The “Sofia Communist Tour” Is Great

What better vessel could there be than an iconic, former-East-German Trabant for navigating a narrative of Bulgaria’s communist era? A few clever young Bulgarians have bought a little blue “Trabi” and are giving free tours of Sofia with the aim of doing just that.

The East German Trabant is an iconic reminder of Communism in Eastern Europe
The East German Trabant is an iconic reminder of Communism in Eastern Europe

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Rambling Man With a Torch in Sofia

STOP!” he shouts, right as I’m about to take my money from the ATM in downtown Sofia. Alarmed, I turn around to find some bearded man standing right behind me, holding what — at first glance — looks like a gun. “Holy shit,” I think, “am I about to get jacked?

Butane torch
Butane torch (By Hustvedt [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

Oh wait, WTF, that’s not a gun,” I say to myself, as I remove my card from the machine. The “weapon” appears to be a large, hand-held lighter, or maybe a butane torch. “Is this guy going to burn me or something?!” I think, waiting the longest three seconds of my life for the ATM to spit out my money. Me staring, him rambling, I hear the word leva (the name of the Bulgarian currency) — maybe he’s trying to sell it to me? Worst. Salesman. Ever. I grab my money, stuff it into my pocket, and walk away quickly.

I’m still not sure if I was in danger of getting burned (for example) or if he just wanted to sell the damn thing to me. It will probably be a while before I go back to that ATM again, though!

Refugees Welcome in Bulgaria

A few weeks ago I came across this graffiti in downtown Sofia, along Aleksandar Dondukov Boulevard:

Refugees welcome, deport the...?
Refugees welcome, deport the…?

I would have expected to see this in a more liberal, developed European country like Germany, France, or Sweden, but I was pleasantly surprised to see it here. Bulgaria is rather conservative, poor, and has no shortage of gripping issues inside its own borders. Nevertheless, it’s good to see at least one compassionate Bulgarian publicly expressing this viewpoint.

According to the UN’s Refugee Agency there are more displaced peoples in the world right now than at any time in human history. From their report:

[…] the number of people forcibly displaced at the end of 2014 had risen to a staggering 59.5 million compared to 51.2 million a year earlier and 37.5 million a decade ago.

Part of the solution to this problem surely involves a different strategy in the Middle East — nearly five million refugees are from Syria alone (since 2011!) — but building walls around Europe to keep out the refugees is not.