That night, once recovered, I was invited by Didka’s mother to have dinner in their place. I was really pleased to do it, they had been incredibly warm all this months. I felt like at home with them, lovely people! By the way, thefood was delicious!!

11 de julio de 2011

Last day in Istanbul, winter is waiting for us in Sofia. Days 114-118

 Days 114-118:

Galata Tower and the Golden Horn

Sunday, the 12th of December. Eyes opened around 13:30. The room is a mess and our heads are fucking hammered. We left the hostel a bit embarrassed, but fortunately, the staff is used to see this things. In our last day in Istanbul, we visited the Spice Bazaar and Suleymaniye Mosque, and stopped again in Galata bridge, this time to eat some fresh mussels. The day is sunny, but really cold. After eating our last kebap, we continued walking up to Galata Tower, and Istiklal street all straight ahead, to catch the bus at Taksim Square. There were too many people for only 2 buses, so everybody went crazy when the door opened… We had to elbow our way inside, no choice! We landed at Sofia airport around 9:30 pm, and the intense trip finished. 

Galata bridge. Istanbul

But our last days in Bulgaria were not going to be boring… On Monday, once recovered of our Turkish trip, Sofia appeared completely white!! Absolutely covered with snow. Great news for us, because we wanted to see (and feel) the real Bulgarian winter before leaving. Suddenly, going to class turned into a little adventure, with the streets full of snow and ice, and temperatures below zero. Something new for Spanish guys…  

Communism monument in Borisova Gradina, Sofia

During these days we enjoyed the snow in the city. Everybody there is really used to it, but we felt like a child with new shoes. We explored in detail the big park near city centre (Borisova Gradina). It is like a forest, but with bizarre surprises inside: communism monuments, old football stadiums (CSKA Sofia), ice-skating park, deserted restaurants... We also met with some Spanish Erasmus friends to say good-bye (they were leaving) and drink some beers, and precisely then, the Bulgarian TV interviewed us in the street! We appeared in a TV programme in the public channel. That was funny...

Last days in Bulgaria... and time running out to go to Borovets for some snowboarding... We started to plan it with Rositza. Another little events: we visited the superb Laguna (ice-creams and much more) with Eli and Miriam (their favourite!), and on day 15, Tuesday, was Daniela's birthday (Iva's cousin), so we all met with her to have a drink. Hurry up! This experience is ending...

Auto-gifts from Istanbul: 3 Gutis!

And here is our particular TV show... Business All the time!!!

Istanbul. Turkey. Days 112-113

Days 112-113:

In the maelstrom!! Hidden shop. Grand Bazaar
On Friday, we woke up really late, around midday, but this wasn't a surprise after the previous day party. After a breakfast consisting in nutella and olives, we went to the historic centre to visit the sinister water deposit (Basilica Cistern), 1.400 there and still impressive. We also tried to visit Topkapi Palace, but it was closed so we left it for the next day. And, finally, the Grand Bazaar! Yes, some of us were waiting anxiously for this moment … Time to walk around, go mad with all the surrounding objects, haggle a little bit… It’s impossible to cheat those Turkish vendors, although Monroy tried it hard! 

Later, again in the hostel, we played poker in our room while drinking some beers. Finally we didn’t go out, but we promised Pacas to do it the next day, and do it seriously. This man needs night-action.

The Blue Mosque from Haghia Sophia

On Saturday morning, we woke up early and went to Topkapi Palace, where we spent a pair of hours under a bothering rain. In the place we saw some interesting stuff, many valuable treasury from Sultans' times, and outstanding artifacts like The Staff of Moses (yeah, with this thing he divided the Red Sea's water… ), and Prophet Muhammad’s things like his footprint, sword or bow. The Palace is full of History, like the city itself! 

In one of the hundreds of mosques in Istanbul
After that, we walked far to the Mosques heading west, the University, aqueduct… and of course: The Grand Bazaar again! Another round of freaky shopping. Absolute devastation of our wallets.In our way back to the hostel, we stopped at famous Galata Bridge to have dinner in a seafood restaurant. Later we went out to a few different clubs (and some prostitute nightclubs by mistake), with commercial Arabic music. Our night ended in the same rock-club than Friday, and we came back to the hostel at 6 AM, just in time to listen the Islamic pray. Monroy still wanted more party and take a taxi to the other side of the city (he had heard about interesting things there), but we convinced him to calm down and go to sleep. Sgt. Tellez had problems finding  the hostel, and he got lost in the city for a few hours, although luckily he finally arrived. How? Nobody knows!

