Sultry Sofia

Originally neither of us were really set on getting to Sofia, Bulgaria. We weren’t/aren’t organized enough to have researched all the cities and areas in the Balkans to know what was what…so we’ve just been taking it a day or 2 at a time. Sometimes perusing the web prior, sometimes not. But when we were out in the countryside and some Serbs were raving about how beautiful of a city Sofia was, we decided to give it a go. I am SO happy we did.
First off, our cool AirBnB hosts recommended some awesome places for us to work. One was the National Palace of Culture (NDK). It has a sweet big library with a cafe in it. We spent some solid hours working here (Dane’s helping me on a work project-yeehaw). sofia_bulgaria_travel_0001sofia_bulgaria_travel_0002sofia_bulgaria_travel_0003We lost track of time, stayed for a book talk in Bulgarian (we weren’t really listening, just working away while it happened), and eventually took heed to our rumbling tummies and decided to look for some food. Not much was still open and it was pouring rain but we ducked into a place that had Moroccan food and man – was it every tasty!sofia_bulgaria_travel_0004sofia_bulgaria_travel_0005The next morning, we felt we needed to explore the city more. So we walked around and made our way to Fabrika Daga. One thing I love about 2016 is the endless access to cool blogs that recommend good restaurants. That’s how we found this little gem. I wish I had more time and motivation to do up recommend lists and share for future travelers, but it’s just not in the cards right now.sofia_bulgaria_travel_0006sofia_bulgaria_travel_0007sofia_bulgaria_travel_0008sofia_bulgaria_travel_0009sofia_bulgaria_travel_0010The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a must-see in Sofia. Take it from someone who is not a building enthusiast AT ALL (seriously!). For me, it’s cool factor is right up there with the St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague and the Budapest Parliament. I’m mainly talking exterior cool-ness BTW.sofia_bulgaria_travel_0011sofia_bulgaria_travel_0012sofia_bulgaria_travel_0013The inside (which you’re not supposed to take photos in) is floor to ceiling wall murals and really stunning candle chandeliers. I’m not a big fan of what these churches represent but I do love the artistic appeal.sofia_bulgaria_travel_0014sofia_bulgaria_travel_0015It’s just so strange and awesome! I was snap happy.sofia_bulgaria_travel_0016sofia_bulgaria_travel_0017 Something we noticed and loved about Sofia is that it seems to have endless, well-kept parks. Every second block has another luscious green patch where kids play and grown-ups chill.sofia_bulgaria_travel_0018I might add, for those of you that don’t know, that Bulgaria is part of the EU (but not part of the Schengen Region). The European influence is very noticeable, especially in comparison to Bulgaria’s neighbors. In a good way. It’s still nice and affordable, but just more put together.sofia_bulgaria_travel_0019Yes I’m a premature granny taking too many photos of lavender and roses! They were too lovely to pass up.sofia_bulgaria_travel_0020A random quirk of Sofia is it’s sidewalks. As I mentioned, the EU has helped this city pull itself together in many ways, but the sidewalks are an area that is still neglected. It was hilarious. Most of the tiles were loose on most of the streets. We asked a local why it was and he said “it’s because we don’t want you to fall asleep while you walk.” sofia_bulgaria_travel_0021We made our way to +Tova where we set up shop and worked for the afternoon.sofia_bulgaria_travel_0022How neat is the cardboard chair!?sofia_bulgaria_travel_0023sofia_bulgaria_travel_0024sofia_bulgaria_travel_0025Finally we left and walked around the city some more, til we found La Bottega Due Piani – where they serve up scrumptious Italian food. sofia_bulgaria_travel_0026It was so perfect. The tables are on the 2nd level of the building but the windows were rolled up so that the evening sun was pouring, mixing with the tantalizing smells of the open kitchen.sofia_bulgaria_travel_0027And I kinda love the gong show of this… it just felt homey.sofia_bulgaria_travel_0028sofia_bulgaria_travel_0029Soo tasty.sofia_bulgaria_travel_0030The next morning, we decided to visit Vitosha Mountain which is just on the outskirts of the city – minutes from our AirBnB. It ended up being more of a long driving expedition with some scattered foot exploration when we felt the urge to stop.sofia_bulgaria_travel_0031sofia_bulgaria_travel_0032It seems as though there are endless paths and hikes on the mountain, and doing zero research