I haven’t travelled as much as I’d like to, but I’m starting to tick off from the list of places I want to visit before I’m 30.
Having friends who live around the world is definitely a perk – they know their way around, saving you time clicking through tourism sites and it’s like having a free travel guide.
After years of hanging around with Bulgarians, learning about the culture, and even picking up a few Bulgarian phrases, I finally visited Sofia this summer.
Sofia was nothing like I imagined it to be, it was hotter than I expected (I was there for the hottest day of the year, peaking at 38 degrees!)
It felt more like a holiday location than a typical European city break. It’s busy, there’s skyscrapers dotted around, a lot of detail in decor, and a huge number of bars and restaurants.
There’s also a lot of history and culture throughout the city. The churches, Alexander Nevisky, and the Russian Church were beautiful. The Russian Church was small and once inside you have seating, paper and pens to write down your wishes for the future. Once written down, you can post it, next to a statue of Jesus. Islamic history was also evident in the architecture from the Ottoman period, as most of the churches were previously mosques.
The city centre was similar to Madrid, with the National Theatre, Cultural Centre, Presidency – surrounded by pretty fountains that changed to the rhythm and lighting after the sunset. Another interesting thing about Sofia is that you can see mountains wherever you look! We drove to the main one, Kopitoto which overlooks the whole city at 256M and it was incredible.
Shopping in Sofia was a completely different experience from the UK. The malls felt more American. Paradise Shopping Mall had a theme park on the terrace which was amazing! Imagine a rollacoaster on the 5th floor of a mall. The rate from Sterling to Lev is still strong, better to exchange in Bulgaria compared to the UK following Brexit but 30lv is less than £15!
Everything is cheaper – food at popular restaurants, terrace bars, shopping, getting your nails done! And if you’re holidaying on a budget, it’s perfect. You can experience the best city attractions and enjoy every aspect of Sofia.
While in Bulgaria, I also visited Plovdiv – a city in the South, famous for its Roman artefacts. The Theatre is so impressive and it’s practically underneath most of the city centre. The people were friendlier, more relaxed, and it was waaaaaaay hotter than Sofia. We left at 8am but we still got stuck in the midday heat! The city is known for having 7 mountains, and I saw 3 of them from the view pictured below.
We also spend a night in the village, up on a mountain, about an hour and a half away from Sofia. It was beautiful, I could feel the air was different, crisp, cleaner. We went for a walk to the bottom of the closest mountain and there was fresh water from the river running through the bushes. I’m not a nature person but my friend, Simona, had me eating wild berries and drinking water from the ground. Everyone also knew everyone and I was introduced to some of the village community at the the only small grocery store local to us.
I’m also not a hiker, and I don’t really walk for more than 30 minutes if it can’t be helped but we walked through Beli Iksar’s Nature Trail Park to one of the peaks of Musala mountain. There was no one around, yet a trail was easy to follow. The photographs do not do it justice but the views were incredible.
I had the best of city travels / relaxing countryside breaks and I know I’ll definitely be visiting Bulgaria again.