28 de junio de 2011

One decision to make and trip to Istanbul. Days 110-111

 Days 110-111:

I wanted to keep the Golf and take it home!! But...

Since my time in Bulgaria was finishing (I pretended to return on Christmas), I had to take a decision about my car: what to do with it? The original idea was to return driving to Spain, a fantastic trip which could be took around 8-9 days, with enough time to visit many interesting spots on our way. Monroy was decided to come with me, and Miriam maybe would join. With three people, it would be a cheap trip, around 300-350 € per head including petrol, highway fees, hostels and food. The idea was exciting, but the problem was what to do with the car once in Spain. Of course, if I registered it, its price would be double than in Bulgaria (around 1.400 € in Spain, 700 € in Bulgaria), but the problem was just that: register it in Spain. Its engine isn’t original, it was equipped with a more powerful one, and this could be a problem when passing the technical revision (ITV) in Spain. I tried to obtain info about it, but nobody could certify me that it wouldn’t be a big (and expensive) problem in Spain. Too much uncertainty for such a limited economical margin... I thought about it for a few days, and finally I decided to leave it in Bulgaria and sell it. It was the safest option, the conservative and practical one, but it was really hard for me to say “good-bye” to this wonderful car, a classic model, one of my favorites. It’s not that easy to find a well-preserved Golf 2 GTD in Spain. But the decision was taken.

Fuck....  They no longer build cars like this

Too close to don't go there: ISTANBUL

Sultan Ahmed Mosque (also known as Blue Mosque). Istanbul

Haghia Sophia Mosque
I forced myself to take that decision before our interesting 4-day trip to Istanbul, in order to don't think more about it. We flew to the Turkish capital at 6 AM on Thursday 9, December. Around 70 € per person the round trip flight. We were Eli, Miriam, Josemi, Adri, Pacas, Monroy and me. From the airport to the city centre (Taksim Square) one hour by bus, and from there walking to our nice and clean hostel (6 € per night!, Aga Haman Hostel). We spent our first day there visiting the huge and impressive Haghia Sophia and Blue Mosques, the touristic highlights. The city is giant (population: 16 million) and its historical buildings unlimited, so it's easier to start with that two superb Mosques. The entrance to the Blue Mosque is free, but you have to pay to enter Haghia Sophia, because it works as a museum. Firstly built as a Cathedral (1.500 years ago!!!), 900 years later was transformed into a Mosque, in an amazing process which resulted with all the catholic icons covered and many other changes. I'll try to write a little more in the next entries about the city's complex history, at least its most relevant facts and events.

Haghia Sophia
In the evening we bought some drinks to start the party in our hostel’s room, and later go to the crowded Istiklal street, full of clubs. Lots of Erasmus folks around there, we had fun. But shitty commercial music for too long time is unbearable for me, so after a while, I decided to go to a nearby rock club, and surprise: a rock-classics live concert!! As amazing as unexpected, around 3 hours of live music in a quality-covers non-stop frenzy: Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Rush, AC/DC… Awesome! We were there until closing time. Meanwhile, Sgt. Tellez was meeting intimately a Spanish girl who had met that night. This man never disappoints.  

17 de junio de 2011

Rila Monastery. Days 108-109

 Days 108-109:

One of its last performances

I had been in Rila Monastery 2 years ago in my previous visit to this beautiful country, and I knew it would be a nice one-day trip for my family in their short time here. With one thousand years of history, being one of the most important cultural and religious centres in South-East Europe. The Monastery is a “must-see” if you come to Sofia and have the chance to travel the hour and a half (by car) to get the place, hidden in the mountains. We went there with the renewed Golf, which was running perfect. My family enjoyed with the views to Rila Mountains, the isolated villages near the road, and of course: the Monastery. Although the entrance to the complex is free, we paid a expensive fee to access to the museum, which has tens of very old pieces from medieval times. Rafail's cross, which was made during 12 long years by a monk (until he lost his sight) is the most impressive thing. My family tasted their first “kebapche” and “kiufte” with “lutenitza” sauce, part of our basic diet here in Bulgaria. 

Rila Monastery

Happy Claudia at Happy restaurant
Once back in Sofia, Claudia had the opportunity to visit Pacas and Monroy’s flat, and to play with the PS2 (what a discovery for her!). The day ended with a dinner (all together) in the fantastic pizzeria Ugo. On Tuesday morning, we walked around the city centre, where they could buy some freak souvenirs like communist stuff, but also the Russian typical “matrioskas” and other innocent presents. We had lunch in “Happy” restaurant, another good place to eat for around 8-10 € (luxury for us, comparing it with what are we accustomed to), and they flew back to Spain. Short time here for my family, fucking air-controllers!!

