It was 11pm by the time we arrived in Sofia, the capital Bulgaria after a tiring 9 hour train ride on a dusty train from Bucharest, Romania.
(Above) Waiting for our passports at the Bulgarian/Romanian border. Around a 20-30min wait.
(Above) Made a friend on the train, Samuel from Washington D.C. We hung out again in Macedonia but somehow we lost each others contact. If you ever see this post Sam, drop us an Email: Agirlandabaldtraveler@gmail.com
(Above) View from the train of the Bulgarian country side.
Welcoming us at the station were taxi drivers determined to extort 10 euros for a 5 minutes taxi ride. We ignored them.
Around 400 meters away, we saw a sign saying "Hostel". It was a tough decision. 11pm at night in Sofia; what should we do? Get ripped off but have certainty in accomodation? Or take our chances and walk to the "Hostel" sign 400 meters in the dead of night?
We took our chances; "Hostel" it was. It turned out to be pretty decent, 12.5 Euros each for a private room with our own shower. Good call.
(Above) Sofia Train Station in the day
Bulgaria is a facinating country. With its green and hilly terrain, magnificent churches and monastaries, i'm surprised Bulgaria isn't flooded with tourists.
(But then again, Singaporeans dont like to try new things. They go to Istanbul and Cairo and think that's exotic. Give me a break.)
(Above) Bulgarian flag colors in an underpass.
Our first destination in Bulgaria, would be Plovdiv, its 2nd largest city.
Buses leave from Sofia almost every hour from the domestic bus station. (200meters from the train station) It costs around 7 Euros per way. Once you get to Plovdiv, it's best to get a taxi to your hostel, probably at the old town 10mins away. It shouldn't cost more than 3-4 Euros.
As they don't really speak English, prepare a screenshot of the street name to show the driver. Taxi's are cheap enough to not bother with the bus.
Things to do in Plovdiv
1. Walk the Main Street
At first glance, it looks just like any other European city. Plovdiv however is a mix of ancient Roman ruins infused with modern architecture.
(Below) Cafe/Museum/Shops/Ruins all in one
2. Ancient Theatre of Plovdiv
This ancient amphitheatre was what I really wanted to see in Plovdiv. I had the "I can't believe i'm here!" feeling. It costs around 2.5 Euros for entry and you can explore the ruins, and have decent views of "New Plovdiv".
If you don't mind spending a couple more Euros, there are cafes/bars right above the amphitheatre. It's nice to have a beer and watch the sun set over this ancient piece of history.
(Above) Exploring the ruins. Facinating if you imagine how the gladiators fought for their lives back in those days.
(Below) These days, there are still performances in this theatre during the Summer. (Not my photo, borrowed it from google. Too bad there wasn't a performance when we were there.)
3. Say a Prayer at the St Konstantin and Elena" Church
(Above) The humble exterior of the church.
(Below) The interior is a huge contrast from the outside.
We had to whisper so we wouldn't affect other church goers. It's a nice feeling to find your own personal corner, say a quiet prayer, and thank The Lord for what he has done in your life.
4.Check out the Architecture in the Old Town
Personally, i'm not an Architecture kind of person; so I can't really care less if the architecture was from the Thracian/Byzantine or wherever.
But if Singaporeans pay to go to "appreciate" Gaudi Architecture in Barcelona, then they can certainly "pretend to appreciate" architecture here in Plovdiv. At least the cost of "pretending to be cultured" is more affordable in Plovdiv then the tourist trap known as Barcelona.
5. Bachkovo Monastery
We had time for only one monastary in Bulgaria and chose the more famous Rila Monastary instead. Still if you have more time then we did, pop by this one. It's less than an hour's bus ride from Plovdiv. Any front desk in a hostel/hotel can tell you how to get there. It can be done in half a day.
In two days, you can comfortably visit most iconic places in Plovdiv and its surroundings. Anymore time and you might be bored to death.
Continue to ........
Singaporeans Abroad - Exotic Europe Series (2.2) Bulgaria - Sofia, Rila & The Rest