In Sofia, there are many different forms of transportation. Trams, buses, marsharutki, the metro (as of summer 2009). Oh yeah, and taxis. Now, funny thing about taxis, some of them are fakes. There are a handful of honest, legit taxi companies in Sofia, but then there are many that, on the outside, are identical to the honest taxis, but the rates are outrageous. Well, I hopped in a taxi at the Business Park. My dad had given me 5 leva for the trip, assuring me it would be enough. We had not driven 100 yards when I looked down at the total so far, and it was above 2 leva. Caught off guard, I ganced at the sticker on the window which displays the prices in a super-small font, and, squinting, I saw that the rate was 2.49 lv per kilometer (5 times the standard rate). I asked the taxi driver to drop me off at the next bus stop. Outraged, I payed him 4.59 for a 3 minute ride. He didn't even give me change. I shut the door, trying not to slam it out of anger, and stood at the bus stop. I was meeting my brother and his friend at the basketball court, and I knew their dad would be driving them, so I gave him a call. He offered to meet me at KFC to pick me up, so I got on the next bus. At the very next stop, three men got on and as soon as the doors closed they produced their handheld government machines. You've got to be kidding me, I thought. I had left my wallet because the only money I would need on the trip was the 5 leva to get me there. I already had secured a ride back. Therefore, I had no money to buy a ticket with. When the man asked to please see my ticket, I told him I didn't have one. He promptly told me to get off with him at the next stop, which I did. After the doors had closed and the bus continued on its path, he turned to me and asked why I didn't have my ticket. I expained to him my situation, and he told me I have got to be more careful with taxi companies and to always, ALWAYS, check the rates on the window before getting in. He then asked me where I was from. I guess I'm losing my authentic native accent. When he figured out I was from America he asked how I knew the language so well and why I was in Bulgaria of all places. After a short discussion, he asked where I was going and I answered the Mladost 1 metro stop (direclty across from KFC). He smiled and said that's where they were going to, and that I should travel with them the rest of the way. So the four of us got on the next bus. One of the ticket-checkers handed me the case which held his machine, asking me if I could help him out. So I sat there, holding his case, as he went around checking people's tickets. The irony of it made me smile. There I was, a dude without a ticket, yet I was traveling with and assisting the men who checked for people's tickets. And they even KNEW I didn't have a ticket. All in all, I got off at the stop and said goodbye. Got picked up at KFC and had an awesome time at basketball.
Man, I just love Bulgaria.