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!).

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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.

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