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All good Euromeets …

Bulgaria day eight

Last morning in Sofia

Despite my misgivings about my room at the Central Point Hotel I have to admit that it had the great advantage of being incredibly quiet for a city centre location and I slept well.

The hotel doesn’t provide breakfast so we (Kirsty, Yvonne and I) went to a café just a few doors down the road, Caffetteria, where I had a huge flaky croissant with homemade jam and a good double espresso.

Breakfast in Caffetteria

After breakfast we had time to take a walk back in the direction of the Alexander Nevski cathedral, taking a few photos as we went. I appreciated Kirsty posing for me in the walkway near the Roman ruins at Serdica Metro station as the empty space was just crying out for a passer-by and they were in short supply!

Subway near the ruins of Roman Serdica

And an office building near the Russian church provided an opportunity for an unusual group shot!

Me, Kirsty and Yvonne

We wanted to revisit the flea market stalls we had seen on our first day in Sofia, selling a mix of paintings and icons, old jewellery and watches, Communist memorabilia and general bric-a-brac. Kirsty was tempted by a couple of the watches but didn’t make a purchase, while I spent just 5 leva on an old Bulgarian military pin for Chris. Yvonne meanwhile was a bit disappointed to find that the stall where she had admired some paintings previously was yet to set up for the day – this is clearly not a market where early starts are the norm!

Badges for sale

Flea market stall

Russian dolls

We then retraced our steps to the area near our hotel, again taking photos as we went. We passed the former Royal Palace, now the National Art Gallery, which we had seen on our walking tour on our first day here. I was starting to properly get my bearings after two days in the city, just as it was nearly time to leave!

The National Art Gallery

Outside the gallery

We were attracted by the classic 1930s architecture of the Bulgarian National Bank building. I hadn’t paid it much attention until now, but I liked its clean unfussy lines and simple elegant clock.

The Bulgarian National Bank

On one side is what one of our friends had referred to as a bankers’ ‘suicide window’, to be used in the case of a stock market crash or investment gone wrong, but I can’t find any evidence that this was its purpose. Indeed, most articles I could find refute the idea that such banking disasters result in a spate of suicides. It does however seem an oddly ornate feature on this otherwise fairly austere building.

As to the statue just below the window, on the corner of the building, one article I found refers to this as being of St Nicholas, although it doesn’t look like a saint to me and in any case a religious figure would seem an odd choice for the headquarters of a national bank. I can't help but think that it could be St Mathew rather than St Nicholas, if it is a saint, as he is the patron saint of bankers.

Bulgarian National Bank details

We spotted a sculpture we had missed yesterday, near the Einstein restaurant – a column with small animals and human figures climbing up it. We spent some time examining this for all the different creatures, and taking photos of course. No amount of Googling on my part has thrown up any information about this, unfortunately.

The sculpture near the Einstein restaurant

We had decided to rectify yesterday's decision not to visit the synagogue. But when we got there it was closed due to 'technical issues' - what a shame, as this was our last morning and we would not be able to try again tomorrow! So instead we went back to Caffetteria as we had earlier been drooling over their smoothie selection! We enjoyed our cold drinks here before returning to the hotel where Yvonne and I ordered a taxi to the airport (Kirsty’s flight was much later in the day, so she remained behind in the city for a few more hours).

The journey home, and a lost phone!

The taxi dropped us at the terminal but when we went to check in, I realised that didn’t have my phone. It seemed likely that I lost it in the taxi, having rather stupidly left it in my trouser pocket when leaving the hotel rather than transferring it to my bag. It seemed unlikely I would ever see it again, although one of my friends, Josephine, did helpfully message Kirsty in case the driver was honest enough to hand it into the hotel. I then used Josephine’s phone to call my network provider to block the SIM card and phone. That sorted, there was nothing more to be done so we checked in, went through security and passport control and had some lunch in an airside café.

