April Runs

… hikes, kickbikes, skis and more

Sofia and why I should not be going to Bulgaria again

How many bad (running) moments can one possibly experience in the capital of Bulgaria in the short period of 2 days? Hmmmm, let me think…

I arrived to Sofia on Sunday night predetermined to spend my ‘free time’ there (about 2 hours a day while the rest of the world was asleep) by running and/or walking through town. The first night I managed quite well. Despite the fact that the 1.2 million city should be the buzzing centre of the Balkans, nothing much was happening there on Sunday night, the streets were mostly dark and pubs empty – ideal to walk and enjoy and get ready for the Monday morning run.

Getting up at 6 am is what I can do like nobody else these days as the babies trained me well. By 6:30 on Monday I was out there in the rain entering Borisova gradina, the local (dark) park. Of course I did my research: one end of the 4-cornered park I was going to run in is almost in the city centre and its three remaining sides are bounded by main streets with lots of traffic. No way I could loose myself there: when simply following the edges, after 3-4 km I would eventually and up where I started. The plan was easy 7-8 km (two loops) followed by a relaxed coffee in the local Starbucks before the day really starts.

I started running and after 3 km checked the time – there was plenty of it so I went on and on and on only to realise that despite the fact that I had now ran 5 km, the loop was still not closing. At 6 km same thing. Short moment of panic – but I could still hear the traffic from one of the main streets on my right hand side and surely I was turning all the time. 7 km, deep forest, the panic grows. My running time is almost up so where the hell is the park exit? And how comes I am standing at this wooden bridge? Where did the water stream come from? I was not crossing it before, was I? 8 km. To cut a long story short, by 8:00 I was standing in the middle of a busy road that was completely unknown to me trying to stop a car, bus, taxi or find anybody who could help me. Of course, suddenly none of the people I approached understood any of the languages I was using (boy, my Russian is quite rusty…) or simply did not want to waste time with a wet sweaty runner. 10 minutes later a taxi driver with a vintage Lada finally stopped and probably did not understand me either (definitely not the bit where I was explaining I had no money at all) but somehow guessed what would help and turned his car towards the city centre (= exactly the opposite direction than I was running). Quarter of an hour later he dropped me at my starting point and let me leave his car and still was there when I came back 5 minutes later with several coins to pay for saving my life…

After this experience, I knew Sofia was full of surprises and I should better be prepared well when running. Tuesday morning, 6:30 am, identical starting point, GPS on, map in my hand, money in my pocket. I started well: Ten minutes into my run I found a nice geocache. Half an hour later: PANIC! I could not recognise my surroudings at all. There is something odd about running in Borisova gradina: for the second time in two days I lost my way. This time luckily I was able to organise my own rescue and by looking into the map it was rather easy to return home on my own but boy, was I surprised that I took a wrong turn somewhere yet again. But never mind, this time I even had a moment for a delicious Starbucks macchiato. By then, I was convinced I used my share of tough luck. Little did I know about what would happen later that day in Plovdiv…

Later that day, as I was thinking about how high price I paid for those two runs, I finally experienced the most scary Bulgarian moment: at the end of a business meeting I went to the toilette. As I was ready to flush and leave, the door would not open. I realised that the lock was stuck with the key in it and started bouncing at the door. Quickly somebody came and tried to help but even with a set of metal tools he did not manage to open the door from outside. In the meantime, inside my living space of 1.5 square meter it was getting really hot. So here I was, Tuesday afternoon, in Plovdiv (out of all places), with a plane leaving from Sofia within a couple of hours, locked at the toilette with no hope for rescue. Is this how my life is supposed to end?

In the middle of those thoughts I have noticed that the toilette door had a rubber isolation strip and I could try to remove it and see if something would show up underneath. By the time I removed 2 cm of the isolation, my fingers were bleeding but I continued stripping the rubber pieces. Under them, there were metal parts of the door frame that I managed to bend (again with my fingers) and short after that I completely dismantled the door and found my way to freedom.

My only thought was the airplane and how to get to the airport quickly. Luckily, in the light of the above, the last adventure was not as bad: at the airport, an old espresso machine poured steam all over me but that did not remove smile from my face: as I saw my airplane at the gate, I knew I would make it home anyway.


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8 thoughts on “Sofia and why I should not be going to Bulgaria again

  1. OMG!!!! April you are the hero!!
    f. unbelievable!! 12:)

  2. Thank goodness you survived! A toilet is not the place to end your days!

  3. OMG what a nightmare!

  4. Větší drama než ty severský detektivky, co se mi u nich tají dech! Opět se ukázalo, že jsi silná žena, co si poradí v každé situaci. Ale radši už do Bulharska nelítej, jo? 🙂

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