We have just returned from a nice city trip to Sofia in Bulgaria. This city has 1.2 million inhabitants and is not (yet) very popular in Belgium. It seemed like the ideal city to explore as we have never before spent a holiday in the Balkans. Sofia is not only impressive,but you also feel like you’re going back in time. Read here what you need to know before you leave and why Sofia can be the ideal city trip for you!
Sofia is just over two hours away from Belgium. We flew with Wizz Air from Charleroi to Sofia. This is, besides Ryanair,a very low-cost airline and we had never flown it before. We have to admit that our experience with this society has been good! The flights were punctual and there was no less ‘luxury’ or legroom than on any other cheap flight. As a city trip Sofia is therefore ideally located. The city is easy to get to and you get there very quickly.
Sofia is beautifully located between the mountains. The most famous mountain range bordering Sofia is Mount Vitosja. From the main shopping street in Sofia you can see this mountain. It gives a beautiful image! Actually you see almost from every angle in Sofia mountains and that makes this big city unique. For hikers and nature lovers Sofia is the perfect place to make trips to the mountains. It’s really beautiful! Note: You really need to be a trained hiker for this with the right equipment!
When you arrive in Sofia, the diverse architecture immediately stands out. From the airport, drive past old, sometimes dilapidated apartments just outside the busy center of Sofia. It’s like you’ve ended up in another continent. Nevertheless, this is still Europe, and that was a rather surprising picturefor us .
In the center of Sofia it is a little different. Here you can also see old apartment blocks but in between also beautiful buildings and churches. Yet all ‘ordinary’ buildings seem to be dilapidated and coming from a different era. It seems that there has been no reconstruction of some places after the Second World War. In the streetscape, a rowhouse has ‘disappeared’ more than once and its ruins are languishing away. Maybe this seems a little creepy,but actually it has something. The beautiful churches, cathedrals, mosques, etc. brighten up the streetscape throughout Sofia.
Sofia is a city characterized by different faiths and political influences. Protestantism and Islam are the most present religions. You can find a mosque, but also very traditional (Orthodox) churches and even a Russian Orthodox church. There are also several images of communism. So sometimes you see an image or image of Stalinappearing. The former Soviet Union clearly still plays a part in today’s society. We have not discussed it openly or extensively with the Bulgarians, but we think that there are still some supporters of communism to be found. The buildings, as well as the local population, certainly carry with them the consequences of an eventful time. Either way, this makes Sofia very diverse and surprising to discover.
Sofia, and Bulgaria in general, is a very cheap country. People are poorer than in Belgium and pay with the Bulgarian lev. The amount you pay in lev, you have to roughly divide by two to calculate it in euros. 10 leva(plural of lev)is therefore about 5 euros. And an average meal is also 10 leva. For drinks you pay at restaurant about 3 leva. A taxi ride from the airport to the city centre is about 15 leva. Souvenirs and clothing are also cheap.
For those who like flowers, sofia is definitely good. It is‘the city of the rose’(actually Bulgaria is the ‘land of rose cultivation’)and you can see this in the streetscape very well. Wild roses grow everywhere in all colors. Simply beautiful! And also in the souvenir shops the rose pops up several times processed in perfumes, soaps, candles and even in liquor. Besides roses, sunflowers are also typically Bulgarian. Miles of sunflower fields can be found outside the centre of Sofia. So in summer it’s magnificent to see! The sunflower is also incorporated into paintings and souvenirs. In addition, you can see a number of parks with beautiful flower carpets appearing all over Sofia. All the greenery is also very well maintained!
Bulgaria has an ancient traditional culture in several areas. From well-known opera singers to the typical Bulgarian cuisine. Not everything was to please us, but a number of things certainly stood out for us.
We can appreciate the folk dance of Bulgaria because its music encourages you to participate. We also appreciate the beautiful works of art,which you will find especially with local street artists. These colourful works of art often include flowers, but also ballerinas and animals. Art can also always be found in the numerous churches.
The Bulgarian cuisine did not quite convince us. Especially meat dishes and pastries are on the menu. We tried a traditional pastry, and it tasted just like smoute bulbs (oil balls). In fact, most dishes are greasy or with a lot of garlic prepared. This isn’t really our thing. In Sofia you will of course also find restaurants with different choices of pastas or fish dishes.
And finally, the language is perhaps the biggest stumbling block when you go to Bulgaria. Because they have a different alphabet, we can’t make any out of their language. We tried, as we do in every country, to learn a few basic words like ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ but this was virtually impossible to remember (just to mention the correct pronunciation!). Fortunately, a large part of the population in Sofia can speak a word of English!
Do you want to go on a city trip to Sofia in Bulgaria?
All these things make Sofia in Bulgaria a surprisingly interesting city trip with a lot of variety. Would you like to go on a city trip to Sofia? We list our favorite activities and sights in Sofia in Bulgaria for you next week! Bet you want to leave right away?