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Posted by on Aug 3, 2015 in Bulgaria, Uncategorized | 4 comments

Sofia city, a place that will grab your heart

Sofia city, a place that will grab your heart

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’re about to arrive in Sofia with one hour delay. It’s 4:30 AM local time and 20ºC outside. We hope you’ve enjoyed your flight.”

I’m exhausted. I haven’t slept for 24 hours now. On the arrivals of Sofia city airport, a joyful young Bulgarian waits for his girlfriend with a huge bouquet of pink and white flowers. She can’t contain the emotion when she sees him. They kiss and hug, as if life has kept them apart for too long.

It must be nice to have someone waiting for you at the airport with flowers, I thought.

I know this trip is different. For the first time I’m not really searching for something on the road, but I’m actually running away from something. I’m running away form the pain and emptiness of the greatest loss of my life. But as they say:

 

“THE FUTURE IS UNWRITTEN”

So Sofia, here we go!

 

SOFIA MAP

 

Photo Wikipedia

 

This is a place that hasn’t been on the TOP cities to visit in Europe, but maybe that’s why Sofia city still holds a charm, very few other European cities can match.

You’ll find another alphabet (Cyrillic) and a totally different pace. Sofia city feels very laid back for a capital. I think I love it.

 

Sofia city

Nat, Me and Rob. The dangerous trio!

 

Waking up in the morning, I accidentally bump into my friends and fellow travel bloggers Nat and Rob from Love and Road.  Together we decided to take a free tour of Sofia city with Free Sofia tour. It was sizzling…. The air feels like a sauna, a hot slap in the face every single second.

 

Sofia city

Banya Bashi mosque

 

But well worth it! Sofia city is filled with history, green areas, monuments and archaeological sights. Where else in the world do you see a mosque, a Synagogue and a church co-existing side by side in absolute peace?

 

sofia city cathedral Alexandre Nevsky

Cathedral of Alexandre Nevsky

 

Comprised of an ancient and interesting history, Bulgaria counted with the presence of the Thracians, the Persians, Greeks and Romans. It went under the Ottoman empire for five centuries, to latter fall under the Socialist rule. Although with a communist past, Bulgaria has never been part of the Soviet Union.

Nowadays, many escavations led to interesting archaeological findings, a bit all over the city. You can find them when taking the metro at Serdika.

 

Sofia, Bulgaria

Archaeological site central Sofia

 

There are many theme oriented tours of Sofia, from the Communist era, historical Sofia tours, to the awesome food tours and the more general free tours, like the one I took.

 

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For me a great destination is made of many factors. Some of them are related to the history and culture. Other aspects are deeply connected with food and art. But most of all, what makes a destination truly unforgettable are the people I meet along the way.

I truly think the Bulgarians as a whole, are incredibly friendly. When I got lost in the city center, on my way to the hostel, people really tried hard to help me, even if they had very limited English.

Then, the local travel blogger expert in everything Bulgarian, Maria Stoyanova, of Travelling Buzz and Elena, the first reader I met in person (yay!) came to meet us one evening, we spent a really nice time together. I’m finding a hospitality here, that it’s rare to find in Western Europe.

 

bulgaria

Hanging out with the locals. A great hang out

 

Yes, the human interaction was probably the highlight of Sofia city for me. Yes, I am going through a rough patch. I’m more quiet, more introvert and generally more sad than usual, but all these amazing people have brightened my days in a way they might not even realize.

From long conversations with a couple of Portuguese travelers on how deep traveling can challenge our views of the world, ethics, morals, to long laughter moments at the hostel’s lobby over my take away dinners.   I was really sick for most of the days I spent in Sofia city, but that didn’t interfere much with all the positive experiences I had.

This Sofia experience has taught me once more that traveling can open so many doors, help us living incredible experiences and lead us into more fulfilling lives.

And even though the media tries to showcase all the terrible news going on in the world. Or how violent humans can be; I have found nothing but generosity and hospitality.

Traveling keeps giving and giving all over again.

 

VEGAN AND VEGETARIAN FOODS IN SOFIA CITY

I’m amazed by the amount of fresh, delicious and well balanced vegan and vegetarian foods i’m finding here in Sofia. This is definitely a paradise for the plant based folks! And even in the most ordinary places, that are not tourist oriented at all, people know what “vegetarian only” means.

 

Sofia city

Olives at Sofia’s central market

 

Head to the local market and grab some food by weight. The food is extremely affordable and home cooked. You can either take away or eat it there.

 

Sofia city vegetarian

My delicious vegan lunch, Bulgur, chick pea salad and eggplant with pepper

 

Even our hostel – Hostel Mostel – serves home cooked vegan and vegetarian meals every night! You don’t need to get out of your doorstep, the vegan food will come to you!

I’m very surprised by how easy it is to be a vegan here.

 

WEATHER SOFIA CITY

I’ve visited Sofia in July, the high season. It is really hot in here (over 35C in the shade)! It seems like there’s a tendency for people to get allergies around here. So if you’re prone to breathing allergies, bring anti-hystaminics. At the hostel I was staying at – Hostel Mostel – a great percentage of people were falling sick with breathing allergies, including me. I had fever for most of my stay.

 

SOFIA BULGARIA NIGHTLIFE

I didn’t go partying while in Sofia city. But I did a pub crawl organized by our hostel. It was a week day and most bars were totally empty.

I’ve noticed the city center fills with people during the weekend. So with the variety of cafés, esplanades and little bars, you can’t miss one of those warm nights out.

 

SOFIA CITY, WHERE TO STAY?

As you might know already, I’ve stayed at a really nice hostel, called hostel Mostel. The hostel was located at an old historical restored mansion, right at the city center.

 

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I have to say that this was one of my favorite hostels of all time. Great staff, great vibe, delicious affordable vegetarian and vegan foods (they cook vegan and vegetarian dinners every night!).

You’ll find private bedrooms and dorms, so you can choose the level of privacy and comfort for your stay.

The dorms are spacious and you’ll have extra privacy with the curtains that cover each bed. I would say this is a high quality hostel, with some amazing features. You’ll have free herbal tea, coffee and fresh water 24hours. And no, I’m not being paid by Hostel Mostel nor am I being sponsored by them in any way! I really loved the place and highly recommend it!

I booked my stay with AGODA here, which allowed me to pay for the whole stay online (this way I avoided exchanging and carrying more money around to pay for my stay).

Alternatively, you can book your stay with hostelworld here where you’ll just pay for the reservation online, finishing your payment once you’re there.

 

All in all Sofia is a true hidden gem. I hope this city never changes, because it was a true surprise! I will come back for more in the future!

4 Comments

  1. Hi Yara,
    Thanks for this peek into a city that I don’t know very much about. I admit Sofia has never been near the top of my list of places to visit, but with all the history, archaeological sites and delicious vegan food, you sure make it sound like an overlooked gem! I look forward to exploring Bulgaria and other parts of Eastern Europe one day.

  2. Yara, thank you for the beautiful post of our small and charming city! You’re always welcome! :)

  3. Hey, I’m so happy that I found your blog. Sofia is my hometown. I don’t live there any more but when I visit my family there I really enjoy my time. And every time I discover something new. It’s truly a hidden gem.

    Best,
    Evelina

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