29 de mayo de 2011

In Sofia. Days 101-107

Days 101-107:

29th November. Yeah, it was the day that Barça humbled Real Madrid (5-0). We watched it in a big pizzeria at Studenski Grad (Universitary area) with all the Erasmus friends. Dark evening for Monroy… but fortunately for him most of us were followers of the loser. Because I had drunk some beer, Miriam drove my car back to the center. It was the first time that another person (apart from me) drove it, and just then the Police stopped us beside Alexander Nevski Cathedral, and asked for all the papers. Miriam took the responsibility and talked with the policeman (or should I say sweet-talked??) until he was absolutely convinced than we were a nice Spanish students who didn’t deserve any fine for some stupid detail related with car irregularities.

CSKA Sofia - Besiktas . Hardcore supporters
On Thursday, the car had another revision in which was necessary to change two or three little things… all the day spent in the clandestine garage that I`ve mentioned previously in this blog. This also caused that I couldn't be on time for the match CSKA Sofia-Besiktas, and join the rest to watch it and wave Guti. But at least the car was ready to receive my family in the oncoming weekend. On Friday we had a funny dinner at Dybaka with some of our class-mates (Vencislava, Dobroslava, Svetoslav). Later we went to Rocknrolla, where we met with Miriam and Eli, and we partied and sang in the karaoke until closing time (as usually in this club). Fun-loving girls, these two!!

Marcos, Eli, Beatrice, Pacas, Monroy and Miriam at Rocknrolla!
She likes hot water fountains!

Saturday was the day in which my parents and sisters had to flight to Sofia, but EXACTLY that day exploded the air traffic controllers crisis in Spain, paralyzing all the air-traffic for 24 hours. At least I could recover myself to receive them with full forces on Sunday afternoon. We had dinner all together, and specially amusing was when I gave to Claudia (my 5 years-old sister) some presents (thanks Des)… she was probably what I missed the most during my time abroad. We didn’t have many time that day to see much, but at least we walked along the illuminated historic centre, and they enjoyed with it (better not to see other dark neighborhoods at night…). Next day: Rila's Monastery!

25 de mayo de 2011

Raining days in Sofia, and crazy weekend in Plovdiv. Days 94-100

Days 94-100:

The more it rains, the more we study
I had come to Bulgaria 3 months ago, and this was the first week with a truly bad weather. It was raining nearly all the time, although we found time to play a football match against a Portuguese guys very skilled in the feints and fancy footwork, but without blood in the veins. We won (teaming with some Erasmus friends).

Desislava, a new friend of mine whom I met in Rocknrolla, showed me new and interesting clubs in Sofia. Black Lodge (Aleksandar Stamboliyski 34) was one of them, a nice place for heavy-metal die hard fans, very close to the city centre.

On Saturday, 27th November, we decided to go to Plovdiv, which is the second biggest city in Bulgaria and it’s highway-connected with Sofia. It took one hour and half to go there. I had been there 2 years ago, but I didn’t remember so much. 15 minutes after parking the car, we met three Spanish girls (Erasmus in Veliko Tarnovo, they said) who recommended us to go directly to the Ethnographic museum. Why?? Because they were giving free wine and cheese!!! Yeah, it was enough to persuade us.

So we went there and asked for the free wine. In fact, it wasn’t exactly free… you had to pay 1 € to enter! That’s nice! What in the beginning was a purely touristic trip, started to transform in a alcoholic one: From the Ethnographic museum they moved (we too, of course) to other house, and later to another, and another one… In each house, different wine to taste! Meanwhile, traditional folkloric dances were displayed in front of us. We were invited to join several times, and Adri and Monroy couldn’t resist it. Between wine and wine, we made some friends (Teodoro the best), who were asking us repeatedly what we tought about the wine. –“Oh yes, it’s a wonderful wine! It has a charming wooden taste mixed with aromatic grapefruits!”, we joked. In fact, all the wines tasted pretty much the same for us. –“Where is the coke to make a Kalimotxo??”, asked Josemi. –“Much better is the Spanish wine!!”, claimed Monroy.

