Thursday, August 6, 2009


So I went to Sofia, Bulgaria this weekend with my friend Joe from Pennsylvania. Our flight was at 630 Am on Saturday (supposedly...) so I stayed on Joe's floor to avoid wandering around the streets in the middle of the night. By stayed on Joe's floor, I mean slept for approximately ten minutes before we left at 2 AM to catch the bus that would take us to the schnellbahn that would take us to the airport. So I still wandered the middle of the night but with Joe, and also Mimi and Asya, two girls on Joe's floor who are from Sofia and just happened to be going home on the same flight as us.

Well, we missed the train by about a minute, so we had to wait for another hour before the next one came (hence the reason we left at 2 AM JUST in case we missed a train). We waited with the homeless people and the rats.

OK I'm exaggerating, the homeless people were up the stairs and there were only a few rats.

We got to the airport at 430 as we had planned, All completely exhausted from our full 20 minutes of sleep. We discovered the plane was delayed from 630 to 8 AM. I was thinking "well I could have slept in and taken normal public transportation" The 4 of us checked in, got something to eat, then got to the gate. Our plane had been delayed to 8:55 at this point. It was about 515. So using my backpack as a pillow, I splayed out on the benches and fell asleep. The lack of sleep was completely unnecessary in the end since the plane took off at about 9:35...and I hadn't brought my book (Harry Potter) with me because I figured I'd sleep on the plane and that would be it. Well now I know!

After sleeping for 2 hours in the airport, along with the hour and 15 minute flight, I was quite awake when I got to Sofia. Maria's mother dropped us off at our hostel (which was very nice of her). Joe and I had a bit of a shock when we got there. It seemed a bit sketch. Why? you may ask. why did it seem sketch? because this is what we saw:

We were a bit shocked considering all the reviews were saying: It's the best place to stay ever! great location! Nothing about a sex shop...the reviews also said it was very safe (which it ended up being)

We checked in, dropped off our backpacks in our lockers and headed out about 1230 PM. Not too bad considering our plane took off 3 hours late.

The first thing I noticed was that the language is completely different. Obviously. But like Mcdonald's is pronounced Mcdonald's but this is how they spell it:

We quickly realized that if we got lost we would be doomed! But luckily we didn't get lost.

If you notice here, there is one of those "Piratology" books they sell for kids except that its in Bulgarian...and we definitely cannot read it!

So Joe and I left the hostel and made it about 10 feet down the street before we stumbled upon something amazing. Ice cream like you've never seen before!

I had Ferraro Roche and Toblerone ice cream which was rather amazing I must say.

After that we made it about 10 more feet when Joe decided he was hungry, so we stopped in at the KFC (I know...) It was interesting to see the menu in Bulgarian rather than English.

After eating, we wandered a bit further down the street and ran into a church built in the 3rd Century! It is called St. George Church (Ротонда „Свети Георги). It was very, very cool I must say. Outside of the church were ruins, and the inside was very interesting too (though of course you couldn't take pictures...) It had a very, very large picture of Jesus on the ceiling and, as you can tell by the picture, was made out of brick.

The church reminded me a LOT of a church I saw in Athens last year, but from what I learned this weekend, Bulgarian and Greece history overlapped a bit for quite a long period of time.

We then went to a church called Holy Sunday Church (църква „Света Неделя“ Sveta Nedelya) that was nearby. That one was also very interesting, though it was in this church that I noticed one of the many differences from Bulgarian Churches (Eastern Orthodox) and most other churches I've seen in Europe (That are usually Catholic) They are really dark inside. I mean you can still see the paintings and figures, but they are not really lit apart from a couple candles.

So we continued wandering, seeing many very nice buildings and statues along the way.

We stumbled upon the Archaelogical museum, which was very interesting. I learned a lot about Bulgarian history, which I knew basically nothing about apart from the fact that Sofia's one of the oldest cities in Europe and looked really cool. It was originally a Thracian settlement, was ruled by Alexander the Great and had a lot of churches. In the museum there were a ton of original paintings and walls from very old churches, armory, jewelry etc. Also, there were costumes from films about Bulgarian history. But, of course, we could not take pictures. lame.

Joe and I continued wandering and discovered the Russian Church. It is absolutely beautiful. It is in the Russian style (obviously) and very colorful and amazing. Made up a little bit for my lack of visiting Russia (since we now need visas which can only be obtained in America, which I did not know before I left the country.)

After looking at the Russian church (where you again cannot take pictures inside) we headed to the biggest church in Sofia.

And it really is very really really big.

The St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Храм-паметник „Свети Александър Невски) is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox churches in the world. It's enormous. It was really dark, but of course I took a secret picture.

After the cathedral, including the museum which had lots of pieices and complete old paintings and a woman I nicknamed "Ms Crabby," we went across the street to a smaller church.

