Sofia(Part Two)- The rest of the best

So a bit, back to normal guys !

Paloma is hiding from the heat, in the infamous ‘Ivan’s Backyard’- if your looking for a camperstop within a couple of hundred meters of the metro into the centre, this is it ! (N42.743137 E23.285737)

Having read the reviews I had let’s say low expectations, but with a real pull to come and see the city, we were willing to rough it…….

Promised what was likened by one person we meet as a scrapyard, you can imagine our pleasant surprise when we arrive to this …..,,


Not a scrap yard insight, meet by the ever helpful Ivan at the gate,shown to a hard standing pitch, given info on water,chemical emptying and the onsite toilet facilities and to top it off a map of the local metro marked with the important stations – Perfect !

The site is a couple of hundred meters walk to the metro, next great surprise only opened in 1998, it was like new clean,tidy and on time !


Now we were impressed by the quality of the metro in Budapest, but this is something else. A single journey cost only 1.60 lev (about 75p).

Planned since the 1960s, construction of the Metro was not officially launched until the late 1990s mainly the stalled construction was due to lack of sufficient funding. 

Another factor was the depth at which the construction works had to be carried out: being one of the oldest cities in Europe, Sofia contains many historical layers underneath its centre.

Evidence of antiquity can be clearly seen at the Serdika Station which exhibits a wealth of unearthed Thracian and Roman ruins and modern architecture. 

Once we reach the centre, we set off to join the free Sofia walking tour, having had such a good tour in VT a couple of weeks back, it made great sense to get a feel of this city.

It’s worth noting at this point that Sofia isn’t a very touristy city, the main sites are all round you, but not really signposted.

We meet  outside the palace on justice , next to the big lions (you will see them!) Look for the crowd of people and the guide’s holding ‘Free Sofia Tour‘ boards. All of the guides are very friendly and will come and introduce themselves to you.


As it was a massive group of around 60 people and more than one guide, they will split everyone into smaller groups by the ‘Moses’ technique, a bit like the parting of the Red Sea!- a great ice breaker that instantly got people smiling.

We set off with Desri, a local economist turned tour guide, born in the city, having lived here her whole life, we were in for a real treat.

After a brief history of Bulgaria we were off and walking…..

On the tour, we walk towards Church Saint Sunday. 


It is a Bulgarian Orthodox Christian Church. Every Orthodox Country has it’s own style of church and each has a slightly different architecture . Bulgarian orthodox churches tend to be shorter and simpler on the outside and  vastly elaborate inside.

But this is no simple church !

The story behind this Church. In 1925, Bulgaria was still a monarchy, but the then illegal communist party was trying to take over! 

After the assassination of a high ranking minister, it was known that the Tasr would have to attend the funeral, so The Dome of this Church was rigged with explosives in attempt to assassinate him.

 However, the Tsar wasn’t in the Church at the time it exploded, he was attending another funeral 

Typical Bulgarian, He was late!!!! – so next time your running late, no excuses about oversleeping etc, just say it may have saved your life !

Next up on the list is, the statue of Saint Sofia.


 the beautiful, but contradictory figure! Saint Sofia is beautiful and carrying Pagan symbols from Roman goddesses – slightly offensive to the Christian, and more amazingly see has nothing to do with the city being named Sofia. The status was only placed here after the fall of communism and the removal of the huge statue of Lenin.

A Mosque, a Catholic Church, an Orthodox Church and a Synagogue are all within a few minutes walk of each other in center of a city – it can’t be !

Well here I stand in the Square of Tolerance.

Under the Ottoman Empire, citizens who weren’t Muslim were taxed more heavily than those who were. But people were allowed to follow the religion they wanted as long as they constructed their own temples. It’s amazing when you think how many wars are fought over differing religion, that we are surround by great examples of each church/temple.


During WW2, Bulgaria was on the side of the axis.  Part of the deal was that all Jews would be shipped out to the death camps. But The Bulgarian Tsar wanted to save Jewish Population of Bulgaria because the public found out what was going to happen.

Now, the Bulgaria new couldn’t simply say no to Hitler, or lie to him on the whereabouts of the Bulgarian Jews. Instead, they took up the law that allowed the Jews to work on public project unpaid, they managed to continually delayed sending them to Hitler, dreaming up one project after another, until the end of the war- no Jews were shippped out of Bulgaria.

Through the largo( see blog part one) 


Onto the presidential place, to catch the changing of the guard.


Then though the park past the epic fountain in the shape of a love heart…..


Which is right in front of the national theratre


Just before the end, the national symbol


Why, not really sure, as it turns out that no evidence exists that they roamed the country, so the only guess is they choose it because it’s the most powerful animal ?

The beautiful Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is the finale of the Free Sofia Waking Tour, and rightly so! The stunning gold domes are evidence of more of a Russian influence, as most Bulgarian Orthodox Church as plainer on the exterior. It is named after Alexander Nevski himself, who was a Russian Tsar who saved Russia from invading Swedish troops in 1240- good job we were on a tour as we had never heard of him !


It is currently one of the largest Orthodox Cathedral in Eastern Europe, only Belgrade has one bigger!

Contrary to popular belief, the Alexander Nevski Cathedral is not the most important Church in Sofia, the Sofia Church opposite is, because this Church is the one that gave Sofia it’s name.

To,d you the statue of the pretty lady was important to the city !

Having just spent two hour walking in the baking heat, we needed beer ! , so we headed off to the market in search of a bit of local food and beer, cue the so called ‘Woman’s market’.

The Women’s Market became an iconic place for the 1990s post-socialist city. 


As informal trade exploded with the massive collapse of employment, the Women’s Market became a natural main hub and even a symbol for the new era. 

At that time it was attracting a daily pedestrian flow equivalent to 1/5th of the city’s population.

 The dynamic area motivated all kinds of entrepreneurs to set up shop here, including recent Chinese and Arab immigrants looking for business opportunities. 


probably the most popular market in Sofia that sells all manner of goods – and not women’s items alone. There is a large variety of fruit, vegetables, cheese and other edible delights to be had. 

A great way to end the day …….


At 2 lev a bottle ……

Paul.

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