From tourist friendly Turkey and Greece, Bulgaria came as somewhat a shock for us. English is not widely spoken, the hotel didn’t have the usual spiel of where to go and what to do nor did they have maps of the town. What a challenge – we were truely on our own.
We had been spoilt in Turkey, finding one of many travel agents who could put together a 20 day tour in three hours. The local travel agent in Sophia was aghast that we came unplanned.
In spite of all this, we managed to walk the city and do a day tour to Rila and the Boyana Church.
Rila has a monastery which symbolisies the essence of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. It is a beautiful site, set in a long narrow valley. Spring with it’s brilliant, young, overflowing green is a wonderful time to visit.
The frescoes in the church at Rila are outstanding – colourful and expressive with the typical stories of good conquering evil. The massive monastery of white and red bricks, with the mountainous backdrops, is stunning.
The other stop was at the Boyana Church, with its 12th century frescoes. They are famous for showing the style taht was to become the European renaissance style.
Sophia, like much of Bulgaria is a mixture of preserved European architecture and the harsh soviet era’s practical buildings. The Alexander Nevski Church with it’s golden domes is outstanding. The soviet monument near the National Palace of Culture is ugly to the extreme.
I will remember Sophia for the amazing food we found. Perhaps a change from Turkish and Greek food was welcome, however the quality and flavour were outstanding.