A Stay in Sofia

So what do you do when flights to Greece are ridiculously expensive? You fly to Sofia and take the bus. Already mentioned that of course, but thought I’d say it again. I love Google Flights, gives good info on cheaper options in other cities nearby. And in Europe, it’s not too hard to get from place to place.

Anyhow, my night was restless. The hostel I was in mistakenly booked me in a mixed room even though I’d requested an all female one. Not a big deal for me in the long run, but somehow I managed to be paired with this guy who had the loudest and noisiest sleep I have ever heard in all my life. And I had earplugs in. As I always do in hostels today.

It was like something between and a moan and a yell and a scream. Good lord, just such a ridiculous noise that made it very hard to sleep. And made my awakening in the morning all the worse when I had to get up at 5:15.

I threw on clothes as quietly as I could and grabbed my stuff. Headed out of the hostel and down to the train station where I caught my shuttle to the Brussels Charleroi Airport.

After 45 minutes we got there, I headed in praying that my bag would be small enough.

I was flying Wizz Air. And while they had cheap airline prices, their baggage prices were disturbing. Basically you can take something that fits under the seat for free, and otherwise you have to pay. So I packed a backpack, praying that no one would question it. Honestly, some days it’s hit or miss with the airport.

I watched the lady behind the desk force people to jam their baggage into the sizers and worried that I was going to have to pay…probably more now that I was at the airport itself.

Thankfully the lady who checked me in didn’t glance twice at my clearly a little too big backpack. She wrapped a checked sticker around it and sent me through the gate.

I had an overpriced coffee and some breakfast items before I headed over to go through passport control. And then it was just waiting. Waiting in the seating area. Waiting in the line. Waiting to get on the plane. Waiting for everyone to be seated. My word, got to love flying.

I arrived at Sofia around 12:30. I figured that would give me plenty of time to enjoy the city for a day. I always forget that I hate flying for a reason.

Sure…in the long run you might spend an hour on a plane versus 5 hours on a train or a bus. However, you have to get to the airport (minus an hour), you need time to go through security (minus at least 2 hours) and then the flight time, and then when you arrive you might get to do customs again (minus an hour), figure out new transportation systems (minus 30 minutes) and then get into the city itself (since airports on the fringe… minus 30 minutes).

So yup I wasted a lot of my time flying sadly. Hence why I arrived in Sofia around 2 after going through the long passport control lines, searching vainly for a working ATM, trying to figure out where to buy bus tickets only to give up and take a shuttle over to the other airport terminal so I could take the metro.

I will say, Sofia Terminal 1 is a disaster. Messy and old and gross. The second terminal seems more cleaned up and it also does have a metro line attached making for easy transfers to the city (honestly I avoid buses if I can…they’re just too confusing sometimes!).


I arrived at my hostel called Hostel Mostel around 2 and checked in. They were super welcoming, offering me tea and coffee and then sitting me down to walk me through the things to do and see in the city, what times breakfast and dinner were, the free tours and pub crawls, and restaurant recommendations. Super sweet and helpful, especially after a long and tiring morning.


After a little bit of relaxing I headed out to see a bit more of the city. I had initially wanted to do the Boyana Church, a UNESCO site slightly outside of the city center. With a little more time I also would have loved to get up to the Rila Monastery, another famous place located a ways outside of Sofia.

However, with the limited time I had, especially thanks to the long transfers from the airport, I ended up having to cut down on my list of things I wanted to do even more than I initially had thought I would.

So I set out to just walk around a bit. I knew I probably would have time to make it to museums, but honestly I was just weary and worried I wouldn’t pay that much attention anyways. So I walked over to the large parks and the theatre that were very pretty with flowers and fountains and some memorials to those killed under communism and such.


It began raining shortly after that, so I ducked into a grocery store to buy some snacks. I ate some of those walking back to my hostel where I spent a little time hiding from the rain.

After that I headed over to the palace of justice where I knew a free tour would take off from. I’m not plugging these for the millionth time, so if you’re curious just read earlier posts and you’ll know my opinion on these.

