Archive for Bulgaria
In the Soviet era, Bulgaria was always one of the more productive countries within the Communist Bloc. Today, it is a member of the EU and the Black Sea holiday resorts are popular with foreign tourists offering excellent value. In the winter, Bulgaria is also a popular ski destination but we turn our attentions to the other side of the country and the nations capital city, Sofia.
Sofia is surprisingly missed as a tourism destination compared to the beach and ski resorts. Today, it is home to around 1.4 million people and can trace it’s origins back more than 2,000 years. The city has a diverse history and this is evident with the variety of buildings you will see in the centre. Cobbled streets, 5* hotels, Orthordox churches, Communist monuments and the Banya Bashi Mosque, a remnant from the time when Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire.
Although a relatively large number of people call Sofia their home, many of the places of interest are in the heart of the city and you can easily walk between them. Once you arrive at Sofia airport, life is pretty easy. The taxis are on a meter and it cost about £6 to get to the Sheraton Hotel. There are a few excellent Western chain hotels in the centre of town so shop around to get a deal. The room at the Sheraton was around €100 a night.
I suspect that Sofia is at its best in the summer months. The temperature will regularly hit 30 Celcius (88 Farenheit) so there are plenty of oppotunities to sit outside at one of the many cafes or in the parks and watch the world go by. Winter is a different matter when it regularly freezes and the snow comes along. Getting around Sofia when the weather isn’t so good won’t be a problem. Taxis are cheap and the modern metro is being expanded with the construction of a second line.
Although Bulgarian is written in Cyrillic, all the street signs are also written in Latin characters too so there are no problems understanding which street you are on. Tourist maps are available at the hotels making Sofia a great place to explore on foot. There are some wonderful buildings to admire such as the Alexander Nevski Cathedral and the smaller St Nikolai Orthordox Church. The St George Rotunda which is behind the Sheraton hotel, is a UNESCO heritage site dating back to the 10th century. Not far from the Nevski Cathedral is a small open air market where I managed to find a couple of old Soviet Union medals. I always find it interesting to browse these type of stalls as you never know what you will find.
The number of street cafes and parks mean that you can wander around at your own pace. The value for money in Sofia is excellent. Eating is cheap and there are plenty of places to choose from. Another great thing I found about the various cafes, bars and places to eat was that many of them included free WiFi so I could use all my smart phones features without worrying about getting a ridiculous bill on my return due data roaming charges.
Although I found Sofia interesting, there wasn’t really much to it. The value for money is superb but it is a 3 hour flight from the UK. Its worth going once, perhaps in the Autumn to get a bit of sunshine but its not a city I would go back to time and again.