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.
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:
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.
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.