It's called the Hagia Sophia and is the 2nd oldest church in Sofia. I managed to see one Hagia Sophia while in Europe! Just not the one I intended to see.

We continued wandering. We saw the theatre, the mosque and returned to a couple of the churches we'd already seen.

These are the baths right by the Mosque, both of which are very old. They know this because they found a journal where the man talks about both (I think around the 1500's.)

We stopped for dinner at a restaurant Maria (Mimi) had recommended to us as her favorite place to eat.

Now, I may be mistaken, but I think it may have been to Sofia's equivalent of Hooters. Complete with short skirts and weird creepy men touching the waitresses.

And a poster that was really horrifying, which of course meant it was right by our table. Also, they kept asking if we wanted cheese on everything, which made sense when it was rice and chicken. Joe got his chicken with the cheese and the cheese was a strange cheese. Different from all cheese that exists in the world. But it got a bit weird when they asked if we wanted cheese on our watermelon...

But the food WAS really good and the drinks were actually cold, which if you do not know, is a rarity in Europe.

After dinner, we wandered around a bit more and headed to the hostel.

That evening, Joe and I went to a Cafe with a girl named Lucy from Australia. She was travelling for several months by herself. Her next destination was Istanbul for a month (jealous). We chatted for a while. Then we got more ice cream, because its amazing.

The next morning, we slept in a bit after the airplane incident and not really sleeping the night before. Mimi and Asya came to our hostel about 10 ish to show us around Sofia.

Since we'd already been to the Archaeological museum and most of the churches, they took us to some parks and then we returned to the Russian church.

These are apparently very famous Bulgarian writers.

First stop, the park which also has the National Palace of Culture. It was a pretty little park with a very modern building in it.

There was a dedication at the Russian Church when we went in it again, for a little boy about 2 years old, which was interesting to see. We also returned to the St George Church. After we parted with Mimi and Asya, Joe and I continued to wander around a bit, after a stop at the hostel and some souvenir buying.

We then wandered aimlessly and accidentally stumbled upon the very cool church to the right in the pictures above this (I was having some trouble putting pictures in order for this blog). When we walked in the square, Mimi came running up to us (which surprised me a little because I couldn't tell it was her for a second while she was sprinting into my line of vision). She was at the cafe with friends and saw us come into the square. So the 3 of us went into the very cool church, where they were having a church service. I have now witnessed a Bulgarian Church Service and a Russian Orthodox dedication. Mimi's friend explained where a very good, cheap restaurant was and we headed in the direction. Only to discover that it was Sofia's Hooters again, aka The Happy Grill. hahaha. oh well, the food was good.

We then joined Mimi and her friends for a while outside of the church and headed back to the hostel. I talked with some girls from the Netherlands for a while, then went to bed. Overall, I absolutely LOVED Sofia, despite hooters and the sex shop.

We did have an interesting trek to the airport the next day. Our taxi driver was "positive" that Skyeurope left from Terminal 2...


He dropped us off there and we quickly discovered we were not in the right terminal, and the next one was not close and we needed to take the bus. Well, we went to the bus and the guy did not speak English. When we said "terminal 1" he kept speaking to us in Bulgarian and pointing and we just stared a lot. Then, he would continue speaking in Bulgarian. and we'd stare. And then he'd point and speak slowly in Bulgarian as if that would help. Somehow we did manage to decipher that the terminal was 2 stops away and he'd tell us when to get off. Well, we got off at the stop, wandered into a parking lot with a lot of dilapidated buildings and concrete buildings that seemed to have nothing to do with the airport and asked someone where terminal 1 was. They led us through a park and over some hedges and we made it to terminal one with plenty of time to spare. It was quite eventful and exciting, especially in the parking lot where I was sure we were going to be shot for trespassing.


  1. Okay, this was laugh out loud funny, even if you didn't mean it to be. Te description of your trip to the airport was hilarious and - sadly - it felt all too familiar (Frankfurt airport anyone?) Glad you actually made it there and back again in one piece!

  2. I love the play by play stories of your adventures...much better then Rick Steves...he he...very down to earth...the sex shop photo was hilarious. Having been to Kiev, I am not surprised...they give out this map of the wonderful sights and all around the edges are advertisments of escorts, quicky weddings...and photos of semi-nude women...and this is what a the hotel gives out as their maps...! The Russian churches are wonderful...and yes very dark...and no seats..they stand to worship and they go around and kiss all the icons..its like stepping back in time in old Europe...I am glad you got to see such an interesting and different place...and such an must write a travel book for the collage age student...and inculde all the funny stuff...I can't imagine touring Europe without sleep depravation!!!! just not the same..cant wait to hear about the next places when you get home.