Our local Bulgarian guide led us around some of the main parts of the old town, showing us the ancient ruins of Serdica, and the old churches and monuments. Even where locals still get water from the natural hot springs, and walked us right past the presidency during the changing of the guard! All in all I was pretty pleased and felt like I had a nice overview of the city in a short time.


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After the tour finished I asked for a restaurant recommendation. It was almost eight, so I was hoping restaurants would begin clearing out a bit after the busy times and I could easily get a table.

He pointed me in the direction of something he liked and I headed towards it.

I am not sure exactly what happened, but the place I found that matched his directions looked…empty? Like I followed the signs to the “restaurant” and went in a back door of a building but couldn’t find anything there? And no sign of a menu posted either, so I abandoned that pursuit.

Anyhow, I followed my hostels directions to another place that was supposed to be good for their Bulgarian cuisine. The waitress who greeted me told me that they were full until after 10. As I had no desire to wait that long I thanked her and was on my way.

The only other Bulgarian place the hostel had recommended me was a mile walk, and I was worried they’d be full too.

See I’d forgotten something about the weekend. It was the day before May 1st.

Now Americans are likely scratching their heads and going “May Day”?

No, labor day. Well the European one at least. Meaning lots of people have the day off work and are free to travel, especially since it fell on a weekend (well three day weekend) this year.

So restaurants were crowded. I walked down Vitosha Boulevard, a famous main street looking at the restaurants. Most weren’t even Bulgarian food, but most looked crowded and again there weren’t menus to check for options and prices.

I checked another Bulgarian place and they told me they were full completely for the night. The couple ahead of me made a reservation for the next day. Just completely insane.

So in desperation to get a warm meal I ended up peaking into an Italian place that didn’t look overly crowded.

I had a Bulgarian beer and a bowl of mushroom risotto. It wasn’t anything fancy or special, but sometimes you just have to eat.

I left around 9:30 and headed back to my hostel for the night.

A Brief Stay in Brussels

What’s up! So if you read my previous post you have some idea of my itinerary but for any who didn’t I’m making my way down to Greece with a few detours on the way. Brussels was the first of my detours.

I’ve covered this in other posts but I’ll say it again. The good news is in Europe if your local airport has no cheap or convenient flight options it’s not that hard or expensive to get transport to another nearby city and fly out of there! Which is why rather than just flying out of Lille I opted to head to Brussels.

Now normally when I fly from this city I just take the shuttle directly from Lille to the airport. Quite easy all in all.

However in order to make my flight which was at 9 in the morning… I would have to either stay in Lille or find another flight. Because there aren’t trains from my town down to Lille so early in the morning, especially on Sunday.

So since I had lived on the Belgian border for a year and had still not been to see Brussels (other than the airport) I opted to go a day early and stay the night there so I could easily make my flight.

Now I opted to leave my stuff in the boarding school I was living in. After all, it would have been expensive not to mention annoying having to drag a year’s worth of stuff all over Europe.

With a backpack in hand I set out by train to Brussels.

I arrived to find it sunny and beautiful. I checked into my hostel a bit early before heading out.

I’d opted to stay in BRXXL5 a modern hostel close to the station. It was a bit over my normal budget, but I figured it was worth a little extra sleep. All in all the place was nice. Clean and modern. You could buy breakfast but I was leaving too early. My only issue is that they put me in a mixed room instead of an all female one like I paid for, but by the time I’d realized the mistake I had already left.

Anyhow after leaving my things I took off for the museums I wanted to see.

I started with the fine arts museum. It is essentially a collection of four different periods all in one giant building. You can pick one in particular or you can buy a joint ticket and see all four. I opted for the joint, especially since it was only 3 euros for people under 25!!!

All in all it was a pretty impressive collection, a maze of different rooms to wander through including 8 basement floors filled with works from the 18 and 1900s.

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After spending almost 2 hours there I opted to cut out and head over to the Musical Instrument Museum a block away.

The museum was quite fun. There weren’t a lot of signs in English but mostly it was just interesting to see the instruments themselves and also listen! They provided audio guides that would play music for you when you wanted to know what a particular instrument sounded like!

It was a very interesting collection and housed in a gorgeous building too. Definitely worth checking out.


