Yes, I did actually dream I was in Sofia. As I wiped the sleep from my eyes I realised it was more than a dream. Bizzare as it might seem I am actually going to live in Sofia Bulgaria.
Four years ago I arrived in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
I had spent a few months in the south of the Island. I completely get why people go to Playa del Ingles, Maspalomas and Puerto Rico when they come to Gran Canaria on their holidays. These resorts in the south are the most popular places to stay on the Island for sun holidays.
People from countries such as Ireland and the U.K unlike most of the world are not guaranteed a normal summer. This is why we usually have simple needs when we go abroad on our holidays.
Sun and if the food and drink are a bit cheaper then back home even better.
Our two weeks in the Canaries maybe the only time all year we get to enjoy sitting out in our shorts with the sun shining on our pale faces. We love getting to use our ray ban sunglasses. The funny thing the more I travel the more I think only people from countries with little or no sun wear sunglasses.
One day I wanted a bit more than the usual. I took the bus to the Capital Las Palmas. Within ten minutes I fell in love with the city. Not much has changed since to change this romance.
I often think of the hoards of sun worshipers laying on the sandy beaches in the south. For the most part totally unaware of this unique city less than 50km to the north.
Las Palmas has a population of almost 400,000 inhabitants. Mostly Spanish but with a mix from North Africa and sub-Saharan people. The Canaries has had a strong connection with South America ever since Christopher Columbas used the islands as a stopping off point between Spain and the Americas. Because of this Las Palmas has its fair share of Cubans. Columbans, Venezuelans, Bolivians and most other South American countries. This gives the city a very unique Latino vibe. There has been a great atmosphere here during the world cup as Spain and the various South American countries play their games.
Playa Las Canteras has to be one of the best city beaches in the world with over 3km of sandy beach and many bars and restaurants. The old part of Las Palmas Vegueta is a special place. Christopher Columbas had a house here. You can visit it when open.
Like most places, anyone will live for a while if you don’t like the people you will probably not like the place. For the most part, I have found the people here to be decent friendly people. For a city of almost 400,000 people, it has been the safest city I have ever lived in. It feels more like a big town then the eight biggest city in Spain.
Like any big city, it has big city problems. The weather is not as good as down the south where the sun shines 95% of the time. In Las Palmas, it is 75% of the time. The other 25% the Panza de Burro covers the city. Its English name is the Donkeys belly. A cloud formation fits into Las Palmas like a jigsaw piece. Manana is a word probably used a bit too much by people.
When I am asked to describe Las Palmas by friends I tell them you need one hour for a coffee. 20 minutes to order the coffee. 20 minutes to drink the coffee and 20 minutes to pay for the coffee. After four years I was quite content with this. After all, what is the rush?
So why leave Las Palmas?
Since I finished up with my last job and have done a bit of world travelling it has not been easy to get employment here. My bad Spanish has not helped and the Canaries currently have an unemployment rate of over 20%.
It is not that I am picky. I have done some very good jobs. For a while, I was group Revenue Manager for all reservation departments with Sheraton hotels in the Gulf. I have also done some really bad jobs.
Maybe the worst was my one hour as a turkey plucker. It was a good few years ago during my gambling years. It was Christmas week and I was short of money. My dream of a big win on the horses as usual never arrived. Reality dawned. I saw a small box advert on the Cork Evening Echo. Turkey pluckers wanted. 50 pence for each turkey plucked. How hard could that be?
I called the number and arranged to picked up in Mayfield on the north side of Cork city. As we headed in a van to Glanmire on the city outskirts the driver wondered why all the guys from yesterday had not turned up. Now so did I.
Ok maybe I was a bit naive but I did expect the turkeys to be dead. The advert did not say turkey plucker and killer. As I looked at the tiny noose my heart sank. If it had been one of the horses I had lost money on maybe it would have been easier. I put the turkey head into the noose. Over the next hour, I did everything I could to make that turkey ready for someone’s table on Christmas day. I even swung from it.
In the end, I had enough. I won’t say the turkey was in good condition after the hour but he looked a lot better then I did. The guy said I should be doing about ten turkeys an hour. All I had after one hour is a turkey at worse in need of a neck brace.
I said goodbye and never asked for the 25 pence I felt I deserved for an injured turkey. As I had no money I hitched a lift into the city. Only when I was getting into the car did I notice the turkeys blood on my shirt. The driver took me all the way to my home.
As I get ready to go to Sofia my mind is wandering a lot.
I hope it will go ok. Most people think that moving to a different country is a lot harder then it probably is. Many people have made Las Palmas their new home. Particularly Scandinavians who in their retirement want to escape the harsh Northern European winter. They rent their houses in their own countries. Rent cheaper here or buy a houseboat in Las Palmas. As Las Palmas is cheaper than most European countries their pensions can buy a lot more. Sunny winters and Gran Canaria is well served by low-fare airlines should an emergency visit home be required. Beats looking out the window at the winter rain.
Slowly slowly Sofia Sofia.
I am coming to terms with leaving Las Palmas Sofia is still second in my mind. I have actually been there before. In June this year. My good friend Dick Grant and I recently did 5 cities in 12 days tour.
Madrid, Bucharest, Sofia, Istanbul and Barcelona.
Today with cheap air travel and a bit of flexibility many places are within reach of most people. 4 flights came to 160 euro. 2 amazing train journeys sixty euro. On average a 2 bedroom apartment with Airbnb cost 15 euro a night each. There are still many cheap and interesting places to see in this world.
Sofia was down for a 3-day visit.
Having crossed the Romanian border on a very slow train from Bucharest we stopped in the small town of Levski. The conductor advised that a thunder and lightning storm had taken down the electric lines. As he was unsure when we would be on the move again we decided to spend the night in this strange town.
We booked into the only hotel in town. Luckily we had some Euro on us. It was a strange but interesting experience. People looked at us like they had never seen anyone similar before. That was curious as Bulgaria has seen Greeks, Alexander the Great, Romans, the Ottoman Empire, Russians and a few more pass through their land. Some stayed a bit longer than others. Maybe they all missed Levski.
Everone seemed to be in bed at 2100. We had something to eat and a few beers at the hotel as the television pumped out Bulgarian pop music. A strange sound accompanied by slightly pornographic videos.
The next morning we strolled around town. Life seemed simpler. Not worse. Not better. Just simpler.
We resumed our journey to Sofia. A 3-day visit became a day and a half. A bit like Las Palmas I liked the feel of Sofia when I first arrived. If I like it after a year that is yet to be seen.
Ok, so it is time to get to know a bit more about Bulgaria. I have read that nodding your head for yes and no is the complete opposite in Bulgaria. The story goes that during the Ottoman Empire Bulgarians were asking to renounce their religious beliefs as a sword was held on their throats. Changing the nod up and down from yes to no became a defiant gesture and a way to keep your religion and your head.
Anyway, that should be great fun. I might be buying a lot of stuff I don’t actually want.
Join me on my journey.
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