What an amazing week last week. Groundbreaking. I took tram 5 in Sofia out to the end of the line. Found the only bar and asked for a beer. 1.70 lev. That is 0.85 cent. I feel like I have discovered a beer time machine. Pulled the lever and was transported back to 1981.
I not only broke the 1 euro barrier. I drove a tank through it. All that I can think of is what could be possible in the countryside or in very remote towns in the mountains. My cousin Jerry asked this week if I had made any friends in Sofia. I said with beer at 0.85 cent who needs friends. I can make them up.
Yes, 1981 was the last time a beer was 0.85 cent in Ireland. Believe me, I checked it. 1981 the year Charles and Diana got engaged. The Soviet Union was beginning to realize invading Afganistan maybe was not a good idea. Both the U.S president Ronald Reagan and the Pope survived assassination attempts.
The Bulgarian secret service and the Pope.
Actually, there is a Bulgarian connection with the 1981 assassination attempt on the Pope. Mehmet Ali Agca the man who attempted to kill the Pope in 1981 was a Turkish member of the ultra-nationalist Grey Wolves group. Prior to travelling to Rome Agca stayed in the capital Sofia for up to 50 days before the assassination attempt. This led to accusations that the Bulgaria secret service planned the assassination of the Pope. It is also possible he just stayed in the city as he slowly made his way to Rome. Most of us who grew up during this period have been fed a view of the communist Eastern bloc that was in complete lockdown to outsiders. Actually, in 1981, anyone could get a tourist visa for $10. That is what Agca did with a false Indian passport.
Was Bulgaria involved in the plot to assassinate the Pope? Like all good conspiracy theories, you get plenty of choices.
The Bulgarians did it for the KGB.
The C.I.A wanted to discredit the Soviet Union so they ordered it.
Cardinal Casaroli ordered it.
Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran ordered it.
It is worth noting that Agca before he died, said he had lied about the Bulgarian secret service connection. If is quite possible he just hid out in Sofia where he mixed with petty crooks and smugglers. The police back then turned a blind eye to this type of activity as they brought badly needed foreign currency to the country.
Meanwhile, in 1981 Ireland we had started a decade of financial mismanagement and political corruption mainly in housing planning and rezoning of land. After 800 years of British rule Ireland in the 1980s was still finding its feet as a new state. I remember almost every week I attended an emigration party. Another friend leaving to find work abroad. Eventually, it came to my turn to go and I took the boat and bus to London.
Ireland has changed massively since that bleak decade. in 2018 people from other countries come to Ireland looking for work. There is more opportunity there. Not everything is perfect but in my opinion, it is a better place to live.
Bulgaria today reminds me a lot of 1980s Ireland. 500 years of Ottoman Empire rule. Just under 20 years free of communist rule. I can see the potential here. Maybe it is because I saw the Ireland of 1980 become the Ireland of 2018.
Things that Bulgarians do.
Bulgarians advertise a death of a family member by putting their picture and burial details on trees. They also do on the yearly anniversary of the deaths.
Waiters/Waitresses in some of the more touristy bars and restaurants take tips without asking. I tend to always tip but I like it to be my choice. The service from the people who take the tips rather than be given them tends to give the worst service. I usually vote with my feet and don’t return.
You can get very high-quality espresso coffee in Sofia small shops for just 0.30 cent. Some have chairs outside where you can sit and enjoy your coffee. In Ireland ordering an espresso is the equivalent of asking for a glass of champagne. God help you if you ask for a double espresso which really is a normal espresso everywhere else. You better make sure you have your credit card with you.
Took my first trip on the Sofia tram system the other day. For the so-called poorest E.U country the transport system in the capital is very impressive.
The Tram system has 14 lines and 308km of track.
The Metro system opened in 1998 and has 2 lines of 40km.
There are over 500 public buses in Sofia.
I have to admit I love the trams. The older the better. There is something old world about them.
1 journey 1.60 leva which is 0.80 cent.
1-day ticket 4 leva which is 2 euro. Unlimited travel on all trams, metro and buses for the day purchased.
3-day ticket. 10 Leva which is 5.11 Euro. Unlimited travel on all trams, metro and buses for 3 consecutive days.
Metro Line 1 goes directly from the Aiport to the centre.
Make sure you validate your ticket at the start of the journey or you could be fined by an inspector. I don’t think the 1 and 3-day cards need validating but ask when you buy the tickets.
Becoming a digital nomad
What is a digital nomad? I actually was a digital nomad before I knew I was a digital nomad. I happened to be having a beer on the promenade of Las Canteras beach in Las Palmas. I got talking to a group of younger people. They told me they were digital nomads. When I asked what that was they said they can work from their computers so can work from anywhere. I said I have been doing that for years. I just did not know I was a digital nomad. The only differences I could see between them and myself was I was a bit older. They all went to bed before 10 pm and I was the only one that was not drinking water.
As I spoke to the group before they had to go to bed at 10 pm I could see a few were bluffing. The people who told me they played the markets and dabbled in cryptocurrencies. Really they were on holiday or using their parent’s money. As a former problem gambler, I have bluffed enough myself to know it when I see it.
The others in the group I could see were the real deal. People who designed websites. Who wrote for magazines. They did customer service for gaming companies by email. Basically, any work that did not need the person to be in an office and that could be done online. They travel the world as they work. They tend to go to the cheaper countries. Thailand and other countries in South East Asia. Cheap can still be interesting. It is a great way to travel the world as you work.
There is a Nomad list. They look at cities in the world and rate them on a number of specifics. Wifi. Cost of living. Safty. Racial and LGBT tolerance and many other things. I see Sofia, where I am now, is only 38th on the list. If the cost and quality of beer were the most important things it might be number 1. What do they know?
Want to learn more. This is one of the better websites on how to become a Digital Nomad. Might it be the life for you?
Well, a new leader in my legendary voyage to find the cheapest beer in Bulgaria. I took tram line 5 to the end. It was like a rainbow. There was a pot of gold at the end. I went into the only bar I could find. Asked for a beer. 1.70 lev. 0.85 cent. There was a tear in my eye as I paid.
The name. Chek-Bap I think.
The address. The end of line 5. Walk up 2 minutes on the left.
Website. You don’t need a website if you are selling beer for 0.85 cents.
As I said last week I am going to do a weekly short video on places of interest in Sofia. This week I am doing something different. A look around my apartment and some tips for if you are going to live in another country. For example, in Sofia, you will see many apartments online for rent. Most are fake. You will be asked for rent upfront as a deposit. The apartment will not exist or the person will not own the apartment. To see how to avoid this click here for more.
If you have any questions please contact and I will be more than happy to help if I can.
Join me on my journey.
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