Our travel day sure showed how much we wanted to get out of Bosnia. We left Sarajevo at 8pm, got to Istanbul about 11, stayed overnight in the airport (which was 24 hours and super legit – 5 stars if you absolutely have to stay overnight in an airport) and then flew to Sofia at 7:30 the next morning. I had heard that Sofia was scary, but after the couple places we had been, I thought it was totally fine. We took a cab in from the airport to the Hostel in hopes of checking in early, which we couldn’t. We hung out in the common area until about 1 when our room was ready – and then had to walk 5 blocks to the actual Hostel rooms… off site Hostel rooms was a new one. We had a nice, long afternoon snooze and decided to hit the town. The lady that walked us through the map made the city seem really big, but city centre ended up being quite small. We went for dinner, on Trip Advisors recommendation, and it was tasty. Wine was cheap, and I don’t know that we went a meal without it. I tried vegetarian meatballs which ended up being deep fried peppers and zucchini, that in no way resembled meatballs but Bulgaria does what it wants. We walked down the dark side street to the main pedestrian street with shops and restaurants after supper, and tried to figure out where we were. The Hostels location was actually quite good – easy to find, relatively central but not on a main street. We went back to the hostel and complained about not having Netflix in yet another country (so much for being a first world country…)
The next morning we got up and got pastries for breakfast. I’ve never met a pastry I didn’t like – and my flabs vouch for that. We took the free walking tour through the Hostel (we thought) but was actually through another company and had about 20 people on it. The girl doing the tour was super interesting and was born and raised in Bulgaria. She was so proud of Bulgaria and how far their country had come. It was really nice to see, and made me feel guilty for not being more proud of a Canadian. The tour was about two and a half hours and we saw all the main sights. It started at the Palace of Justice (the courthouse), and then went to the ruins that were discovered when they were building their underground train system that is now being turned into an open museum via the subway. There was a lot of construction throughout the city. We saw some mosques, churches, etc. and heard little stories about each of them. The history there was very rich – every building had a story, but none of them were really like WOW, MOM NEEDS TO HEAR THAT ONE. A lot of the religious buildings were destroyed throughout the wars, unfortunately. We went to where the President lives/works and it was a snazzy joint, and surrounded by Police. Apparently the tour typically goes into the backyard of Presidents house (just like you would do with the Obama’s obvi) but we weren’t allowed in because of riots, and that the leader of Greece was there and people were apparently pissed with Greece and the refugee deals.
We saw a big motorcade come through the police barricade while we were standing outside and they went into the backyard. I assume it was Beyonce, or Michael Phelps, or someone like that. It was a cool celebrity moment regardless.
We walked through a couple other parts of town and ended up at the Hagia Sophia – the church that used to be on the outskirts of Sofia, and what the town was named after. People who would travel to Sofia would see the church and say “we’re in Sofia now” and that’s how she got her name. The tour guide wouldn’t tell anyone until then how the city had got its name so I was hoping for something a little more riveting but hey, at least it wasn’t named after a type of cabbage. Behind this church, was the big ass church you see in all of the pictures – Alexandar Nevski Cathedral. It was absolutely magnificent and we got to go inside afterwards. The tour guide did a little Q+A when the tour was over and someone asked what a typical salary was and she said “about 400 euros per MONTH” which ends up being about 650 dollars Canadian. She said you would be very lucky to get 500 euros a month, but that everyone is appreciative of the lifestyle they live due to their history. Communism ended their around the 90’s so most people lived some part of their lives in that state and appreciate the freedom democracy allows, even if their economy isn’t great. Bulgaria has a population of about 7 million people, of which 2 million live in Sofia alone. She also mentioned that Bulgaria was one of only three nations during the Second World War to not send their Jews to be killed. Their King? At the time kept sending them to the border and calling them back because he “needed” them for certain jobs, and by the time the act was getting old, Hitler had bigger fish to fry. Denmark and Albania were the other two nations to not have their Jews killed. Good for them, hey? They were also members of the Axis, so I’m guessing Hitler was a little more forgiving to their leader.
The rest of Sofia mostly compromised of food, wine and shopping. We hit the Christmas market one night and it was cute, but small. I got the worst chocolate apple ever – far from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. There was live entertainment and Mel was infatuated – I was pretty over it, he wasn’t great. I finished the rest of my Christmas shopping in Sofia, and may have purchased some things for myself. The last day we wanted to just chill out so we went to the mall and went to a movie. It was dirrrrrrt cheap. It was 12 of their currency for two tickets to the matinee which was 9 dollars Canadian. Popcorn, M+Ms and two pops were 11 of their currency which is about 8 dollars Canadian. It was absurdly nice. We got the rest of our souvenirs that night. Mel flew out to Bucharest early the next morning and I left early in the afternoon so we hit the hay early!