Sunday, July 30, 2017

From Sofia with Love ...

While it may not have the charm of Paris or the energy of Rome - Sofia (Bulgaria's capital city) does have a few attractions worth experiencing.

For a start it has a welcoming statue, the statue of Sveta Sofia (holy wisdom), a monumental copper and brass work overlooking the city. I liked it a lot.

city center - Sofia statue in the background

The capital has a mountain "attached" to it - Vitosha mountain - lovely place for picnics and hiking in summer, ski in winter. The mountain can be seen from various locations in the city, and it's a beautiful sight. It can be reached by car, bus, cable car, chairlift.. I went there by metro+bus+ on foot 250 m to the station called Aleco Hut , which is under the mountain's highest peak ,Cherni Vrah.

on Vitosha mountain; panoramic views of Sofia in the distance

Vitosha is also the name of the main shopping boulevard and pedestrian zone,  the name of a metro line, and that of a district.

The bulgarians seem to respect their past royalty. Several streets in the capital are named after czars (tsar)  and kings (knyaz) : Tsar Simeon, Tsar Asen1, Knyaz Boris1, Knyaz Alexander, Knyagyna Maria Luiza.

They also seem to have respect for public property. Although everyone uses an i-phone, the phone half-booths are still in their place. I even checked a few of these pay phones and they  were in order; apparently no vandalism. However, I haven't seen anyone there making a phone call.

phone half booth

Speaking of booths, one of the three tourist information offices in town is in a.. booth located in the City Garden. Cute. It was closed when I approached it, but I didn;t mind as I had all the info I needed from the main office at the Serdika Metro station.

tourist info office in glass booth

Food is quite cheap, at least compared to where I come from. There's this  chain of discount supermarkets scattered everywhere in the city, called BILLA ,where one can get good food at a fraction of the price. People buy there some wonderful croissantes for their morning and evening coffee; they even buy lunch as there is a grill facility in the store which offers hot grilled meat patties and other such products.

Billa  store (yellow letters) at the central bus station

The main general market, the big open air one,  named the Ladies' Market ( Jensky Pazar) also sells food , besides selling fruit, veggies,clothes and kitchenware.

Ladies'  Marrket

To all the lovers of roses, Bulgaria is well-known for the quality of its rose perfume, rose oil, rose water, and rose - based cosmetics. Bulgaria is one of the top producers and exporters of the above products.

Sofia has a lot of  souvenir shops, 'rose' items being the major souvenir on demand. Prior to departure, I bought a few souvenirs at the Central Market Hall (Halite). This is a covered, compact market in an historical building on Maria Luiza boulevard, across the big Mosque, and not far from the little streets making up the Ladies' Market.


More on the bulgarian capital in my next posts (if my computer will let me, and won't give me any trouble).

Friday, July 7, 2017

Attention: Neighbours !


Qatar, an arab peninsular country in the Middle East, has recently become a Hot item in the news. Its neighbours: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrein,and the United Emirates ( a federation of seven emirates- Abu Dhabi and Dubai being the most known of them) have accused Qatar of supporting and funding terrorism. Qatar denies the allegation. 

The four neighbours have cut off  diplomatic relations with Qatar, closed their borders and issued  demands and ultimatums. Qatar has declared that it won't give in to any ultimatum, and that all demands are rejected as they're a trial to undermine the sovereignity of the nation.

Qatar, (with its capital city Doha) is a land rich in oil and gas, so naturally it is one that attracts great interest, and not only from its neighbours. It has also been chosen to host the 2022 World Cup tournament (Mondial 2022). Now, it seems this Mondial is under great uncertainty .

A stroll in the city  (Web image)

All sorts of factors (Kuweit, USA, Russia, Germany, the UN) are trying to moderate in the above diplomatic crisis so as  to avoid escalation and ensuing instability in the region.
It doesn't seem likely at  this point that there's going to be a joint military action of the four neighbouring countries against Qatar. However, the situation is very unpleasant, not to say explosive.

If indeed terrorism is financed by Qatar, this should immediately be stopped; supporting terrorism in any way is an act of war against humanity.  All the other issues (among them the neighbours' demand to close Al Jazeera TV net ,and  a turkish military base) - are internal affairs to be dealt with by Qatar's government.

In any case, Qatar largely depends on import (including food import). Closed borders, boycotts and this sort of thing, will have a disastrous impact on the country even though Iran and Turkey are behind  with "moral" support and food supply, helping her at the moment defy its neighbours.

Never a dull moment in the Middle East.

* web map