So, I decided a while ago I wanted to go somewhere different. Somewhere really different.
I have a friend who is from Bulgaria and he suggested that I should go there. I kinda brushed it off but it was in the back of my mind.
What decided it for me was when I saw Ryanair was opening a new route to Sofia. I decided that I would book a flight and go.
I was told that whilst Sofia was good, it wasn’t the best place to visit. I didn’t listen to the nay-sayers and they were kind of right.
Sofia was good, but Plovdiv was better.
I decided to book a couple of tours for when I was there. I used Traventuria and they were OK. Nothing more than OK.
I decided to do Rila Monastery as a friend suggested this was one place to go.
I also decided that on the last day I would visit Plovdiv.
More about my trip below.
This was the first full day of my trip here and I went here as it was suggested by a friend that it would be a good place to visit.
I had a look at some pictures and it looked stunning. I decided that it was somewhere I wanted to go to visit.
I booked through Traventuria (I wouldn’t if you can help it). I paid a €5 fee to get picked up at the hostel rather than the pick up point (I thought it easier as my Cyrillic alphabet reading isn’t as good as it should be [OK – it’s not anywhere at all!])
I had to make my own way back to the hostel as they only drop off in the city centre (Don’t even get me started).
The guide talked for about a whole hour the entire day – not worth the fee paid. Do it yourself if you go!
The weather was not on our side and it was raining on and off when we were there.
The monastery itself – it is for sure worth a visit. It’s about 80 miles south of Sofia so plan for at least half a day there.
The monastery itself dates from around 900AD and is named after the founder – Ivan of Rila.
There is a chapel on site and this is very colourful and ornate. The outside of the chapel is just as ornate and colourful.
After we were done here, we headed for some quick lunch and then headed to Boyana Church.
The church itself has a 10 BGN entrance fee.
For me, it isn’t something worth visiting. Sure, it has some fresco’s dating back from around 1300 (perhaps earlier), but not something worth visiting. I don’t know if it was the weather or if it was just plain boring to visit.
Anyway, below are some pictures from Rila/Boyana.
View all of my pictures from Rila/Boyana here
I decided that if I was in Sophia I should at least visit.
I decided to do a free walking tour and I headed out to get some breakfast and to get the tram. I hopped on the tram and stopped and had some breakfast at McDonald’s whilst I waited for the tour.
The company I used was the Free Sofia Walking Tour. If you decided to do this, then this is the company to use. The guide was very knowledgeable and kept the group engaged in the tour.
Whilst it was only a couple of hours long, it was long enough to get a brief overview of the city.
The guide talked about how old the city and country were. There were ancient ruins underneath the city that were on display and you could see how the level of the city had risen over the centuries. It really was quite interesting.
One of the places he pointed out to us was the ‘Square of Tolerance’. There is a different religious building on each corner. 1 corner was an Orthodox Christian Church (Sveta Nedelya), 1 corner was a Catholic Church (Cathedral of Saint Joseph), 1 corner was a Synagogue (Sofia Synagogue) and the other corner was the only working Mosque in Sofia (Banya Bashi Mosque).
He took us to a part of the city that has some taps that provide free water for the city. The water runs at 37C all year round. It is fresh water and it tasted not too bad.
We then went to the Communist part of the city and you could tell it was so. Wide street and high buildings.
After the tour was over, I decided to go tram surfing (as you do) and I was super proud that I was able to navigate the trams in Cyrillic. I did my usual of heading out to the suburbs. I didn’t do much sightseeing in the suburbs as I was short on time.
I then headed back to the hostel as I was tired and hungry. I then decided to get on a tram to find food – which I didn’t and I ended up some 7 miles outside of the city in the dark. Adventurous and scary at the same time!
Below are some pictures from the day.
View all of my pictures from Sofia here
The last day I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I didn’t have to be at the airport until late evening and I didn’t want to sit around doing nothing.
I decided that I would go to Plovdiv as I was informed this is a must see.
I again booked through Traventuria and it was a smaller group this time. There were 8 of us in total.
The guide kept us well informed throughout the entire trip – although on the drive there and back I fell asleep.
Once we got to Plovdiv, she walked with us and pointed out the must see’s and do’s. We walked around for about 2 hours and then had about an hour of free time before we needed to head to the Bachkovo Monastery.
It was such a nice day and I think that made the trip even better. It is hard to describe the beauty of Plovdiv without you actually going there to see it – so I won’t even try as I won’t do it justice!
Plovdiv is for sure a must see. Cobbled streets and old buildings. A recipe for a good time!
After we were done in Plovdiv, we headed to Bachkovo Monastery. It was about a 30 minute drive from Plovdiv.
The monastery itself was ok. It was not as ornate as Rila. Still, it was ornate enough. We were here for about an hour. If you are in Plovdiv, then it is worth visiting but it’s not somewhere I would make a special trip for.
View all of my pictures from Plovdiv/Bachkovo here