Saturday, September 28, 2013

Business in Bulgaria

I had the opportunity to spend the past week in Sofia, Bulgaria on a business trip, and while we were in conferences all day long, I did have a couple of chances to get out and shoot.  I brought my small Canon, not knowing if there would really be much of a chance for serious photo work, and here are a few of the better ones.

I experimented with some low light street photography, and was able to get a few decent results.  Got a few strange looks while squatting on the sidewalk (out of traffic flow), but, as Matthew in Copenhagen said, if they're looking at you like you're a bit off, you're doing it right.  In that particular case, I was photographing a few small cigarette shops that were right at sidewalk level.  

There is some gorgeous architecture  in town, including the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, built to commemorate Russian troops killed during Bulgaria's liberation from the Ottoman Empire.  

For months now, since the most recent elections, there are daily protests against the new government and what is perceived as corruption.  We wandered through the gathering place as they were getting ready to start.  Everyone seemed friendly, and a couple of my colleagues bought Bulgarian flags in an attempt to indicate solidarity and avoid any potential problems (and to get a common souvenir with a unique origin). I did a similar thing years ago when driving through the West Bank by putting a keffieyeh on the dash because of our Israeli licence plates.  Not sure if it helped, but nothing ever happened so it must not have hurt.

In any case, every night, they assemble and march to the Parliament.  There is what appears to be an "Occupy" camp right across the street at a monument.  Read about it here in the Economist.  And here in the Sofia News Agency.  It was interesting to see it in action, and the marches went right down the street past the building we were working out of.  

We continued our perambulations, passing a number of impressive edifices and trip, I plan to take a walking tour that is available in order to find out more about what it was that I was looking at.

 Finally, heading back to the hotel, I stopped briefly to catch some motion shots like those in the Cologne Hauptbahnhof a few weeks ago.  Reasonably pleased with the results...

All in all, it was an interesting trip.  It was my first time in a country inside Russia's sphere of influence, and the quarter of Russian language (or at least the Cyrillic alphabet part) helped to at least be able to read a few words.  Best thing?  Prices...I changed 100 Euro into Lev before I departed and managed to make that last the entire trip.  The most expensive meal that I ate (outside of the 50 lev supper in the hotel) was about 15 lev (10 euro), and that was with a 500 ml beer.  Refreshing to say the least...

I'll have the chance to go back several more times over the next few months, and am looking forward to it.  Incidentally, Bulgaria makes my 58th visited country (according to the nice folks at

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Revisiting Ribeauville

On a recent long weekend, we went back to our new favorite place, Riveauville, France.  We were lucky to get a room at Le Clos St. Vincent again, as the weekend was the annual "Pfifferdaj" Medieval Festival.  

We also visited the Chateau du Haut Koenigsbourg, about thirty minutes away.  Sited atop a commanding mountain, it was a beautiful example of a classic medieval castle.  Bella initially enjoyed it, but when we got to the trophy room with heads of various creatures on the wall, she got a bit creeped out, so we hurried a bit through the remainder. 

In some ways it was a repeat of the first visit...taking the boys for walks in the vineyards, great food and wine, and the chance to just relax.  We all took advantage of their massage chairs, too.  Highly recommended.

Isabella didn't want to go to the parade in the old town, so Melody sent me on to try to capture it.  It was impressive, with elaborate floats, lots of marching bands using period instruments (lots of horns and drums), and even horseback acrobatics.  Bella's not too fond of crowds, and that, combined with some of the floats that tended to the dark and scary (orcish looking people, fighting, fake blood, pale women with whips,
children in cages), it was probably best that she stayed home and napped.

We made it there and back in good other words, no stops.  Upon arriving home, though, I finally sorted out what had been poking me in the backside the entire drive: our room key, which I'd neglected to return.  I called Emmanuel, the host, apologized profusely, and ran to the post office to get it in the mail.  
A few of the highlights are shown below...we're already looking forward to our next visit....