Bulgaria – Sofia Part 1

Hostel Mostel & Free Walking Tour

In Sofia we stayed in Hostel Mostel which is about a 20-30 minute walk from the main bus station. We walked there at like 9pm and it seemed safe enough. When we rocked up we were so happy, it was definitely a party hostel. We were devastated when we found out that because we booked a private room we were in a completely different building, 10 minutes walk away.

In the morning we walked back to the main building to have our free breakfast and I had my Skype interview for a job back in Perth. We went and susses out the ‘cheap street’ Graf Ignatiev Str but just ended up at Dunkin’ Donuts. The ‘expensive street’ Vitosha Blvd was nearby so we went there and ended up exchanging over leftover Serbian at Moneygram.

I had a nap while Ricky did some admin stuff then walked down to the Lidl to get some food shopping. We made sandwiches and headed to the Court House to start the ‘Free Sofia Tour’. We saw:

  • The Court House
  • St Nedelja, St Sophie, St Petca and the Russian Church
  • St Sophia Statue and St George Rotunda
  • Synagogue
  • Old Public Baths
  • Communist Building Square with the yellow brick road
  • Serdica Complex / East Gate (Maximus Street)
  • Archaeological Museum, Old Grand Mosque, Square of Tolerance and Roman ruins
  • City Garden alongside the mineral water drink stations
  • 1st March Tree Decorations
  • National Art Gallery, Old Palace and the theatre
  • Alexander Nevsky  and St Joseph Cathedral

It was a massive tour and we were surprised when most people ran off without tipping the guide. We said thank you, gave her some money and rushed back to the Mall of Sofia to quickly look for some shoes for Ricky. We ended up just finding an epic book store on the top level.

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The Seven Lakes Tour

Not really a tour, just FYI. You go in a group, they drop you off at the lakes and then they come pick you back up in about 3-4 hours. We had no notes on the lakes, what to expect and our driver’s English was really poor. He tried to tell us we were only allowed to see 5 of the 7 lakes, but you can do all of them within the time frame, just don’t have an hour long picnic somewhere. The hike itself was really minor and there is no way you can get lost. You go up the chairlift first which takes about 20minutes then you head straight up the hill.  The first viewpoint will be in about 45minutes from that point.

Note: You’re not allowed to swim in the lakes. They have rangers.

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Lakes 4 and 5 you can easily reach in over 30minutes and lake 6 is up another hill (only takes 15-20minutes). Lake 7 is pretty small and out of the way a little bit, but if you have an extra 20-30minutes, definitely go walk up the other small hill.

When coming back down you will hit a crossroad at lake 5 that you can take the other path; it will lead you down to the chairlift. When we got into the car we all fell asleep (takes about 1.5 hours) and then we had the free vegie dinner at the hostel with our BYO sausages.

Gym, Serdica Mall, Soviet Army Monument & Alexander Nevsky church

In the morning we had breakfast at the hostel then took the tram out to Ricky’s gym. Ricky had booked the following week as a training camp with the wrestling/kick boxing club so we wanted to see what the club was like and check-out the accommodation nearby. When we caught the tram back we stopped at the Lidl and the mall to have a browse. Serdica Mall is better for sports gear and clothes.

Back at the Hostel we did some admin stuff, ate sandwiches and then went exploring. We ran into the two Aussies girls we went to the seven lakes with while they were on the free walking food tour (apparently really good tour!). We went and checked out the Soviet Army Monument; super cool, but slightly disappointing that the superhero costumes weren’t there.

On the way back went to Serdica Mall and also Alexander Nevsky church. The Mall was average but the church was super impressive. It had marble everywhere. You aren’t allowed to take photos in the church without paying (10BGN).

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Tsar Ivan Shishman street & Drunken Hostel Night

That afternoon we walked down Tsar Ivan Shishman street to see the street art but it wasn’t as epic as what we’d thought. There were a few good pieces but not as much as I’d thought there would be. That night we relaxed in the Hostel, got our free vegie dinner, played pool and got drunk. Ricky won most o the games but as I got drunker I managed to win the second last game. We were tempted to do the free pub crawl but the Aussie girls said it was poo, so we just walked back to our building, bought Milka chocolate and watched a movie.

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Final Day Together; Hungover

We were woken up at 3:30am to some random guy vomiting in the communal toilets with the door open and his friends talking loudly. Ricky got up and told them to STFU and shut the door.  Ricky then woke up a few hours later for the gym; I was dying in bed. I managed to get out of bed for breakfast and when he came back he said that one of the guys gave him a lift home… in his Lamborghini Gallardo.

For the rest of our last day together I went from bad to worse. I managed to go for a walk around the block just to get some air but also vomited twice in the street. Ricky was meant to check into his apartment at 1:30 so I toughed it out and went with him. I vomited when I got off the tram and then again before getting to the apartment.

When we got there we realised there was no reception area. Luckily they had a Chinese restaurant downstairs and one of the ladies there spoke English so we rang someone who was in charge. The guy rocked up really confused saying the apartments were only for sale and not for rent. We showed him the photo on booking.com and he said there was no booking. We went straight to the gym where the lady called the guy in charge of the camp and he said he hadn’t booked anything for Ricky.

We rushed back to the hostel and luckily he was able to book the last room they had for the week. He got a 10% discount for booking 5 nights, but the room looked like an army hospital. While I had a nap on Ricky’s bed he took a shower and got food.

When I woke up it was time to say goodbye and I got the Hostel to call me a taxi to the airport. It was really sad to say goodbye, I think I would have cried if I had been able to do anything but not vomit.

Notes

Citibank Cards; no fee with Fibank

Public transport; Always get a ticket, guards everywhere. Make sure you validate the ticket as well. Some times can be found here: http://avtogari.info/index_en.php http://www.centralnaavtogara.bg/.

Buzludzha (Abandoned Communist HQ); You can’t get inside anymore. They now have alarms and motion sensors. While they turn it into a tourist attraction you can only see it from the outside and it will cost you 90Euro. You can send us a message and we’ll give you more information.

Exchanging Serbian; it’s hard in Bulgaria to exchange anything other than Euros so be careful.

Seven Lakes; Download MAPS.ME app so you don’t get lost and if you don’t want to take the ‘tour’ you can catch two buses instead.

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