Wednesday night the four of us plus Doriana as well as Rich (Corp 2004) met at the National Stadium just across the street from the VEGA office. This time it was for world-class football (soccer.) CSKA (a local team) was playing Liverpool. The crowds started building in the vicinity of the stadium hours ahead of time; a heavy police presence all day signaled the significance of this event. Although Liverpool has the money to buy some of the best players in the world (Ryan says that some of them make upwards of $7 million a year), CSKA fans were hopeful, remembering their upset victory back in 1984?!
Our seats were in the Ultra-fan section at one end zone. Everyone was wearing red, carrying Bulgarian and/or CSKA flags or scarves, which they used during the entire game in their endless chants and songs. Their enthusiasm was not even dampened by the 3-1 defeat; they continued to cheer as their team came around the perimeter of the field to bask in the love. I can’t imagine what they would have done if they actually won the game; in any case the police was ready for any eventuality—they formed a shoulder-to-shoulder line in front of our section by the end of the game, but I didn’t see any incidents.
It was after midnight by the time we were clear of the stadium. I had a big lunch, but I was a little hungry by this time so I stopped off for a falafel at Mimas—Ben and Denitsa would know the place. It’s amazing how fast the guys behind the counter can whip up a doner or falafel. They got a certain rhythm to their movement—rocking and slapping their hands on the counter to pick up the pita or wrapping paper; it’s almost a little show in itself. (Lately I’ve been eating something rolled up in a pita almost once a day.)
Thursday night I was in my apartment and heard the thump of loud techno outside, so I head out and across the street to the park in front of the “National Palace of Culture.” A laser light show was lighting up the sky, and as I arrived a firework show started. Amazingly it was coming from a little area that was roped off, but you could walk right up to. Successively bigger, higher, and louder shells were launched culminating in an impressive finale—with ash falling of crowd directly below. The reason for the festivities was a Heineken publicity event. A billboard was fastened to the side of the National Palace of Culture exhorting the virtues of Heineken accompanied by aforementioned techno music with conspicuous ‘subliminal’ message: “Heineken” spoken over and over again. There was actually a little bar in the billboard—tagline: “Enjoyed in 170 countries and one billboard.” The whole shebang was apparently a traveling marketing show that had just set up in Sofia today. Made me strangely thirsty, so I went home and had some Fanta. ;-)