Balkanfilia Birthday

"What shall we do for my birthday this year?" - Marisa

"Well, there's a stamp show in Plovdiv, Bulgaria" - Earl

Okay, why not.  Bulgaria is starting to become a familiar place in our travels.  Earl has been there over ten times.  We decided to go to Plovdiv for 5 days for the show and then to Sofia for 5 days to visit friends and go to the dentist (our friend's wife is a dentist).

We took Iberia Airlines and had a layover in Madrid. It was about an eight hour flight, no inseat entertainment but still comfortable.  The airline dinner of roast beef, mashed potatoes, carrots and peas, seafood salad, cheese and bread was fine.  I don my earplugs and eyeshades and sleep for the rest of the flight. The flight to Sofia from Madrid only took 3 hours so it wasn't a bad commute.

The stamp show folks have a driver pick us up at the airport and take us to our overnight hotel in Sofia.  The next day we are driven to Plovdiv in time for evening cocktails.

Opening ceremonies at Balkanfilia

It rained the first couple of days.  So it was cool -- in the 50's.  The fair grounds had many buildings some modern like the one above

One based upon the original building from the 1800's. We had the Balkanfilia banquet dinner there.  
It was very elegant and the grilled chicken was quite flavorful.

As guests of Balkanfilia, we were treated to several tours.

After the stamp show, we took a bus back to Sofia and stayed in a nice hotel walking distance from our friend's home. Vic had us over for dinner a few times and of course, we all had to go out on my birthday.  I was gifted a silver bracelet and a book on Bulgarian folktales.  

My other friend, Sveta treated us to a wonderful evening of classical music - Schumann's Manfred Overture, Strauss' last four Leider, and a very crisp rendition of Brahms Symphony #4.  She also took us to see the famous Boyana Church.  

Coming home, we had an eight hour layover in Madrid but didn't want to have to deal with security, customs, etc. to venture out of the airport.  The plane overseas had a little turbulence but nothing I couldn't sleep through.  We had to spend the night in NYC but gained an hour due to the end of Daylight Savings Time. We had to get up Sunday morning at 4 am to catch the plane to Miami.  One good thing about terrible travel hours is that there is no traffic and going through security is a breeze.  Arrived back to Miami around 9 am.  I was pretty conscientious about taking vitamins and Airborne this time so no travel colds.

We had a wonderful time. Earl got his tripe soup twice. I had enforced vacation as my netbook died on day 1 of the trip. The weather was nice and cool. It was definitely worthwhile taking a spur of the moment trip to Bulgaria.

See links on the side for more photos