Bulgaria: day of tours

Saturday

We got up early so that we could enjoy our free breakfast at the hostel, which included cereal, waffles, fruit, toast, cheese, scrambled egg, tomato, olives, yogurt, tea and coffee.

During breakfast we spoke to two French people, then went to the meeting point of the free walking tour: court house. There were loads of people wanting to do the tour so we split up into two groups. The tour was amazing: seeing lots of sights, interacting with the leader, doing role play, giving out prizes, hearing about the history, showing unusual parts of the city and understanding the culture. The sightseeing highlights were:
– The mineral springs and baths (hot water coming out of taps in the middle of the street: people were filling large bottles as they believe it would give them luck)
– The mosque
– The synagogue
– Statue of St. Sophia
– Court of justice
– Different churches
– National theatre
– Houses of Parliament
– National Assembly

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Once the tour had finished, we went inside the famous Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, which was dark, full of gold sculptures, large chandeliers and candles.

After a well deserved rest in a park, we met up with a tour guide to take us on a free walking tour. Yes, you read FREE. (We were surprised too!) It’s with a tour called ‘Balkan bites’.

Balkan Bites is an attempt at providing travelers to Sofia with the first free daily food tour in Europe and maybe the world. The idea is to take a tour of some of the more interesting and trendy family owned restaurants that Sofia has to offer and enjoy some traditional Bulgarian cuisine, while hearing about some of the history and customs that helped make them became staple foods in Bulgaria, by their trained guides.

The first place we walked to was a soup and sandwich place, where were were given a cup of cold yogurt, cucumber and dill soup. It was really interesting and not my cup of tea. The funniest thing was that my friend went to get us some and accidentally dropped the whole try of soup on top of her. I couldn’t stop laughing. Luckily, you couldn’t see it but she smelt like yogurt for the rest of the day.

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Next we strolled to a little bakery, where we tasted some traditional warm pastries filled with cheese. These were actually amazing and so cheap. After, we went to a vegetarian place, where we tried out some homemade bread and different dips. They used traditional ingredients like pepper, tomatoes, aubergines. As we were here quite a while in the cold, we were offered some hot tea.

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The last place we walked to was a Bulgarian restaurant, where we sat downstairs on a long wooden table, which had already been prepared for us. Here we had a rakkie shot and bread nibbles with different tomato and cheese spreads on them.

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While being on the tour, we met two English girls who met up with later on the pub crawl. After being on our feet all day, we relaxed at our hostel before heading out again.

For dinner, we went to a Bulgarian restaurant that had been recommended to us. We decided to spend out and get loads of different, delicious food: cheese in bread crumbs, cheese stuffed peppers coated with breadcrumbs, vine leaves and a cheese and spinach potato gratin.

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In the evening, we went on a paid pub crawl, which was a slight disappointment. We were the first to arrive and I thought no-one else would come but there were the two a English girls we met earlier, an American couple and two Slovakian guys. First we headed to a standard bar, where we had a mint drink, which tasted like mouth-wash.

Next, we walked to an amazing bar called the apartments, which looked like we were hanging around in someone’s house. There were different rooms like a drawing room (you could write on the wall), a movie screen room, a Buddhist room, kitchen and a few other rooms to relax in. The drinks and food was all home-made and healthy. I had raspberry wine, which was sweet, and a chocolate ball.

As we arrived at the next bar, which looked like a converted barn, our guides realised there was a private party going on where the owners forgot to tell them. Instead we headed to a small, long and narrow, dark place with a long bar along one side. There wasn’t anything spectacular here and I didn’t like the atmosphere. Luckily, we didn’t stay here long before heading to. hostel with a bar and a live band. On route, we were given shots of rakkie (famous Bulgarian shot) as we walked through a park. I felt like I was 15 again.

When we got to the hostel, we climbed downstairs to a basement bar, where we slouched on a sofa with a hanging table. Once we had a glass of wine, we walked to a club, which was next to the one we went to the previous night. It was called Terminal 1 as it looked like an airport. Inside, there was a live Bulgarian rock band playing, where we danced the night away and also had a laugh teaching the Slovakian guys chat up lines.

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