Sofia, Bulgaria: The Deaf Olympics

Waking up to a couple of birds is every mans dream, except for when they are singing to each other outside of your tent. It was a groggy feeling this morning, but one that made me feel as though we really were doing this the right way. Not only was pitching and sleeping in a tent in a Bulgarian wood a cheaper option than renting a bed, it was also a better anecdote.

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All in all, I enjoyed my sleep in the tent. Fletch, however, had a bit of a night terror and woke up screaming. I thought he had been possessed, but he was his normal self by sunrise.

We walked towards the city centre one the tent was packed and stopped off at a cafe for a croissant and some wifi. This meant that we could book ourselves into a hostel for the night (no tenting tonight :() and drop our bags off there before officially starting the day. We went against the advice of a local and booked into the Nightingale Hostel. He was correct in her review, but we are not fussy about where we sleep.

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With our bags safely stowed and our bodies cleaned we headed into Sofia. I was intrigued about the Deaf Olympics and soon found out the the final day of competition was today. I also noticed that the men’s football final would conclude the games at the Levski Sofia stadium not far from our hostel.

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We decided to attend the game, between Russia and Ukraine and were treated to a good show. It appeared that everyone in the crowd was deaf. This man for an eerie feel in the stands, until someone blew a foghorn that nearly deafened everyone else. It was fascinating to see people from most of the world countries communicating with each other in sign language. This was clearly a fantastic event for deaf people. What’s more, they could communicate with each other across stands without shouting. A lot of respect earned from me.

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Following the game, which finished with Russia winning gold, we explored the city a little more. We walked towards another festival that was occurring within the city, translated to ‘clean air festival’. I loved the concept of the people of Sofia closing busy streets so that cars are not permitted to enter for one day only and throwing a party on that street. I’m not sure how that would sit in England.

We were spotted by a lady positioned on a stool where the people of Sofia were being educated about their membership within the EU. Realising that we were foreigners she asked to interview us for Sofia FM about our views on the EU from a British perspective. I’m sure her listeners got a treat. For her efforts she gave us both a t shirt, which means I now have 4.

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We explored some of the famous sights within Sofia, and checked out the anti-government protests within the city, as you do. Sofia has a lot to offer and some of it was quite beautiful. However, we were keen to eat before the closing ceremony on the Deaf Olympics.

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At 8pm the show began in the Levski stadium. This time the stand was packed with deaf people from all over the globe, as was apparent in the flag bearing ceremony. The French were making a racket, and the Americans wooped a bit. It was one big party. We had been fortunate enough to be photographed with 2 British medalists.

The whole occasion made us feel as though we had genuinely been to an event that was both global and of significance. It was great. The torch was then passed onto the next host country for 2017, Turkey.

Naturally, the ceremony ended with a firework display. To avoid the rush we watched it from a local bar in the park and enjoyed a cold beer.

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We decided to explore the city by night and walked towards a nice bar street, which turned out to be tamer version of the one in Belgrade. We headed back to a hostel we saw on the previous night where they advertised a bar. we knocked on the door and it was opened by a women who looked like all of the baddies from Disney films rolled into one character. She stared at us scornfully before shewing us away…very welcoming. It later appeared that the bar didn’t exist, despite what we were told by 3 other deaf girls communicating to us in sign because we possessed spectator flags. Still athletes from the deaf Olympics were gathering together. A real global language, although there were still some translators.

In a nutshell our stay in Sofia will always be remembered for the Deaf Olympics, which I am happy with. It had given us a day we were not expecting and thoroughly enjoyed. At least I can now say that I saw the Sofia Deaflympics 2013. I, like the other cities, would recommend Sofia to others, but we were ready to move on in the morning.

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