Home Sweet Home.

We board a plane and just like that, the world opens into a parallel universe, our new reality for the next three years.

We woke up in our old Boltzmanngasse life this morning with Marci and Kevin, and tonight we’re a few countries to the south, listening to leaves rustle under the shadow of Mt. Vitosha. The church bells ringing across the sunset are gone, but we now have wild blackberries growing in the yard and a mountain on our doorstep.

And we have Gussy back!

There is a lot to learn about our new home, but one of the first things we notice is that Bulgaria is full of watermelons and wine.

On our first weekend we took a guided hike to the Boyana waterfall, and ended up at a mountain hut high in the sunshine, where people lounged with picnics and dogs. The group was fun, mostly talkative college students, who gave us a youthful lens on the city.

The Hutte had soup in the kitchen and geraniums in the windows just like Austria. There were semmels and beans and salads covered in cheese, and snow-capped vistas for miles.

Gus did not go for a hike because he’s a lazy bones, but he’s really cute anyway. He likes boxes.

Sofia is not well developed outside the city center, so Mike figured out the public bus, which really is the best way to feel the rhythm of a place. Soon our Honda Pilot will arrive and whisk us away from the daily lives of normal Bulgarians, but for these first few weeks, the bus brings us up close to the way regular people live. Probably brings us up close to COVID, too…

We found some beautiful malls and a modern Metro system, with tiled murals and soaring ceilings. There are also public water fountains everywhere for filling water bottles and washing hands.

We washed our hands in the spit of a lion.

The money is called Lev, which translates to Lion. The coins are pretty, almost exactly like Euros, except that everything here is half the price!

We strolled through a vegetable bazaar, visited orthodox cathedrals, and walked down a real yellow brick road. We took a bike tour and drank aloe vera soda, and started a search for Sofia’s best ice cream.

We stumbled onto a book fair and a bakery with sourdough bread, and spent an afternoon at a really cool water park.

We celebrated an anniversary. 16 years and six countries later, I guess it will take a lot more than chronic culture shock and stressful moves around the world to beat this union down.

Our First Impressions of Bulgaria:

  • The air is clean and the mountains are beautiful. Mt Vitosha is 7500 ft (2300 m) and the entire city of Sofia is surrounded by dusky blue hills.
  • People are nice! Kind, friendly, they smile, and almost everyone in the city speaks English. It’s easier to speak English here than in Vienna.
  • The city is young. College students are everywhere, and there seems to be a sense of looking toward the future rather than preserving the past. Bulgaria has corruption but it also has good energy, and the cheap beer would be a backpacker’s dream.
  • There is lots of feta cheese! Like, 20 different kinds, all sitting side by side in the dairy case, and the yogurt aisle is equally confusing.
  • It’s nice to live in a house. We have closet space, our own bedrooms, plenty of room for guests, and Gussy can watch the birds.
  • Tomatoes taste like they were just picked from Grandma’s garden. Heavy, warm from the sunlight, and tasting as sweet as jam.
  • Old. Bulgaria is 8,000 years old! Not all of it has survived so well but there is a ton of history here, and crumbling ruins from the Romans and Ottomans, who waged war back and forth for centuries.
  • Sofia is small and walkable, with parts that are very pretty. It’s not Vienna, a few too many weeds and broken sidewalks, but that is also what makes it interesting.
  • Bulgarians are not Slavs. Maybe that’s why they’re so nice?

And so instead of winding down in these last slow days of summer, we have turned our world upside down. Driving on new roads, buying bins for the ski pants, and trying to figure out (again) where to put the furniture.

On the bad days, all the energy spent doing this feels like a waste. I wonder how to stay rooted in the world when our stuff is constantly shifting. What happens to roots that wander, forever untethered? But then the boxes disappear and the beds start feeling familiar, and the wonder finds a way to take hold. And I think that maybe, the wonder is the root? And in that case, maybe it’s okay to wonder, and wander, for now, untethered.