I walked over to the palace and the large park beside it. Snapped a few photos before going over to the Mont des Arts and then walking down the hill towards the Grand Place.


It’s a UNESCO heritage sight so I figured it might be worth checking out on my trip. I didn’t plan to spend a long time, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to do a little bit of typical tourist sightseeing.

I dropped by and snapped a few photos before heading off towards another equally famous sight. The Manneken Pis, the ridiculous statue that has ended up becoming a symbol of the city.


Oh my goodness it was so absurdly crowded around the statue it wasn’t even funny. I snapped my photo and ran, not wanting anything to do with such awful crowds.

I headed back to my hostel to ask for a dinner recommendation. Now I will clarify I did ask for something close, and being a hostel sometimes they do tend to assume it should be something budget. So I was recommended a group of fastfood places a few blocks from the hostel.

One was a Thai place called Thai Wok. And as I was pretty hungry and didn’t mind something cheap, I figured I’d go there. Honestly, from what I’ve seen Belgium doesn’t seem to have a huge sense of their own cuisine, so yes most times when I’m there I’ve had Asian food. Now yes, I bet there are fantastic Belgian restaurants in Brussels if you’re looking, but honestly I just needed food.

So yup settled for cheap Asian. It was decent, nothing special, and definitely lacking the flavor of most American Asian dishes.

I walked a bit more, grabbed a waffle for fun (even though my Belgian friend assures me they are tourist food only) and then headed back to my hostel for an early night. After all, I had a really early morning coming so I wanted sleep.


So that was it for me! My great Brussels adventure! Maybe someday I’ll come back to see more, but for a day I felt like I saw some highlights and enjoyed the beauty and history and culture the city had to offer.

The Greek- Or Not So Greek- Adventure

Technically my Inspirock lists my trip as 13 days in “Europe” since it can’t quite seem to figure out what region I’m really going to, so it is possible Greek Adventure isn’t the best title for this collection, but I really don’t care. There’s not much more I can think to add. The Odyssey? To be honest, I am headed home after a long time away so that might be more accurate.


Yes, my year in Europe has drawn to a close, so this is sort of a last hurrah before I head off. Sad to say I only have a little less than two weeks. I wish I’d given myself more, but when I booked the ticket I wasn’t sure how much time or motivation I’d have to travel. Today I’m much less afraid than I used to be. So if I had been given more time to travel I would have taken it.

Nonetheless, here is a little about what you can expect in the upcoming posts.

So, to begin with even though I’ve lived right beside Belgium for most of the year, I have not visited Belgium’s capital. So I decided to begin the journey in Brussels! Well, that was part of the decision…it was also that my flight that morning left at 9 AM, which wasn’t ideal for coming from Lille. So instead it would be easier to just stay the night there before flying out.

Now in terms of flying down to Greece, it really just became a price game. And the cheapest flight down there… Sofia.

Which isn’t Greece… it’s Bulgaria.

So yes, I’m going to spend a night in Bulgaria as well to help cut the costs a bit and see a bit more of Europe.

From there I take a bus down to Thessaloniki for a night to see a little of Greece’s second biggest city.

And then I’ll fly out to what I was told I had to see in Greece, which was the islands.

Now yes, there are ferries to and from the islands. However, I never found any that were reasonably priced, and from reading online it sounds like those that are maybe take quite a bit of time. Again, something to look into if you’re going to Greece.

So for me the smartest, and actually cheapest option was to fly. Sounds a bit unbelievable but it is true.

So a flight down to Crete where I would spend two nights and then a ferry (yes a splurge) over to Santorini for two nights before flying to Athens for two nights. Then I would fly back to Brussels, catch a train over to Lille to grab my stuff and spend one final night in the Internat (boarding school) before I headed off to Paris where I’d spend one night before my flight. So yes, you can see why this trip is “13 days in Europe” instead of the neat Greek Adventure I wanted.

It’s going to be a bit crazy but with some luck everything should be great and I’ll have a fantastic time!

(To avoid feeling deceptive I’ll admit this post was written months ago and I ran out of time to post before I left…so yes all of these adventures have already happened even if they are written in a way that sounds in the moment).