In September 2017 I visited Bulgaria during my 2 week solo backpacking trip. My friend Magdalena invited me to visit her in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, and then I decided to explore the rest of the country on my own. She helped me with planning the trip and booking the busses and trains on the way. Without her help I would be quite lost as Bulgaria is not a very touristic country and their language is written in Cyrillic, which I had to learn to read before starting my trip.
Here is the map of my trip, which started in Ljubljana and ended in Bucharest, Romania.
Usually when I travel to a new country, the first place I visit is the capital city. I reached Sofia by bus from Belgrade (Serbia). My friend Magdalena was already waiting for me at the bus station, and right away she took me on a walking sightseeing tour to the center of the city. My first impressions of the city were quite different from what I expected. Although there are a lot of socialistic buildings and remains that are not pleasant to the eye, there are also lots of beautiful parks scattered all around the central part, creating a calm and natural vibe. I really enjoyed walking through the huge Park Borisova Gradina in the middle of the hot day, sipping cold drinks and enjoying cheap ice cream from the stalls.
The most visited sight in Sofia is the Bulgarian Orthodox cathedral named by Alexander Nevsky. It is truly a remarkable building, standing tall and alone in the middle of a spacious round square. During my stay in Sofia, I visited the cathedral two times... once in sunny weather, and once during a rainy evening, when I caught its reflection in a puddle on the street. I really like how the photos turned out!
Sofia is also full of interesting museums with cheap entry fees. Surprisingly, all the museums that I visited were almost completely empty, with only a few visitors. What a nice feeling, to be able to enjoy a peaceful retreat from the noise of the city.. in the middle of a hot sunny day... inside a cool museum, roaming around the empty rooms and marvelling at the exhibitions by myself!
Not only in museums, Sofia offers great historical sights right in the middle of the city as well. Magdalena took me to an underground site called Serdika, which is mostly filled with ruins of an ancient settlement. The ceiling is transparent, so from below you can see the modern buildings above, creating an interesting mix of old and new. Another such site is a small church called the Rotunda of Saint George, which is considered to be the oldest building in Sofia (built by Romans in 4th century). It lies in the middle of a courtyard, quite difficult to find without the help of locals!
As Magdalena lives in a village outside the city, she also took me on a hiking trip up the hill from where there's beautiful views of Sofia. The landscape surrounding the city is full of slopes, covered in open grassy pastures and pine tree forests. There are also many old monasteries scattered around the hills, many of which are not in use anymore. We chased the sunset in the middle of this open land, and I was truly happy to be there!
After few days spent exploring Sofia, I moved on to the next place, Plovdiv. You can read more about it in the part 2 🙂