Weekend in Sofia

It's hard to remember all the nice parts of a trip when it's bookended by Ryanair flights and extremely backed up German border crossings, but setting that aside, I had a wonderful time in Sofia this weekend. After months of incompatible schedules, my friend Owen (yes, really) and I finally found somewhere we could meet, with him coming from Düsseldorf and me from Berlin.

I did not know a lot, or really anything about Sofia. I still don't. I remember from elementary school that the capital of Bulgaria had a nice and easy-to-remember name. I've met some Bulgarians at different points in my life, but I would be hard-pressed to recall anything about country or people. Are there any famous fictional Bulgarians? In fact, a new friend in Berlin is Bulgarian but I didn't realize it until I ran into him at a party a week before the trip. So suffice it to say, I went in pretty blind.

The City

I don't think Sofia sticks out as having particularly beautiful or interesting architecture or urban design. There do seem to be large number of parks and public spaces, though in winter everything's covered in snow and ice anyway. Buildings tend to look (to my untrained eye) basically socialist blocks or 70s concrete. What's actually the difference? There are two subway lines, one which goes to the airport, so points for convenience, especially compared to Berlin. There are lots of buses and trams, but I couldn't figure out how to use them and we mostly walked places anyway. Someone should make an app with a trip planner for Sofia!

Food

This was one area where Sofia really surprised me. We got a few tips for restaurants to check out and even went on a free food tour. Almost everything we ate was really good! It was interesting, experimental, well-cooked. I didn't expect there to be a forward-thinking food scene, but there was and we were lucky enough to experience a bit of it!

History

My final thoughts on Sofia and Bulgaria are that I'd like to understand their history better. While on the walking tours, our guides tended to gloss over the thousands of years of history, explaining that there were Thracians, then Slavs and proto-Bulgarians who came to occupy the land that is now Bulgaria. I'm sure it was bloodier and messier, and a country that has 3 kingdoms and was conquered by the Ottoman empire surely has a complex history. But I always feel this way after I go on trips, so please recommend any good (interesting) histories of Bulgaria that you might have! Even fairytales would be an interesting place to start.

Neighborhood changes: 23rd & Bryant laundromat to restaurant

The Super Lavar laundromat on the northeast corner of 23rd & Bryant is closing down. Its owners (proprietors?) are having a "community information meeting" in two weeks on Monday November 18th, 2013 at 8pm to share their plans. 
I wonder what kind of friendly neighborhood restaurant is coming. Fancy like Local's Corner across the street or more accessible (yet delicious) like El Metate up at 22nd?

We do our office laundry at that laundromat, so I guess we'll be on the lookout for a new laundromat now.

My day in the Mission: Serendipitous street art, Local Mission Market, and HBO's Looking

I walked out of my apartment and headed down Valencia Street towards my polling place, only to realize that I'd be late for a meeting at work if I voted now. If I hadn't walked down Valencia though, I wouldn't have seen this parking space-turned-temporary street art installation.

At lunch, I walked over to the grand opening of Local Mission Market at 23rd & Harrison, the latest in the "local" Mission empire (see also Local's Corner and Local: Mission Eatery, but not Local Edition, which is downtown). Nothing suitable to grab for lunch, but I'll check back in a week or so to see what else they add.


As I left work, HBO's Looking was filming at Punjab again. What is their obsession with our local cheap Chinese joint? I don't care, I just want to meet Jonathan Groff and Russell Tovey. How hard can that be?