we kinda didn’t know where to start.sofia_bulgaria_travel_0033sofia_bulgaria_travel_0034Anyway, we found this…sofia_bulgaria_travel_0035I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a gorge full of huge boulders such as this. Standing on the rocks and hearing the unmistakable sounds of the powerful, rushing river beneath gave me an odd sense of anxiousness. But I also kinda liked it.sofia_bulgaria_travel_0036sofia_bulgaria_travel_0037sofia_bulgaria_travel_0038sofia_bulgaria_travel_0039We also found the TV Tower on the mount. sofia_bulgaria_travel_0040sofia_bulgaria_travel_0041There was an old, rusted-out gondola and shack/warehouse that gave me the heebie-geebies. It looked like a scene out of a drug movie.sofia_bulgaria_travel_0042With that under our belts, we went back to the house and worked. (We kinda settled in our minds that we’d explore half a day, work half a day – while in Sofia. It was the perfect city for that kind of routine. So perfect that we extended our stay by 2 days.)sofia_bulgaria_travel_0043This particular evening we went to Skaptoburger – a hoppin’ little joint with some deelish options.sofia_bulgaria_travel_0044sofia_bulgaria_travel_0045Mine was a Mexican burger wrapped in a tortilla with lots of guac and lots of flavor.sofia_bulgaria_travel_0046Another beautiful spot on Angel Kanchev. sofia_bulgaria_travel_0047One of the days we decided that we seriously should learn more about Sofia. So we did a walking tour. Can’t tell you how much I don’t like guided tours and being herded around but this turned out to be pretty rad.
The statue below is Sofia, who was an (Orthodox?) saint. Previously in her place was a communist statue of Lenin. The funny story about this statue, erected in 2000, is that the sculptor apparently knew nothing about what he was sculpting other than it was a statue of a lady named Sofia and it was to represent wisdom. So naturally he gave her a fairly low-cut, erotic outfit and placed the owl on her arm as a symbol of wisdom (which is a pagan symbol). Her outfit and the symbol enraged the church-goers and created quite a controversy. sofia_bulgaria_travel_0050Another crazy thing is that when the metro was being built in this city, they found tons of ancient ruins dating back to the Roman empire. They can be seen around and within the metro. sofia_bulgaria_travel_0051sofia_bulgaria_travel_0060Kinda cool that they just incorporated the ruins right into the metro (even if they didn’t do the most beautiful job of it). sofia_bulgaria_travel_0061sofia_bulgaria_travel_0052Thermal baths (not open to the public but a pretty colorful building).sofia_bulgaria_travel_0053sofia_bulgaria_travel_0054sofia_bulgaria_travel_0055sofia_bulgaria_travel_0056I loved these flower pots!sofia_bulgaria_travel_0057sofia_bulgaria_travel_0058sofia_bulgaria_travel_0059sofia_bulgaria_travel_0062sofia_bulgaria_travel_0063sofia_bulgaria_travel_0064sofia_bulgaria_travel_0065sofia_bulgaria_travel_0066sofia_bulgaria_travel_0067Someone decided to play a “little” joke when they were added gold accents to the sculptures. See if you can find the little joke.sofia_bulgaria_travel_0068sofia_bulgaria_travel_0069Martenitsa bracelets hanging on trees. It’s a tradition in Bulgaria to put these red and white bracelets on on March 1st to welcome spring. When you see the first stork of the year, you hang it on the first tree that you see.sofia_bulgaria_travel_0070sofia_bulgaria_travel_0071After our tour we had salad and sammies at Farmer’s (yet another awesome restaurant).sofia_bulgaria_travel_0072sofia_bulgaria_travel_0073We attempted to work at NDK again but got kicked out as they had some special event on. So we went back to the house, worked, and then went back to these boulders for a few photos (previously, I only had the Go Pro). sofia_bulgaria_travel_0074sofia_bulgaria_travel_0075sofia_bulgaria_travel_0079Unfortunately we worked just like 30 minutes too long and it was a tad too dark. But o’ well they’re alright.sofia_bulgaria_travel_0080sofia_bulgaria_travel_0081sofia_bulgaria_travel_0082sofia_bulgaria_travel_0083sofia_bulgaria_travel_0084On our way out of the city I grabbed one last single shot of the Vitosha mountain…sofia_bulgaria_travel_0085And, at Dane’s request, one of Fantasticko (the beauty of a grocery store that we frequented).sofia_bulgaria_travel_0086To say that I was impressed with Sofia would be an understatement (as you can probably tell by the detailed play-by-play I gave). I could live there easily. But all good things must come to an end and we were soon on our way to Macedonia!

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