I’m going to be honest now. The first time I drove into Sofia I wasn’t blown away. On our (rather long) ride from the airport to our apartment, I looked at the crumbling tower blocks, the slightly tacky malls and the dirty, dusty streets and I was somewhat underwhelmed.
My first encounter with a certain Bulgarian Man (BM) wasn’t dissimilar. Don’t get me wrong, BM seemed friendly. But EVERYONE in Bulgaria is friendly, so I didn’t think much of it. He offered to take me on a cycle ride, and I agreed.
As I got to know Sofia better, I started to see its beauty. Not just the grandeur of the big sites that you’re supposed to be impressed by – like the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral – but also the little things that made every day special – my cycle to work through the parks and forests, the creative graffiti on every corner and the friendly ladies who served me delicious pastries for a few stotinki. Don’t get me wrong, there were still flaws, and there were still bad days – one of which caused me to lose my phone, and therefore BM’s number. But I was really starting to like the place.
Once I found BM’s number again and we finally met up, I realised that he, too, had a lot of positive traits. He was funny; he was kind; he cared about his family and he looked out for me when I found myself in the usual scrapes like being in Koprivshtitsa with no idea about how to get home. Together, we cycled the city’s parks, explored the back streets, frequented the local bars and kept the ice cream stalls in business. And as we adventured, I began to fall in love – with BM, and with Sofia itself.
I was aware that they both had flaws, and there were things that I still didn’t like about them, but the more that I got to know both BM and Sofia, the more I wanted to know.
When my internship ended, it was lovely to catch up with my friends in the UK, but being back was hard – I missed BM, and it was tough hearing him talk about his adventures in Bulgaria, when all I wanted was to be there too. I resolved to find a job in Bulgaria and applied for loads that wouldn’t normally get a second glance.
But when I visited Sofia and BM again a couple of months later it was a bit different – Autumn was coming and there was a chill in the air in Sofia; unfortunately, there was also a chill in the air between me and BM. He was a different person; and through that week and in the days following my return, I came to the crushing realisation that he no longer cared.
BM’s betrayal threw me into turmoil. But as I emerged from the heartbreak of realising that something (and someone) that I had believed in was not what I had hoped, I also realised that my love for Sofia remained.
So, good people of Bulgaria, I’m back! I come back to Sofia both physically and emotionally a slightly smaller version of myself than when I was last here, but with the same passion to pile on the pounds eating your delicious food, to discover the hidden corners of this beautiful city and amazing country, and to fall in love with it all over again.
Sofia, don’t let me down.