This update comes to you from the business lounge at Sofia Airport. I have a two hour delay on my flight to Budapest. A shame, because I was only due to have a 24 hour stop in the Hungarian capital (and that was only because of a schedule change, giving me Budapest as a bonus).
It means I have time to put down some more thoughts here.
Yesterday, as I sat in the square between the mosque and the mineral baths, I noticed that sweeping the streets in Eastern Europe is still women's work. Years ago, in 1989 and just months before the fall of Communism in Romania and Nikolai Ceauscescu's execution, I saw plenty of women working in the streets with brooms made of old twigs tied to a pole. More than 20 years later, in Sofia, this work is still done by women. The broom is a little more advanced, but the apron and the hunched back look the same.
I also noticed that the door to the mineral baths building was open today. No-one was going in or out, however, so I assume it is still closed for renovation. Apparently it has been for years. A security guard had told me so and demonstrated by making a "closed" sign with his hands.
By the way, I did get to go inside the mosque. I was charged 2 Leva as a visitor. A Leva is about the equivalent of a New Zealand dollar. To give another example of how cheap Bulgaria is... a sit down meal in a Chinese restaurant (soup, chicken with cashew nuts, boiled rice and a soft drink) cost me 13 Leva. That's less than 6 British Pounds.
When I was sitting in the squar, pondering things and watching people go by, an old man with a walking stick and broken shoes came and sat beside me on the bench. It struck me that while I had time on my hands because I'm travelling and not working, he has time on his hands every day because of his age and not being a worker any more. I wonder whether this is how he passes his time every day. Sitting, watching, thinking. What do old people think about ? Do they reflect on their life and see in others what they themselves used to be ? How does it affect them, having so much time and so little to do ?
Also yesterday, Monday, I went to the National Gallery for Foreign Art. The guide book I'd taken notes from said it was free on Mondays, but there was actually a 4 Leva charge. Inside were paintings mainly from France, carvings from India, Africa and Myanmar (Burma), and sculptures mainly from Russia. The most striking painting was by a German called Franz Von Stuck. "Lucifer", painted in 1891, shows the Devil sitting and with piercing eyes.