With our good friend and advisor TEODORO

Adri with the family

Views from the kitchen (scene of the incidents) at dusk
Three hours later, we stopped to follow the tasting delegation, because we were starting to feel really drunk. –“Fuck!! Who will drive back to Sofia now??” Obviously, we had to find a place to stay during the night, we couldn’t drive in that conditions. We found a hostel (Hikers Hostel) just in the historical city centre. So nice. And they gave us an entire apartment to sleep, because the Hostel building was full. Yeah, an ENTIRE apartment for five drunk Spanish. It was still around 4 PM, but this guys wanted to continue the party until night, so they went to buy some material to drink. We spent the afternoon in that nice and new kitchen, drinking , joking and chatting. And a new friend appeared (WE DON’T KNOW FROM WHERE): Alexander, a strange and rude man who didn’t speak English or Spanish. Gestural communication. But he wanted to impress us as soon as possible, so he decided to drink half-bottle of Rum in one gulp. Perfect. We started to worry when he suddenly fell asleep… ON HIS FEET. And resting against an OPEN window (15 meters to the ground). –“This man is freak as hell!”. We tried to move him to a safer position, but it wasn’t easy. He was strong and heavy, and his body slipped away like jelly. Finally we sat him on a chair. We tried to reanimate him, but no effect. Absolute K.O. We had a problem there…

Night came and chaos continued with Monroy and Adri out of control in the streets… But finally we returned to do something with Alexander’s corpse… We phoned the hostel reception, and one girl came and recognized Alexander. –“Ah, he is!! Don’t worry, move him to his room, it’s on first floor" (we were on 4th floor…). We moved that big body 3 floors down, along a NARROW stairs and with no so much coordination. It was challenging, but we finally dropped him on his bed, the man survived and problem solved. So strange, so freak, but the hostel’s girl said us not to worry, because it was not the first time that happened something similar… With Alexander in a safe place, Josemi went to a discotheque with Monroy and Adri in savage-mode… Good luck, man! Pacas stayed with me in the Hostel, and before the girl left, he had time to say to her some wonderful words, with the unique style that only Pacas have. Soooo funny…!! After promising his eternal love to the lady, we went to sleep and rest after a mad day…

Roman amphitheatre in Plovdiv
On Sunday, we were very hungry early in the morning (we forgot to eat the previous day), so we went to have breakfast at the Hostel. And we DEVASTATE, like pigs to be honest. Pacas re-encountered with his shocked platonic love. It would be better not to return to this hostel. We walked (this time without wine) around the city highlights (Roman Amphitheatre, Noble houses…) in a cloudy day. A few hours later we were back in Sofia, in time to visit the OLD (founded in 1888) city Zoo. It was quite interesting to see the snakes, tigers and pumas, but we also saw an elephant area without elephants, a bear area without bears and a rhinoceros area without rhinoceros. So we left the zoo a little bit confused. Anyway, the money investment had been low enough to not think so much about it (0,5 €).

In Sofia. Visit from Romania and new friends! Days 87-93

Days 87-93:

Soviet Army Monument. Sofia

We also had time to teach!
These days we started to go to Art Hostel regularly, the place where Adri and Josemi were collaborating with. It’s a very nice place, I have mentioned it before in this blog. They often organize cultural activities, and there are a cool atmosphere during the evenings in their cellar-pub. In this warm place we started to meet Miriam and Eli (both are also from Cantabria!), who would be very good friends weeks later. Welcome! ;)

On Thursday, 18th November, we received another Spanish visit, but this time they didn’t came from so far… Juan (a friend from Cantabria) and three Galician friends travelled by car from Timisoara (Romania) where they are studying this year. The same night they came, there was an Eramus Party on “My Mojito” club, so it was a perfect opportunity to receive them properly. All the Spanish crew there, so funny, until late.

Our objective!! Vitosha !

The man!!
The next day they visited city highlights (cultural and gastronomic) and prepared for the trip to Vitosha’s highest point, which is named Cherni Vrah (2.290 m). I was anxious to get it, because I had been living in Sofia for 3 months and I hadn’t try it yet. So there we went Juan and the three Galicians, Pacas, Monroy and me. Miriam and Eli finally didn’t come… buhhh! We arrived to Aleko Hut after a looong way up by car, and the fact is that we thought we were almost on the top… But really not yet, because firstly we needed to walk for an hour and a half to reach Cherni Vrah summit (the second half of the way over snow). There are another Hut which gives life to the place. It was cold up there, with the fog freezing us. After a meal and a beer (we carried it to here, so it was compulsory to drink it), we started the returning. One hour later we were in the car.

