We thought that Sofia might be more like Sarajevo, but we couldn't have been more wrong. From the moment we arrived in Sofia we could tell we were in a large city with a neoclassical style that we hadn't really felt since Prague and Paris. But more on that in a bit. Let's start with our entry into Bulgaria.
It had been my idea to break up long bus travel with few-night stays in cities mid-route to our next known location. I can't say that it exactly worked out. Although we got to see some unique places off the tourist route and had some unique moments. One such moment was when we were on our way out the door of our apartment in Nis, Serbia heading for Sofia, Bulgaria. We had formed an unspoken bond with our host, who didn't speak english and would put his wife on the phone when we had a question In one instance he walked us all the way to a restaurant that he was trying to recommend. So we are leaving the apartment and the host is waving goodbye but gets an idea in his head and says Rakia, a word we know. So we shrug our shoulders and say yes. He runs inside to get three shot glasses and pours them full of a homemade apple Rakia. Then he says, "Like the Russians," and shoots it. So do we, and I say, "that was very good." He says, "even better after three!" We laugh it off but that wasn't a joke. We barely stomach the next two shots and try to laugh it off as we finally wave goodbye to our host (who poured his last shot very light because he had to keep working). To be continued.
The liquor goes right to our heads and we have a pleasant walk to the bus station, remarking how comfortable you can feel in a city compared to when you first arrive and your defenses are up.
But things went downhill from there. We had a slow 5 hour bus trip into Sofia, with no bathroom breaks. I went to some dark places in my mind.
We arrived into a deserted bus station in Sofia. Like a cruel joke, the first three bathrooms we found were out of order, but finally we found 'relief' and were able to now explore our new surroundings, Sofia! We enter into the sparkly new subway en route to our apartment.
Our first morning in Sofia. The city is a mix of neoclassical and brutalist design. There are communist monuments throughout Bulgaria, all in some state of decay.
Approachinig the National Palace of Culture (or HDK). It's part theater, congress center, park and mix of cafes.
Inside the Palace of Culture.
This A is out for a walk.
An old traffic police post converted into a bee themed hangout spot. The rest of these were either abandoned or occupied with traffic police.
Great logotype for a bookstore spelling Elephant. Take a look at the logo on their website for a clearer image.
Lisa took pictures of all street art, including the electrical boxes in every city.
Quite the monument to the people, now a skate park.
A mix of that Eastern Bloc feel and some extra added capitalism sprinkled on top.
We took a cultural walking tour of Sofia and got to spend the day with two local girls who answered all our questions, and helped us with our Cyrillic.
Bulgaria will not let you forget that they are the biggest producer of rose products. During our tour we got to taste some rose tea and rose jelly. It's a mix of delicate beauty and the feeling that you just ate some cosmetics.
A statue of holy wisdom (Sofia). She was shining bright the first night, when we came out of the subway.
An old church that still holds services, sits tucked away from the modern life in this courtyard.
Throughout Europe there is history under our feet. But from here until the end of our trip we encounter scenes like this, where they are digging for some new city project and they unearth ancient ruins that demand attention.