Six Days in Sofia…with a Small Amount of Sightseeing

Aleksander Nevski Church

I didn’t find Sofia to be overly exciting, and yet I still managed to spend six days there. I arrived in the early evening, briefly checking out the main shopping strip while on the hunt for some cheap food.

Day One was spent in bed sick after being so queasy that I almost fell down the stairs to get to breakfast I figured that walking around town in the cold wasn’t going to be the smartest option.

Day Two was my trip to Rila Monastery.

Day Three I spent hitting up the op-shops [thrift/charity shops] around Sofia, as I was desperately in need of some warm clothes. Winter was threatening to take my fingers at the very least. There’s a massive op-shop near the train station, with a rather extensive selection of winter coats. Despite that they played nothing but Elton John on an endless repeat, I still spent a good few hours trying on clothes before coming out with the feeling of victory and a giant bag containing one polarfleece, one big puffy warm coat, one pair of polarfleece gloves, one crazy wool hat with a feather [I only bought it for the feather] and one long sleeve shirt. Later that day, in a Humana store I found some almost-new black jeans for the bargain price of €1. They’re not the most fashionable unfortunately, as skinny jeans remain the trend and they’re flares, but one cannot argue with the price. Plus, they fit perfectly.

I walked past this building on my way back from my op-shopping adventures. I don't even like Chupa Chups but I did like this.

By Day Four I finally got around to doing the free walking tour, with Ben and Tam – the Aussie couple I’d met in Plovdiv. The walking tour was interesting and informative, and a great way to see the main sights in the space of a couple of hours for a pretty good price. Here’s the walking tour in photos:

Sveta Nedelya Cathedral

Sveta Petka Samardjiska Church, a fourteenth century church poking up out of the middle of an underpass.

The water coming out of the taps here is drawn from natural mineral springs underground. The water is quite hot, and people there were doing everything from filling water bottles to washing themselves.

The only mosque left standing in Sofia, after the others were destroyed after their congregations abandoned them when the minarets were blown up by carefully placed explosives.

The old public baths

I can't recall the name of this church, but it was lovely - an ancient round church surrounded by the remains of a Roman bathhouse, inside a courtyard behind some government buildings with silly-looking guards.

Following the Yellow Brick Road. No joke - the roads around central Sofia are paved with yellow bricks!

The interior of the Aleksander Nevski Church is incredible, and the crypt below serves as an icon museum, with a beautiful collection of icons.

Day Five was ‘shopping day’ – I needed to finish my Christmas shopping so I could send a parcel back home to Melbourne. I’m such a wonderful daughter and sister that despite being halfway around the world, I still bought everyone a Christmas present. OK, so my gift budget wasn’t quite what it normally is, but hey I have to factor in postage to Australia and that I’m going through my money faster than I would have liked! What I discovered was that it’s bloody hard to buy Christmas presents when you’re also trying for souvenir-type things. I’m not sending undies home from Bulgaria, apologies little brother!

I went out for dinner that evening with Ben and Tamzin to a wonderful restaurant that was recommended by the hostel, and while it was quite a bit more expensive than the places I would normally frequent, the food was amazing and the menu the most entertaining I have ever seen. It was unfortunate that after asking for house wine they served us two bottles at €25 each, but it was a reminder to never accept anything without knowing the price and to be fair it was delicious. After dinner we headed to a jazz bar that Ben and Tam had heard of – it was in a quiet residential street, and we had to knock for ages before someone unlocked the door and let us into the smoky den. There was no live music that night, but the place had atmosphere and character and we were the only foreigners there.

This is what I had, and it was unbelievable. I wish I was eating it right now.