I did a bit of shopping (rakia as a present for Chris plus some small packets of Turkish Delight to use up my remaining leva) and we headed to the gate. Just before boarding Kirsty messaged Josephine - she had my phone! There was no time before boarding to ask her for details, so the full story would have to wait.*

That drama over, we boarded the plane where I was lucky to have a window seat and no one beside me in the middle one. The thunderstorm that had raged while we waited to board (memories of Sunday evening in Plovdiv!) passed over just before we took off, but it was nevertheless a rather bumpy ascent through a bit of turbulence.

Taking off from Sofia Airport in the rain

Farewell to Sofia ...

... And hello to London
- somewhere over the Thames near Putney Bridge

We landed on time at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal Five – by far my favourite there. Passport control was surprisingly quick, and I waited only a short while for my luggage. Colin, Josephine and I said goodbye to Yvonne, who was catching the Heathrow Connect service to Paddington, while the three of us headed for the Tube. We were soon at my station in South Ealing, so I said my very last goodbye of the Euromeet to Colin and Josephine, who were carrying on to spend a couple of nights in London, and was home not much more than an hour after landing – as always, grateful to live in such easy reach of the airport!

*Postscript: how Kirsty recovered my phone
When she got the message from Josephine about my lost phone, Kirsty and the hotel receptionist had looked through the hotel’s CCTV to see Yvonne and me getting into our taxi, noted the company and taxi number and then called the company. The driver had been honest and already told his boss that a passenger had left a phone, so she arranged for that same driver to pick her up when it was time for her to go to the airport so that he could hand it to her. Once she was home in Belgium she posted the phone to me and only a week after being separated we were reunited!

Posted by ToonSarah 03:50 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged planes architecture flight airport shopping city sculpture sofia bulgaria euromeet virtual_tourist lost_phone

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As always a great summary of your final days. But the highlight of the blog for me is that very excellent photo in the subway way station of Kirsty.

by Larry Sampson

Sarah: phone home!

by CliffClaven

Good for Kirsty that she was able to get your phone back — a good use of the hotel's CCTV.
(I had to re-boot mine this morning, which led to several hours of fiddling with it to get everything up and running again.)

by Nemorino

Thanks everyone! I was very happy with that photo Larry, and so I believe was Kirsty :)

by ToonSarah

So glad you got your phone back. Losing one is a disaster. I keep our plane tickets on mine. Guess that's a hint I should keep paper copies too . . .

by Beausoleil

That's a good point Sally. I had already checked in online so didn't need my ticket, and although I had my boarding pass on my phone there was no problem getting one printed at the check-in counter. Come to that, I can't remember the last time I was asked to produce an air ticket - they usually just ask for passports these days, don't they?

by ToonSarah

What a wonderful way to end the trip! Thank you again for sharing your photos and comments.

by Diane Y.

Thanks Diane, I appreciate your visit :)

by ToonSarah

How I wish I could have been there but it was not to be for various reasons. I look forward to reading through all the entries for what appears to have been a wonderful meet. Newcastle next year?

by Fergy

Hi Fergy Yes, it was a really excellent meet, but we missed you! I do hope you can make Newcastle next year - last weekend in May? But hopefully we can catch up in London before that :)

by ToonSarah

At last, I have found the time to read this properly and respond. It was a great reminder of that last day of our time together and, as always, I loved the photographs that you posted. Looking forward to catching up with you again at the Treasure Hunt.

by Yvonne Dumsday

Thanks so much Yvonne :) Yes, see you at the Treasure Hunt - but first, I have N Korea

by ToonSarah

A great blog Sarah on your trip. I really enjoyed reading it and what a nice story about the phone to finish up on. I look forward to your next adventure.

by Wabat

The nice phone story is mainly due to Kirsty, Albert - and you know well what my 'next adventure' will be!

by ToonSarah

Yes and that is why I look forward to your take on it!!!!!

by Wabat

Yes, it will be very interesting to compare notes Albert

by ToonSarah

what a meetup ... glad to read you got reunited with your phone! What a journey! :)

by Ils1976

Thanks Ils, always appreciate you taking the time to read my blogs :)

by ToonSarah

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