That night was a very good one, partying with all these people and Miriam, Eli and Beatrice (an Italian friend). We had been ejected from Sports1 (our preferred pub to watch Real Madrid matches, until that day…) in strange circumstances, so we had to move to a new place. We finished rocking hard in Rocknrolla until closing time. The next day, Juan and the Galicians left Sofia with a big hangover and some good experiences with them!

Pau, Pacas, Monroy, Jon, Toni, Marcos and Juan

23 de mayo de 2011

In Sofia. Days 80-86

Days 80-86:

Saúl left Sofia to continue travelling to Belgrade, as part of his touristic-guide field-work, but Charli and Luisma were going to stay a few days more with us (until Thursday). During the mornings we continued with our classes, but we had the rest of the day free to spend time with them. On Tuesday 9, we went to the west side of Vitosha mountain, where Kopitoto TV tower is. We explored a bit around an abandoned chair lift and took some pics of the city. We also stopped at the nearly historic Boyana church, but it was being repaired and closed to public.

Views from west Vitosha

On Wednesday, at last, we went to the Museum of Military History, a desired visit for weeks. Also, we met there with Milena, a couchsurfer who wanted to learn a little Spanish. We were delighted by the impressive outdoor collection of tanks, missiles, jet-fighters, helicopters and rest of stuff. Most of them from Cold War times, but also from I and II World Wars. But not less spectacular was inside the museum building (entrance fee only 1€), with three floors full of war History. In addition, they were chronologically arranged, starting with Prehistoric items and weapons, continuing with ancient Thracian remains, medieval armors and swords, Ottoman-times stuff… and finally all the weaponry from both World Wars, Cold War and modern times. I had been in Moscow military museum two years ago , and I can say that this one have nothing to envy the Russian one. It’s complete and fully documented. That visit led us to watch again the memorable serie “Band of Brothers” during the next few days, although there is no direct relation!

Attack Helicopter MI-24 Hind

MAZ-543 Scud Launcher

Soviet 2K11 Krug SAM System
Anti Aircraft Complex S-75 Dvina

Problems in one of my teeth’s nerve fucked me for two or three days, and increased dramatically our PES played hours. A visit to the dentist is quite cheaper than in Spain, but is still a not enjoyable thing to do.

Sofia from Kopitoto (Vitosha)

Putin arriving to President's Office
Vladimir Putin visited Sofia on Saturday 13, and we waited –beer in hand- for his appearance in front of the President’s Office. Many official black cars, tens of bodyguards… and some people cheering him, remembering us the historic friendship between Russia and Bulgaria. That night I went with the “Malagueños” to a Couchsurfing meeting (they do one every 13th) where we were introduced to new people (thanks to Ronnie and the rest). This global community is absolutely fantastic, really good vibrations between people and lots of possibilities. Sofia has an active local CS group, which organizes several activities per month. This time, the event was in “Memories”, a pub in Kniaz Boris 66. It was perfect to practice English again, after a period full of Spanish visits. We moved later to “Backstage”, with an interesting Balkan music DJ.

At the end of the week, we tried (without success) to find a shooting centre. They are quite popular in Sofia, and you pay for practice shooting with different guns and rifles. There is no doubt, we were really influenced by this "military" week!!

22 de mayo de 2011

Veliko Tarnovo. Day 79

Day 79:
I remember when some bulgarian told me: “Trust me, you have to visit Tsarevets Fortress, it`s the most amazing thing you´ll see here in Bulgaria”. It's maybe an exaggeration, but it's true that Veliko Tarnovo’s fortress, symbol of their ancient prosperity and final resistance against the Ottoman invaders, is a “must-see”. Partially reconstructed, the stronghold was erected on a hill from where the entire surroundings are under a 360 ͦvisual control, and is also extra-protected by the river basin.

Tsarevets Fortress

The Asen Dynasty Monument
The skies continued their alliance with us, and we could enjoy a day full of sun while we walked along the medieval traces of the Bulgarian Empire. Interesting and rare pictures inside the upper church.

With that burning sun and a light hangover over us, we walked from Tsarevets to the other side of the historic centre of the sloping village. A big statue with 4 bulgarian kings (remembering the foundation of the Bulgarian Kingdom) attracted our childish attention for a while (as well as the uncommon accumulation of cute girls in this city did).

After a quite afternoon, we drove back to Sofia following the most direct way, which goes over a highway in its last kilometers. Once in the capital, we decided to give ourselves a little reward (or punishment, it depends on how you look at it) having dinner at KFC. The day ended with a Real Madrid-Atletico match in the “Malagueños” house, who are always available to this events!

Veliko Tarnovo