Category Archives: Sofia

Sofia, my first bulgarian destination

sofia1Sofia, the bulgarian capital city, is one of the oldest cities in Europe with ruins spread across the city center. It has a unique combination of ancient remains, European and Communist-style architecture, together with many beautiful orthodox churches. The city claims to be one of the few European capitals with a very close and developed ski-resort (Vitosha mountain).

Below are listed my budget tips:

sofia9Where to sleep? Hostel Mostel is my favorite option, friendly staff, international environment, nice and tidy rooms, breakfast and dinner included in the price, good location.

The big common area is ideal to meet other backpackers and travellers. Every night a pub crawl is organized, free of charged, you pay what you drink, no rip-off and fake tour.

sofia Enjoy the free walking tour of the city, is free, only small tips are welcome at the end of the tour.

Starting point is at the corner of the Palace of Justice, everyday at 11.

You will be driven through 6000 years of history by passionate young guides.

Funny thing when I was there a turkish tv chanel was filming the tour.

sofia10 Bulgarian food is available in many restaurants at very convenient prices. Try tarator, a cold soup made of yogurt and cucumber and salads (Shopska is one of the most famous salad in the balkans, made from tomatoes, cucumbers, onion/scallions, raw or roasted peppers, white brine cheese and parsley). Avoid tourist traps in the centre. Usually when the menu is in english is not a good sign…You can get tasty and very cheap bulgarian fast food in bakeries, offering banitsa and other kinds of pastry. This food is often consumed with ayran or boza, drinks that contain yogurt. Another possibility is to get a katma, which is a big pancake filled with cheese, ham, jelly or chocolate.

sofia5Sofia was founded because of the quality of its mineral waters.

In the city alone there are 7 independent mineral water springs.

One of the springs is in the central area of the city and is accessible for everybody, nearby the intersection of Iskar and Ekzarh Yosif streets, where the biggest mosquee is

 

sofia7 Join the Balkan Bites Food Tours, a free food taste tour ( 100% vegetarian!) in some of the more interesting and trendy family owned restaurants that Sofia has to offer and enjoy some traditional Bulgarian  cuisine, while hearing about the some of the history and customs that helped make them become staple foods in Bulgaria, by our trained guides. The tour itself is a walking tour that starts at 2pm everyday (excluding national holidays) at Park Crystal in front of the big head statue of Stefan Stambolov. The duration is about 2 hours and the food that is presented to the participants is free of charge.

What to visit? Ivan Vazov National Theatre; St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral; Orthodox churches; down town. You can visit the city and do things like a local would do, thanks to this project.

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Guess my next destination… 🙂

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Top 10 winter destinations (part 3/3)

sofiaSofia

Why? Sofia is one of the few European capitals with a very close and developed ski-resort (@ Vitosha mountain)

What to do? Enjoy the free walking tour! Starting point – the corner of the Palace of Justice. You should visit the university district in the evening, Students’ town (Studentski grad) is where nightlife reaches the top

Where to sleep? Hostel Mostel has friendly staff, international environment, nice and tidy rooms, breakfast and dinner included in the price, good location

What to try? You can get tasty traditional Bulgarian food in bakeries, offering banitsa and other kinds of pastry. This food is often consumed with ayran or boza. Bulgarian food is delicious and cheap, vegetables, cheese and meat have good quality

tallinnhighTallinn

Why? Its historical and medieval old city part is one of the best preserved in the whole Europe (included in the Unesco heritage’s list). With snow and cold weather is even more ‘authentic’

What to do? Do not miss the Tallinn Free walking tour. This walking tour, guided by local young students, is an alternative to normal sightseeing trips, and is made especially for true travellers. Enjoy Tallinn’s nightlife bear in mind that in local places, beers cost around 3 € while in tourist traps much more…

What to try? Go to Valli baar pub and try ‘millimallikas’ (meaning ‘jellyfish’) shot…everyone visiting Tallinn should try it.

 

welcomezagrebZagreb

Why? Zagreb is the only capital in the world that hosts a Ski World Cup race. The “Snow Queen Trophy” (Snjezna kraljica) usually takes place in January.

