Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cофия, България

So, it took me two years, but I finally ended up back at an Eastern European speakeasy. Thank God.

That was about two years too long. 

"So, if you have it in you for one more, I know of a fantastic spot."

That's how it started.

Then we walked another two blocks talking about Sofian architecture and the similarities and differences between Bulgarian and Turkish cultural quirks. 

I would have kept going, but suddenly Eric said, "Turn here."

I looked up and to the left to see... a pitch black dark alley with a small light in the back. It looked like a garbage alley with an outhouse.


"Yeah, just go down."

I started down the alley, stepping in (I hope) snowmelt puddles, feeling my way by tripping on the uneven concrete tiles.

Made it to the light, turned right up the slight ramp, and pushed open a completely unmarked barn door. I was greeted by the sounds of thirteen different languages, the subtle sounds of mute trumpets and jazz pianos, and the dim lights of candles.

This incredible bar(n) is incredible. It is only lit by candles, no lights, there is no menu, you just have to know what you want, and you have to know someone who knows where it is. Honestly, it's the best bar I've ever been to.

Check out their article on the place here
I tried to take a photo, but the lighting was so dim, I couldn't get anything remotely visible. However, here is a photo taken by

Here's the takeaway from their article:
"They say that in the past this was the place for the intelligentsia and you could only get in if you know the right person. The door was locked and no matter how hard you knock, unless you know the right words, they wouldn’t let you in. During the transition from Communism this place was open to the public but even nowadays the owner refuses to create an Internet site or promote it further."
I'm already excited to go back either tonight or tomorrow.

This city is amazing. I had no idea what to expect from Bulgaria, but wow. 

Just WOW.

This is a place to return to, no questions asked.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fallen Empires...

So I spent last Saturday hosting an old friend who was in Istanbul for the weekend. It was great. I got to enjoy all of the tourist spots and see some of the places I hadn't been in a few years.

I was almost moved to tears when I walked into the Hagia Sophia this time. It's just stunning.

We used the afternoon to check out the Old Book Bazaar, and I had no idea I was about to find my new favorite shop in the world.

I was browsing outside of all the shops when I looked at a random little basket in the corner. It was filled with coins. 

I picked up a handful and realized what they were. It was a huge collection of international and expired coins.

Needless to say... I was excited...

My Haul

From R to L: 2.5 Old Turkish Lira (1972), 5 French Francs (1972), 1 Italian Lira (1956)

From R to L: 1 UK Shilling (1957), 10 Israeli Acorot (unknown year - no Hebrew here), 1 Russian Ruble (1997), 5 Swiss Rappen (1952)

From R to L: 500 Iranian Rials (1953), 1 Indian Rupee (1999), 100 Bahraini Fils (1995), 5 Chinese Yen (can't read the year...)
 These are my favorite coins:
Top Row, R to L: 5 Cypriot Mils (1972 - note the Greek and Turkish), 5 Soviet Kopek (1987)
Bottom Row, R to L: 50 Bulgarian Stotinki (1974), 10 Yugoslavian Dinar (1983), 20 East German (DDR) Pfennig (1974)
AWESOME, right??

So I go to buy the coins and the shop owner starts showing off his other goods. Turns out he is a fantastic guy.  And he has some fantastic stuff. 

The Neatest Bills 
10 German Deutschmarks from 1920 (as in, this is the type of bill Germany was ordered to pay for World War I with)
20 Hungarian Pengö from 1941 (this bill is from the Kingdom of Hungary, pre-Communist regime. All time favorite currency. The art nouveau style is exquisite and the art in amazingly detailed)
The Strangest Bill 
.25 Libyan Dinar (unknown date - definitely printed under the Ghaddafi regime)
The Craziest Bills
From T to B: 2 Afghani bill (they are actually called Afghanis - the bill says it's from 1962, I'm not convinced),
25 Iraqi Dinar (unknown year, presumably before 2003),
1000 Iranian Rials (again, unknown date)

500 Russian Rubles (a large, beautiful bill from 1918. This bill was issued by the Russian Tzar, but would have been ciculated in the Soviet Union. Crazy, eh? Also note the watermark on the blank left side. Awesome.
100 Russian Ruble "Katerina" bill from 1910 (Insane. This humongous bill has a perfect watermark of the portrait of Catherine on the blank right side. And the detail is incredible. Sheesh...) 
I was pretty happy as I left that shop.

And I'll definitely be going back. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Science and Progress...

First of all, this is fantastic.

Second of all, this is fantastic.

Third of all, not a huge Willie Nelson fan.

But this is still fantastic.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

O The Places You'll Go...

Wanna know where I've been recently?

Outside the ruins of Miletus...

Inside them... 

And above them... 

In awe of Didyma... 

Completely in love with Aphrodisius... 

Finding myself not afraid in a field of wheat... 

Loving the foreground and background of what I'm seeing... 

Enjoying the cold sunset in Laodecia... 

Entering the gates of Hieropolis... 

Trying to soak up the beauty of the calcium deposits and hot springs in Pamukkale... 

 Wishing I had my trunks for Cleopatra's Pool...

Breaking stereotypes in Cappadocia...
(and I thought they only had mosques in hot weather places) 

Comparing models and the real thing in Capadoccia... 

Tying a knot onto the prayer tree...