On Thursday afternoon I had the chance to meet up with Rebecca and Merlin who write the blog merlinandrebecca which I’ve been obsessed with ever since my college friend S. who writes this blog introduced me to their blog. She told me: I read their blog and I think you’d like it. No kidding. They write detailed thoughtful posts about the traveling they are doing (2 weeks in each of the 50 European countries) and take unbelievably beautiful photos wherever the go.
I took this single photo the day that we met up.
Anyhow, I would absolutely recommend their blog as the perfect place to start reading before your plan a trip in Europe. While you wont get here’s where to stay information they do a wonderful job capturing the spirit of the country, places to go, things to do, food to taste and they make a point of connecting with locals. Moreover the blog is incredibly positive which makes it a pleasure to read whether or not you’re actively planning travel.
How it did happen that I met up with Merlin and Rebecca?
Well, here’s the back story: at the end of April I went to Macedonia with friends. We traipsed around the country on our way from Skopje to Lake Ohrid. After spending a whole day wandering through Ohrid and taking 100s of photos, we headed back to our rooms before dinner. It was then I thought I’d check my google reader and see what was going on on the internets.
The very first post was one from Merlin and Rebecca. They were in Ohrid too. They had exactly the same photos posted to their blog that I had just taken. It was a surreal small world moment. So I posted a comment on their blog about it and suggested that if they wanted to meet up in Sofia I’d be up for it.
I was still up for it when they emailed me last week.
Then they asked me if I could point them to local bookstores that might carry English language guide books for Kosovo. Um, okay. I directed them to two different ones and then I asked my twitter friends the same question. Interestingly we both came up with the same two: Booktrading and Helicon. My ACS friends added the bookstore next to the grocery store in the Serdika Mall to the list. Luckily I decided to also copy pages from my Lonely Planet Western Balkans guide book for them just in case. It’s a good thing I did because Kosovo guidebooks don’t seem to be very popular in Sofia and maybe in general.
So I met Rebecca and Merlin Thursday early evening and we went on a impromptu stroll through the city. I gave some abbreviated history lessons, pointed out some landmarks and talked generally about life in Sofia. Truthfully I gave a shorter and significantly less good Free Sofia Tour tour. Somehow I only managed to take a single over the course of the whole evening. I guess these things happen when you’re having fun.
I was reminded while strolling through the city what an interesting mix of old and new there is in Sofia. I also had a chance to reflect on the fact that part of what makes Sofia special are the surprises. You can be walking down a residential street and all of a sudden there’s the women’s market. Or you can take a underpass to cross a street and ta-da Roman ruins. And in the summertime, you can pop down one of many little alleys that open into gardens and find yourself enjoying beer and a salad in the night air tucked away in a little corner of the city.
The major difference between my meandering through Sofia and the Free Sofia Tour is that at the end of our tour we settled in for a beer in the park in front of the Sveti Sedmochislenitsi Church on Graf Ignatiev and then we had dinner in the courtyard garden of Ugo on Rilski a block from my old apartment.
Here’s the part where I have to say, Rebecca and Merlin are such nice people. They were friendly and outgoing but not in the shallow-friendly way. More specifically, they had thoughtful and interesting things to say about their time in Bulgaria but also their travels through the Balkans as a whole. I was really impressed. They were also funny.
We spent the second part of the night telling stories, asking each other questions talking about life and generally getting to know each other. It was lovely and I am really glad that we had a chance to meet up. At the end of the night I was convinced that I must visit Georgia soon rather than later and that Americans would have a better reputation abroad if everyone were more like Rebecca and Merlin.
Anyhow, a big thanks to Merlin and Rebecca for meeting me in Sofia and letting me see the city through your eyes for an evening. After four years here, Sofia is at times both familiar and frustrating so it was wonderful to feel like it was new again. Good luck on the remainder of your travels. I am looking forward to reading all about them.