What to do? Hike or reach the mountain overlooking Zagreb (Medvednica), there is a fortress (Medvedgrad) and fascinating views of the city, many excellent hiking and biking routes are available. Many bars are located around Flover square (Cvjetni trg), the main square (Trg Bana Josipa Jelačića), Preradovićeva, Tkalčićeva, Radićeva, Bogovićeva, and Gajeva streets

What to try? Local fast food is called burek a salty pie filled with minced meat/cheese/spinach. All bakeries (pekara) serve it, is cheap and delicious. Local balkan style food is cheap and delicious in restaurants too.

Where to sleep? Funk Lounge hostel is the perfect accommodation during your visit to Zagreb. Is a friendly ‘party hostel’, really well-organized and with all the comforts

 

Bulgaria & Romania

Bulgaria

vv 047Sofia, the bulgarian capital city has a unique combination of European, Communist-style architecture and many beautiful orthodox churches. It claims to be one of the few European capitals with a very close and developed ski-resort (Vitosha mountain). Sofia is one of the oldest cities in Europe with ruins spread across the city center. It was founded because of the quality of its mineral waters. In the city alone there are 7 independent mineral water springs. One of the springs is in the central area of the city and is accessible for everybody.

There are only 2 companies that are allowed to service at the airport :”OK Taxi and “91280”. The fare to the city center should be about 10-12 leva. To avoid scam follow this ‘instruction’: ‘When you exit the customs/declarations door, turn to your right. You will see an office for OK Taxis in front of you. They speak English so the best thing is to give the person your destination. They will check it and then print out a slip with your taxi number on it. This saves having to explain to the taxi driver!’

sofiaortodWhat to visit? Ivan Vazov National Theatre; St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral; Orthodox churches; down town

Enjoy the free walking tour! Starting point – the corner of the Palace of Justice

Where to sleep? Hostel Mostel is my favorite option, friendly staff, international environment, nice and tidy rooms, breakfast and dinner included in the price, good location

Eat on budget? You can get tasty traditional Bulgarian food in bakeries, offering banitsa and other kinds of pastry. This food is often consumed with ayran or boza. Another possibility is to get a katma, which is a big pancake filled with cheese, ham, jelly or chocolate

Nightlife and fun? Defenetly you should visit the university district in the evening, Students’ town (Studentski grad) is in the southern part of the city and can be reached by buses #94 (from Sofia university and Culture palace), #280 (from Sofia University, Orlov most) and #102. The last bus to Studentski grad departs from the city center at about 11.30 PM (from Sofia University and Culture Palace).

Fancy football? If you are lucky to be in town when Levsky Sofia and CSKA Sofia are playing the city derby is a chance to not miss for the warm atmosphere at the stadium

Festivals and Events

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Sofia Film Festival (March); Sofia Design Week (in June) A to JazZ Festival open air festival held annually in Doktorska garden, 6 Shipka Str. It is open air and free (at the end of June)Water Tower Art Fest – festival for contemporary arts and culture in Bulgaria (in June); International Folklore Festival – local and foreign dance folklore ensembles (in July); ON! Fest is gathering the most interesting from the modern urban art, entertainment, sport and lifestyle: music, dances, graffiti, parkour, technology, games, japanese culture, urban and extreme sports and parites (in September); Da Fest – an international digital art festival, organized by the National Academy of Art, Sofia including exhibition, performances, film screenings, workshops, and lectures. (in September); Sofia Dance Week – international festival for contemporary dance. The program consists of performances from Europe, Asia and America representative for different trends in the contemporary dance scene. The parallel program consists of workshops, ateliers, open air events, lectures, projections and discussions, as well as a special kids module with performances and workshops. (in October); Sofia Contemporary – Sofia Contemporary presents diverse artistic means, traditional and new media, urban and interior spaces for and with art. The festival discusses various attitudes to the problems of our time, territory, gender, social and political frustrations as well as affiliations. Challenges Days – three day festival dedicated to the extreme sports and adventures.It is organized by a large community of mountaineering, speleology, biking sport clubs and outdoor shops and travel professionals and photographers. (in November); Sofia Architecture Week – international festival for architecture, a week-long meeting and idea exchange platform for architecture, interior design, landscape and urban environment. Many exhibition open to the general public and with free entrance, presentations, workshops, screenings and urban interventions. Every year Sofia Architecture Week focuses on a specific topic. (last week of November and beginning of December)

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plovdivromantheatrePlovdiv is the second-largest city in Bulgaria, and one of the oldest cities in Europe, with a history traced back to more than 8000 years. It was formerly known as Philipopolis, from Philip, father of Alexander the Great. Originally it had seven tall hills. Plovdiv is located in the large plain between the Rhodope Mountains in the south of Bulgaria and the Balkan Range, or Old Mountains (Stara Planina) that runs through the center of Bulgaria. Both ranges are visible on clear days. The Maritsa River flows through the city.

