After my first taxi experience in Sofia, I wasn’t seeing a good end to this journey. Fog and a 20 km trip did not seem as a good combination. The first cab I approached didn't spoke a word English. I tried to find someone in the street who could translate the address, so I could go. I did this and the guy refused to take me, insulting me in some strange ways. Luckily there was just another one behind. I was already running late.
The taxi drivers in Bulgaria are not as the ones in Portugal, fat old man, with the classic moustache, sometimes drunk and so on... no, the ones in Bulgaria are between 30-40 years old, they all go to the gym and are big as hell... This is the picture. You definitely want to be in their good side.
Anyway... I took this second taxi. The man was learning English for one year and I started to try to have something of a conversation. After the basic exchange of words and short sentences, it evolved to a football conversation, always a classic topic to engage with a foreigner taxi driver. Euro this, Euro that, Portugal - Figo -Ronaldo - Mourinho; Bulgaria - Barbatov - Petrov - ?...; I told him I went to see Bulgaria at the Euro 2004, in Portugal (they lost 5-0 against Sweden) and the fog was deeper and deeper.
As we drove outside city limits I started to wonder:
- Deep fog, trees, no transit, strange narrowed roads, a taxi driver and a yuppie tourist (that’s what probably people would think of us)... this is not ending well...I think I’ve seen such a movie…
The football continued. Now it’s Benfica and CSKA, Rui Costa, and our shared historical background. Benfica Portugal greatest, CSKA, Bulgaria greatest. we managed to see, I am not exaggerating, 5-10 meters ahead. All of a sudden he goes out of this narrowed main road turning to a no road path. I was thinking: - what about now? Is this it?
In a distance we saw some light. Fading. Football continued. We arrived at a gate, I saw some security and he stopped.
- It’s here. There is supposed to be a big building, house to the former soviet government, but with the fog we don't see anything.
The security guys approached me, I identified myself and they showed me the way: towards the lights...
The fare was 6 Lev 30 ; 3 euro 15 cents. (I paid almost 20 Lev from the airport, which was roughly the same distance) I gave him 10, we shake hands and anticipated a Benfica - CSKA next Champions League.
The reception was flawless, imperial style, big building, lots of ancient stuff (all with Bulgarian titles, with no translation whatsoever, so we didn't know what we were looking at), the traditional folk groups (15 mature women), and a very nice three string trio (young trendy girls).
Diner was a buffet, a good one, and ended around 22.30 because all the buses were leaving and we had no change of staying. Because I'm still in Portuguese time, I was leaving diner at 20.30, already eaten. The buses all had hotels as destinations, the hotels were everybody is hosted. I took one, randomly, that took me at the Council place, were I managed to get the last tram heading to the centre of Sofia, where I'm staying.
I arrived at the hotel and went to work thinking about this Benfica - CSKA in next year champions...