“Happy New Year! Good luck.”

We returned to Sofia on New Year’s Eve after a trip to visit family. The city was freshly painted in crisp, white snow.

At midnight the city erupted in fireworks. We raced from window to window in our apartment, trying to catch the best view. The neighborhood of Lozenets appeared to be under an artillery bombardment, so intense was their celebration.

The next day Sofia appeared to be nearly deserted, what with the family parties and feasting going on indoors, except for those hearty souls who emerged to walk their dogs on the icy streets.

It’s said one of the ways Bulgarians celebrate the New Year is by wearing new clothes. On the evidence, I’d have to say that’s true. We saw a Chihuahua wearing a red sweater and a Dachshund proudly sporting a green lizard suit. Every dog, it seemed, was wearing a new outfit.

Our favorite restaurant was closed, so we ventured downtown to a hotel for a late lunch. A flock of starlings soared over Vasil Levski Stadium, their chirping offering the loudest sound in the city.

Walking out of the restaurant, a slightly inebriated man approached me. This doesn’t normally happen in Sofia, a place where strangers generally keep to themselves. But for some reason — the friendly eyes, the slightly loopy expression — I knew he wasn’t a threat.

He asked me where I was from and I told him. He offered his hand.

“Happy New Year!” he said. “Good luck.”

Somehow, all of these things — the fireworks, the dog suits, the flock of birds, the handshake — felt like the best of luck.


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