Day Six was Navigate the Bulgarian Postal System day, and it was almost as challenging as I’d anticipated. Of course there is virtually no English spoken, and everyone wants to make you someone else’s problem. Eventually I found the right counter only to be told that the maximum weight for a parcel was 2KG – I would have to go to a different place to post all the stuff I had, and it would be much more expensive. I managed to negotiate sending three X 2KG parcels, given that I had 6KG of stuff, although it took quite some time to get this message across. Then I wasn’t allowed to pack them myself, which was a worry as I had a bunch of very breakable teacups and saucers, and I could only look on, cringing, as the postal employees wrapped them in a disastrous manner that guaranteed they would not be arriving in Melbourne in one [well, twelve in total] piece. After getting this sorted, taking about an hour, I just had to confuse the poor ladies even further by trying to buy a local stamp. For my collection. No, I don’t want a special souvenir stamp. I just want a cheap local stamp, just what’s required to post a letter inside Bulgaria. They looked disappointed when I didn’t go to the magic souvenir expensive stamp collection counter to buy a special stamp, but insisted on a rather cheap one they only want to sell to Bulgarians.

After abandoning my terribly-packed parcels at the post office, I finally got around to visiting the Sveta Nedelya Cathedral – a beautiful old red-brick cathedral that I’d passed every day but not made it inside. I paid 5 leva to take pictures – it was the first time I’d had that option in Bulgaria and I was more than happy to take it up. It was quite lovely, and there were locals coming in and out to light candles and pray. I tried to ensure that I wasn’t intruding or interrupting them, so I spent quite a while there waiting until people had left before taking some photographs.


16 responses to “Six Days in Sofia…with a Small Amount of Sightseeing

  1. Hi, We are going to Sofia in May and I’m interested in thrift/charity shops. Do you recall addresses or names of the ones you found? Specifically the one near the train station? Any others I should visit? Thanks!

  2. Hey, greetings from Free Sofia Tour 🙂 We are happy that you enjoyed the free walking tour of Bulgaria’s capital.

    We would really appreciate it if you link our name in your post to our website so that more people could find us:

    Thanks in advance!

    Happy holidays,
    FST Team

  3. Great post and sorry to hear you were sick. Are you all better? That tap fountain with its trough looks as if people really could take a warm bath in it. Ahhh, sending gifts from overseas. This is the first year I decided that there will be no gift sending – only wire transferring – and the $120USD I save from postage will be saved for other things….! MERRY CHRISTMAS! Where will you be spending it?

    • Yes, I’m much better thankyou! This will be my first Christmas away from home so I’m being good with gifts. I did see someone having a good wash in the fountain – it had taps over big marble sinks, so an adult body can’t fit but you can do it bit by bit! Merry Christmas to you too! I’ll be spending it in Skopje, Macedonia – I’ve got my fingers crossed for snow!

      • Ah, Skopje! I love the nice stone bridge that crosses from the centre to the Albanian side of the city. I also used to enjoy walking around the fortress. There a few nice things to do in Skopje. Will you also go (or have you been) to Ohrid? There is a nice monastery right at the border with Albania!
        Merry Christmas…. I spent quite a few on my own abroad and it is always a bit weird. Even more in an Orthodox country where Christmas is celebrated on 7 January 😉

        • Yes, I’ll be heading to Ohrid after a few days in Skopje. It’s going to be my first Christmas alone, away from home, so I think it’ll be a little strange! It doesn’t even feel like Christmas, despite that there are guys in Santa costumes everywhere, decorations and Christmas music blaring all around!
          I was thinking that I’ll get two Christmases this time – the Catholic/Protestant Christmas on good old 25 December and Orthodox Christmas on January 7, but now I’ll be in Turkey in January.
          Merry Christmas to you too! Thanks so much for all your recommendations…they’ve been amazing!

      • I am sure you’re going to have a wonderful Xmas and look forward to hearing the stories about it. Turkey in January – jealous jealous jealous! Merry Christmas (or is it Happy Christmas? I am so quick to forget even though I purposely spell the English way alot of the time!)

      • Hey, let me know if you would like some company in Skopje. One of my friends there would be happy to hang out and share her city with you. She would only need a way to reach you. She seems to be pretty free this week.

        • Thanks for the offer! Unfortunately I’m leaving tomorrow morning, otherwise I’d take you up on that. I’m in a bit of a rush, as I have to be in Istanbul in a few days to pick up my mother – she’s flying over to travel with me for a month, which will be a bit different for me, especially after seven months alone! Hopefully we’ll have some great adventures…

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