Stay at Hostel Mostel, a tipical balkan house with friendly staff and good location. Breakfast and dinner are included in the price

Eat on budget? You can get tasty traditional Bulgarian food in bakeries, offering banitsa and other kinds of pastry. However local restaurants offer very good quality food at good value. Try bulgarian cheese, meat and vegetables.

oldplovdiv3Take a free walking tour to discover this nice city.

The old Plovdiv is compact and walkable, it was walled, and has a famous gateway entrance. Nearby Puldin Restaurant has subterranean rooms where the old wall and historic artifacts can be seen.

The nearby Roman Amphitheater, discovered in the 1970’s during a construction project, is part of the pedestrian zone. Wander the cobblestone streets near the downtown to find the centuries old St. Marina church with a unique wooden tower, a mosque from the Ottoman Empire, and on the nearby hill the old town center

In the new center of the city, right before you go up into the old city, you will see the “Roman stadium”.

There is a good collection of Bulgarian revival buildings in use as museums, hotels, and restaurants etc. and is worth a visit if you have chance (pictures below).

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2013-04-21 12.22.02In summer take a sunny break and have fun, Varna is the biggest city on the Black sea coast, is an business and university centre. Best way to discover the city is to join the Free Varna Tour, every day at 11 in front of the Cathedral. Nearby Varna:

-Golden Sands Resort is 17 km north from downtown Varna.
-Sveti Konstantin and Helena is 10 km north from downtown Varna – it is a small, but peaceful and very green resort. Many nice hotels offer mineral water SPA services, due to the abundance of hot mineral springs all over the area.
-Albena, 30 km north from Varna. An old style resort, with an architecture from the Communist times. Peaceful area though.
– Pasha Dere, Shkorpilovtsi, Karadere, Irakli…wild beaches south of town
– Kavarna (Каварна) is 60 km away north. It holds the Kavarna Rock Fest in early July, the largest rock event in the Balkans and Black Sea region.
– Cape Kaliakra, the longest cape in Bulgaria. Stunning views to the sea and the red cliffs. A place with rich history and many legends. Worth visiting. 80 km away, north.
– Kamen Bryag (Камен бряг, literally: Rocky Coast) village has been popular among Bulgarian hippies; 82 km away (north)

Sozopol and Nesebar are beautiful and well organized seaside towns

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sunset

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Romania

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Constanta is the second most important city in the country and, during summer, a beautiful touristic city.

Constanta was founded by the Greeks as a colony almost 2600 years ago, is the oldest attested city in Romania, the biggest port at the Black Sea (third largest in Europe). The city was renamed later after Constantina, niece of Constantine the Great.

One of its symbol is the old Casino, built in the Art Nouveau style and conceived by two architects, Petre Antonescu and Daniel Renard (of Swiss extraction but born in Romania). Despite being in a state of disrepair nowadays, it can be visited for free.

2013-04-19 11.58.48 During the good season the best thing to do is to sunbath or swim in the Black Sea and walk along the coast.

There is a large beach called Modern right in the middle of the city, which is favored by locals and is near the marina, however the most significant beaches are in the Mamaia resort which is in the north part of Constanta. It consists of about 6-7 kilometers of sandy beaches.

It’s also full of hotels, clubs and bars and extremely popular and fashionable in the summer.

Not far from Constanta there is a small village called Vama Veche, close to the Bulgarian border is a former hippie/bohemian beach village turned into a commercial venture over the years but still one of the few places on the Romanian coast where camping is still hip (although in recent years there have been agents patrolling the beaches asking for a 10 lei fee from people they find at the tent).

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