Sofia was surprising…right from the start. From the airport we head right into a modern underground. I almost expected horse carriages to be going around here and so I’m slightly shocked. Centrum brings about the second shock of the day. Ruined houses, busy boulevard, strayed dogs, stayed cats, strayed people. We booked an accommodation via Airbnb. The prices were generally favourable and so we chose one of the more expensive central apartments (for € 56 after Airbnb registration discount – interested in getting the discount for yourself? Check out the info below the article). The neighbourhood of the apartment is not twice inviting either. The house (also half-ruined) is situated in a side street near the main boulevard. It is evening already and the darkness further amplifies the feeling that we could be slaughtered here any minute. But soon enough we see our host waving at us from the other side of the street. She’s a kind friendly young lady who speaks English very well. We enter the apartment and here comes the third shock of the day – the worse it looked from the outside, the better it looks from the inside!
It’s beautiful – spacious, clean apartment with 2 balconies, light bedroom and 2 welcome cidres in the fridge. Awesome! Furthermore, the host is super-nice and she gives us many tips on what to see in Sofia. The best Airbnb ever!…No doubt about that (even after 2 years this still holds)
The next morning we’re off for the city exploration. During the daylight, the city seems a bit nicer and friendlier. We start our day by an ultra-mega-tasty brunch at Fabriga Daga. It’s a cozy hipsterish café where you can taste some traditional balkan dishes prepared in an untraditional and creative way. We enjoyed some toasted baguettes with ajvar and Balkan cheese (ever since then ajvar became our favourite goodie) and I also liked Banitsa which is sort of a fatty griddlecake made from very thin layers of dough filled with Balkan cheese.
We can hardly move after eating all that. But it’s time to go. We head to the Free tour Sofia which starts twice a day (11am, 2pm and 6pm) from the Palace of Justice. Our guide was a nice talkative girl named Viara (whose name I obviously remember only because of its similarity to certain gentlemen’s medicaments). Usually I’m not a big fan of organized commented tours but this one was totally worth it! We have seen the majority of the important sights (“sightseeing” – thick) and it was fun. In addition, Viara bribed us with candies on the way so how could anyone complain, right?
What have we seen?
- Palace of Justice
- St Nedelya Church
- St. George’s church
- A building of the former spa with termal streams
- Underground level of the city
- National Theatre
- Russian Church (St. Nicolas)
- National Palace of Culture
- Vitosha Boulevard
- Central Market Hall (Tsentralni Hali) and other street markets
- And of course Alexander Nevsky Cathedral – the famous dominant of Sofia
What caught our attention? (bizzare things in Sofia)
- Overeaten street dogs – as we were preparing for this trip to Bulgaria, I had some serious worries about how I will handle the sight of abandoned deprived, starving street dogs. I heard there are many… And so right after we arrived, I run into the first supermarket and bought large supplies of dog food. As we were walking the streets of Sofia, I started to feed every strayed dog we met. Expectations? Hungry dogs tearing the food off my hands. Reality? The majority of the dogs was actually pretty dispassionate about my gifts. They snuffled the goodies casually and after short hesitation turned away lazily. They seemed overeaten. Later on we found out that there are quite some organizations operating in the city taking care of the abandoned dogs and feeding them. Amazing! Below is a short list of these great organizations. All in all it seemed to us that the stayed cats are actually worse off. They seemed a lot hungrier. But even many dogs accepted the food eventually and so our efforts were hopefully not useless after all 🙂
- Pensioners earning a little extra – a bit sorrowful sight. Streets full of elderly people sitting in the sun all day long selling anything possible – roasted nuts, tea-cloths and curtains, old table-ware…They often take a nap on the pavement and then continue chasing the passers-by to make a deal.
- Obituary notices all around. There is obviously a strong tradition of hanging up funeral notices (not only near the cemetery) here in Bulgaria. For instance some bus stations were completely covered in little posters notifying the passing of the citizens. It’s definitely nice that they commemorate their dears but to me 100 faces of dead people staring at you from the posters on the bus station seems a bit morbid.
- Cables and wirings on the exterior of the buildings – how stylish (and practical)!
How’s Sofia in our eyes?
Sofia is diverse. Each quarter catches your attention, each has its specifics and each is completely different. Sofia is tolerant. There are 3 sanctuaries – Christian church, Jewish synagogue and Islamic mosque – co-existing on a single square. Old rotunda from 4th century standing besieged by tall grey communist buildings. Sofia is playful and relaxed, colourful and casual. Sofia is fun!
Wanna get Airbnb registration discount for your first booking? Just register to Airbnb via this link, that way you will get € 37 discount for your first booking and you will also support my future adventures as I will receive some booking credits too…so thank you!