Monday, 19 October 2015

Sofia (Bulgaria): Basking in Quiet Solitude

The most significant leg of our journey this summer was complete: I had partaken in my bestie's nuptials. Next, the Irish chef and I took an overnight train to Sofia, Bulgaria. This journey was our least researched and was meant to be our most relaxing, and that it was. Due to the, once again, overwhelming heat (we were informed-again-that we were visiting during a heat wave), it was more difficult to walk around and discover the city. The train journey was really interesting to us because we saw a lot of people heading to northern Greece and when we witnessed a man hit a woman across the head, it took A LOT of willpower NOT to do something as we were both infuriated, but were very well aware that this wasn't "home" and so we held our ground. People were pushing, shoving and trying to get on without tickets and part of me wondered if there was a mad dash of Greeks going into Bulgaria.

If we had assumed that Bulgarians would be waiting for us with open arms when we arrived, then we would have been sorely disappointed. Luckily, we weren't holding our breath. When we arrived, we immediately struggled with getting help and finding a currency exchange location and then finding a taxi. After an amazing couple-students-helped us out, we were finally on our way. The things we discovered about Bulgaria were that it's not a major tourist destination (which was more than OK with us!), many people don't speak any English (no biggie, really), and it can be either very expensive, or very reasonable (we spent days spending waaay to much or almost nothing at all). While Greece had been lively, Sofia was a bit quieter and we reveled in the noiseless tranquility. Bulgaria was a place where we could just be with each other. We spent many hours talking, walking, reading, playing games and eating...Oh, the eating never ended!!! It felt great to simply exist somewhere completely foreign with the Irish chef because we're always up for anything!

 This was where we had our official first dinner "out"! Siesta's located IN Yuzhen Park and was SOOO good we went back again :)
 A sturdy wood cabin ambiance
 It felt very Eastern European!
 Mmmm! Potatoes covered with a generous amount of cheese!!! AMAZING!
 The Irish chef's dinner: chicken fantasy. Sooo, it makes all of your fantasies come true?!?
Just in case you didn't believe that it's actually called Chicken Fantasy.
 Mmmm, crab friend in BUTTER!
 I'm not sure what the "erotic banana" is, but you all know me well enough to know I was darn curious!!!
 What do the meatballs have to be nervous about???

Visit #2
 MORE cheesy potatoes!!!
 Dill was a popular spice in Bulgaria, and I LOVE me some dill AND I loved these roasted dill potatoes!!!
 This is the Bulgarian version of chicken teriyaki :)
 Bulgarian "garlic bread" which was warm, chewy and VERY potent!!! It was awesome!!!!

Although the heat kept us indoors during the afternoons, we still managed to get out and walk! When we ventured out, we saw and experienced some pretty cool and unexpected things!

 Looking at the mountains!!!
 Ooooh, look at what we found!!!
 The shopkeeper looked unimpressed with me as I snapped pictures, but whatever. I know I'm not a chocolate lover, but for those of you who are, ENJOY!!!
 Everything on this shelf is available in Canada, but...
 These truffles, as far as I know, are not!!!
There was a DELICIOUS coconut one in here! Sooo good!!!
 Mine or the Irish chef's?!? His ;)
 Another surprise find and one that the Irish chef was just as happy to find :D
 The impressive spread in the window display-Part I
 The impressive spread in the window display-Part II
  The impressive spread in the window display-Part III. See the Japanese whiskey on the far right???
 Very cool: Japanese collectibles!

Vitosha Boulevard: The pedestrian walkway

Sadebna Palata, the Sofia Courthouse:

Cathedral Church Sveta Nedelya: This place was GORGEOUS!!!

 Scroll back up to the pedestrian walkway; you can see the domed roof of the cathedral at the end of Vitosha Boulevard!
Sooo pretty!

The Statue of Saint Sofia:

She beautifully stands tall and proud over the city! What I learned about her was that there's some controversy surrounding either the choice of architect or her erotic and/or pagan nature. I think she's stunning! The wreath she holds represents fame, the crown a symbol of power and the owl is meant to display wisdom. LOVE the GIRL POWER!!!
The impressive construction was (apparently) erected in 2000 and replaced a statue of Lenin!

And MORE architecture:

Structures were like a cross between Eastern European buildings and French ones!

France or Bulgaria??? ;)

Beautiful weather! Beautiful sights!!
Street vendors selling homemade paintings of religious art that was gorgeous! The golden halos shimmered and shone in the sunlight!!!

Unfortunately, we interacted very little with Bulgarians. However, those who we met (the young couple we met at the train station, our taxi cab driver who drove us to our hotel and to the airport, and the waitress at Siesta), were incredibly kind!!! I can understand why the country wants to preserve it's culture and way of life and even if that is not common with Canada's current climate, I respect their candor, strength and determination to maintain tradition. I don't know that we'll rush back any time soon, but I will never forget it and it will always have a special place in my heart because of the views (GORGEOUS mountains!), the food (as if you didn't know that was coming!), and the sunshine!!! Thank you, Bulgaria!!! We thank you for letting us visit and we wish you all the best!!! xo