Feb 19, 2011

Bulgaria - Sofia

 View from Narodno Sadranie square, in Sofia
 Alexander Nevski Cathedral (in the middle) and National Assembly (on the right)

We didn't know that much about Bulgaria (only the yogurts) when we arrived in Sofia, its capital. And we found nothing really noticeable during our first tour in the grey and under renovation city centre. We heard then about a free Sofia tour organized every day by a local NGO at 6pm (http://www.freesofiatour.com) and we didn't regret to do it. Sometimes one just needs a different perspective! ;)

So we discovered more about the Bulgarian History: Slavonic and Bulgarian origins of the country, the creation of the Cyrillic alphabet, five centuries of Ottoman domination, the liberation, the communist period and so on!!! 

The city conserves buildings from its different historical periods and reveals strange similarities between those periods. For example, the Ottomans as well as the communist regime at different level tried to minimize the orthodox religion of the country. The Ottomans converted many churches into mosques while the communists tried to remove churches from eyesight by surrounding them with high buildings. One example of this tendency is located in the courtyard of the presidency building where you can find a beautiful ancient church, Sofia’s oldest preserved building from the roman 4th century. Five different layer of painting are known and visible on the internal walls of this chuch:

 St.George Rotunda

Without any notice board outside, we too quickly passed in front of this building: 
 and didn't notice that the door on the left leads to an underground chapel on three levels. No walls of this church can be seen from the street. And the door on the right marks the entrance of a bank built above the church during the communist time!

Chapel of Sveta Petka Paraskeva 

Since the Ottoman domination, Bulgarians are said to be a very tolerant people towards religions. More than 80% of the population are Bulgarian Ortodox. Islam (12%) is the second most reprensented religion.

From Banski square, you can see four different religious buildings: Sofia synagogue, St. Yosif Catholic chuch, St. Nedelya orthodox church and Banya Bashi mosque!! 
Two other religious buildings of interest:

Alexander Nevski Cathedral

Sveti Nikolay Chudotvorets Russian Church

The first of March, Bulgarians offer red and white bracelets or little dolls - called Martenitsa - to their friends, acquaintances and also strangers in the street! They are supposed to wear the bracelet until they see a budding tree or a stork... A way to ensure that spring arrives fastly and that no freeze troubles agriculture.

Every square and metro station in Sofia is already filled with small stalls where those red and white bracelets are sold. 

 Pizho and Penda, the dolls!


Our tour in Europe stops here and so does our couchsurfing period! So far we have surfed on ten different couches: we were hosted by people we did not know and found on the Internet. Some really nice encounters!! We were amazed by the generosity of the people who let us crash on their couches. And it was really nice to discover the countries through the eyes of some of their inhabitants.

The last three weeks seemed more like some InterRail holidays. Apart from Italy and Romania, we stayed only three days in each country we visited. From now on, we hope to take a different rythm and we will actually spend more time in each single country. Maybe the continent change will help to this rythm change! ;))

The first flight we take during our one year trip is from Sofia to Amman. For us it seperates the holidays from the adventure! Our first time in the Middle East and even in Asia!! A great premier...


  1. Mais il fallait commencer votre voyage par les Caraibes quand il fait froid comme ca en Europe!

    Haiti vous attend...(j'ai bien noté que vous n'avez pas exclu de faire des modifications à votre planning).
    Profitez bien!

    Olga, qui teste déjà Cuba pour vous en mars

  2. Switzerland-based Corrine Vionnet—who had another insight: that, as TOP reader John Daily puts it, "most tourists take pictures from the same spot."

    QUOTE: Corrine Vionnet, Acropolis of Athens, Greece

    Corrine combines between 200 and 300 similar images found on photo sharing sites to create her artworks. To me these are a little less interesting visually than they are for their meaning, but it's an engaging idea. UNQUOTE

    L'accompagnateur d'Olga à Cuba

  3. Au fait, bien vu pour la Libye... :/