Day 47: Made it to Sofia

I finally made it to Sofia after a fairly horrendous journey from Sarajevo.  After a full day of bus travel through the mountains of Bosnia and Serbia I made it to the town of Nis (pron. “Nish”) in south-east Serbia by 6pm.  I was hoping for a quick connection to Sofia (which I thought was a just few hours away) but my dreams were quickly dashed – I had the option of a 2am night train or a 5am bus.  I elected for the train which meant I had some time to burn, so I headed into town to see the sights of beautiful (ha ha) Nis.

Let me just explain for a minute how difficult it is to do anything in a country that uses the Cyrillic alphabet – even a three letter word like “Nis” comes out as “H-“backards N”-W”.  I overcame the headaches and found the main tourist highlight in town, Tvrdava, a 14th century Turkish fortress.  The other attraction – a Turkish victory tower made of Serbian skulls – was unfortunately closed.  I had a wander around and then had dinner in a coverted hamam (Turkish bath).  That chewed up a couple of hours, so after a few more beers I went to the station and found myself an uncomfortable slab on concrete to get some kip on.

At 1:30am I woke up to find the train already in the station, so I had to bolt to catch it.  The rest of the night was fairly sleepless becuase the train had terribly unconfortable and unventilated carriages  with heaps of chain-smoking Eastern Europeans packed to the gills, and a long border crossing which saw customs officials take the train half apart to find smuggled goods (they missed most of them – after the border I saw piles and piles of cigarettes and booze brought out of all sorts of hiding spots).

So I’m in Sofia now, and I have to say I don’t think much of it.  There just doesn’t seem to be much here for the tourist (or the local for that matter…).  It’s been heavily influenced by Communist architecture and town planning (i.e. not that aesthetic nor functional) and looks very shabby around the edges.  It took me all of two hours to see the city’s sights, and in lieu of finding anything else worth seeing I spent today by the swimming pool working on my tan.  Tomorrow should be good though, I’m off to see Rila Monastery (World Heitage listed site) in the mountains south of the city – stay tuned…

p.s. I’ll have some pics up from the last couple of weeks sometime soon.

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