Landmarks

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By Joey Johnson YES abroad Bulgaria ’18
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Today I passed by Roman ruins on my way into the metro.
Nine months ago I would never have been able to walk past them without pausing. Anyone who knows me can tell you history is a passion of mine, and it’s one of the reasons my year has been so incredible. Around Bulgaria we’ve seen roads Constantine walked, and visited sacred sites where Alexander the Great received blessings on his march to Persia. Just in Sofia, I can walk ten minutes from my house and visit the basilica that Justinian had built and that gave the city its name: St. Sofia.
From the beginnings of the April Uprising and the modern Bulgarian state in Panagyurishte to ancient Greek trading sites on the Black Sea, Bulgaria is layered with so many different overlapping periods that a trip around the country could serve as a history class in its own right. My host mom likes to remind me that if you ask for a Bulgarian grandparent’s recipes, the recipes you’ll hear are probably older the US Constitution.
Today I didn’t pause at the ruins. Not because I’ve grown jaded and tired of them over the year, or because I’ve lost interest. Instead, it was because three of my Bulgarian classmates had seen me at the metro entrance. They were waving me over, and inviting me to head to school with them.
Those chance moments- running into friends in the city, recognizing a face on the tram, seeing a classmate walking through South Park- are what make my year special. They remind me that Sofia isn’t just a city of landmarks for me anymore; it’s a city of people who I’ve gotten to know and love. At the end of the year, the most important memories I’ll have won’t be the postcard views or the famous sights. It’ll be the faces I saw and the conversations I had as I passed by them.