Bulgaria Photography travel

Sofia, Bulgaria

Of the three Balkan countries we chose to travel, Bulgaria is the largest and consequently we are planning on spending the longest time in. What better place to start than the capital, Sofia.

The range of visible history here is simply breathtaking. Standing by the medieval Church of St. Petka you can see the ancient Roman ruins of Serdica in the foreground with the 16th century Banya Bashi Mosque in the background. All of this while in the middle of the modern city with communist era malls to the right. Pretty hard to beat the variety.

The only down side of our 4 nights in Sofia was our Air BnB. Though the location was convenient to transit and the photos looked good, it was a rather big disappointment. The biggest problem being there was no mattress on the bed. Just a cheap creaky, somewhat painful boxspring. Considering the success we have enjoyed for the most part, one just has to take a hit once in a while.

As for the city, it was a hit in the most positive sense. We enjoyed some lovely meals and checked out several coffee shops. One item I would be derelict if I did not mention would be the prevalence of smoking. Now, by no means does this only apply in Sofia, this was the case everywhere we have been in the Balkans. If you are overly sensitive to second hand smoke or just have a healthy aversion to it, you should perhaps consider travelling elsewhere. In North America we have become accustomed to smokers being ostracized to dark corners with their habit. This is absolutely not the case here. The only place I didn’t see smoking was on the public transit. Other than that we saw it everywhere, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, shopping malls, students outside schools, and nearly all public and private spaces. All ages above around 16 and both sexes. I say all this without judgment as I am the guest here, however for visitors from North America and Australia/New Zealand you may find it surprising.

I mentioned public transit and I should expand on that. It is excellent here. The trams and buses run frequently and are easy to board and alight from.
The unground Metro system is clean, safe and frequent. For 4.80lev (including buying a reloadable card) ($3.65CDN) you can ride any form of transit all day.
We took advantage of the Sofia Free Walking Tour and were again thrilled with the quality of the guide. We use the Free Tours in every city we visit that offers them. The National Theatre was one of the many sights he took us by, sharing insightful and humorous stories all along the way. The guides earn their tips.
As with so many of the historic places in Sofia, St. Nedelya Church’s history touches the city from the time it was the site of a temple in the 10th century to becoming an Eastern Orthodox Cathedral in the 18th century. Even in the 20th century it has been the location of key events. In 1925 the Communist Party carried out a terrorist bombing here in an attempt to assassinate the country’s leader. Though they failed, they did kill nearly 200 people in the church when they brought the roof down.
Depending on who you ask, the Banya Bashi Mosque is the largest and only functioning mosque in Sofia. Apparently this is a holdover from their communist era. As a whole though, Bulgaria is supposed to have the most mosques per capita of any country in Europe. That is a legacy from the Ottoman Empire ruling Bulgaria for 500 years.
We took the Metro to check out the National Palace of Culture and its park. Beautiful. The autumn colours are holding for us and the park is a gorgeous place to wander around and explore.
While we were exploring the park we came upon this Temple of Bulgarian Martyrs. The names of thousands of Bulgarians who were killed by the Communist government between 1944 and 1989 are engraved on the stone wall.
We hung around the Presidential Palace to watch the changing of the guard. It certainly wasn’t to the level of Buckingham Palace, however they put on a good show and you could get as close as you liked.
Vitosha Blvd is the main pedestrian thoroughfare in Sofia. Tons of coffee shops and absolutely outstanding people watching opportunities. I don’t know what it is with track suits here, but the guys of all ages seem to love them.
Karen managed to find a neat little Ale House to visit. As you descend the stairs into the basement of this old building you wonder what you are getting into. However when you round the last corner you are greeted with a genius idea. Every table is plumbed with its own spigot and you can pour your own beer. There is a digital meter that lets you know how much total beer has been dispensed and you just settle up your consumed litres when you are done. Brilliant!

We will be back to Sofia for a few days when we return our rental car and are looking forward to relaxing and enjoying it some more. It is a city with a lot to share and people who are more than patient to help foreign speaking tourists get the most out it

Welcome to our travel blog. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to say, "I'm out of here?" Well we did, and in 2013 we made it a reality. We sold or gave away all of our possessions other than what fit in our luggage and we set off on an endless adventure. Part of our goal is to share our experiences with others and hopefully provide some information, motivation, or just a moments escape. The general idea was to look for a place that would be ideal to settle down in. However in the meantime it is about experiencing life in different countries amongst different cultures and learning how to understand and appreciate each other. A large part of our time is spent housesitting which provides an excellent opportunity to experience more of the "normal" neighbourhoods as opposed to the tourist locales. Though we make sure to enjoy those as well. So through plenty of photographs and a running commentary come and share with us our life on the road.

4 comments on “Sofia, Bulgaria

  1. Love the pub with the table-side beer spigot! Thanks for the note on smoking. We were very surprised by the same in Croatia.

  2. Another amazing update. Thanks.
    I also love the beer spigot. I wonder if liquor laws here would allow it. Great idea.

Leave a Reply