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Last stay in Sofia; the Ladies' Market calls

Sofia


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Yesterday morning Dave said goodbye to Veliko Tarnovo as we caught the 10.30 bus to Sofia. When I bought the tickets it felt strange to be speaking Bulgarian again after not having done so in the previous two and half weeks.

The 3.5 hour journey was uneventful, though we did see some sunflower fields. After taking a taxi to Hostel Mostel and settling into our private room, we headed out for a late lunch at our favourite place; if you've read any of my recent Sofia entries, you might guess where this is - a small pizza café at the junction between the Court of Justice and Boulevard Vitosha. Delicious, handmade on site, large slices and cheap.

After that we thought about going to the Ladies' Market, but then had the thought that it would probably be better to visit it in the morning. Stalls might be running out of stuff and packing up by this time in the afternoon. With that in mind, we headed back to the hostel and had a nap, played pool, had our free dinner and used the internet until it was time for an early night.

We went to the Ladies' Market in the morning, as we had intended. This market was the one place I had seen recommended but hadn't actually been to yet in all my previous visits to Sofia, so I was particularly keen to go. Not only was this Dave's last time in Sofia, it was mine as well. When I leave Bulgaria in a few days' time, it will be by train from Gorna Oryahovitsa, a town five minutes' drive from Veliko Tarnovo. The market was well worth a look-around, as it seemed to have some of pretty much everything. We didn't buy any of all the fresh produce around (though if we had been here for another night I would have bought some to cook for dinner), but I did get some crystallised kumquats.

Once we got back from there, we packed up, checked out and took a taxi to the airport. I was sad to be leaving Hostel Mostel for the last time. The staff were all nice but one girl in particular was always especially so. At check out I made sure to tell her how much I had enjoyed coming here.

After saying goodbye to Dave at the airport, I took a taxi to the bus station and got on the next bus back to Veliko Tarnovo.

Posted by 3Traveller 00:11 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged market airport hostel buses dave sofia bulgarian bulgaria veliko_tarnovo Comments (0)

Thracian treasure, wonderful pizza

Sofia


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After resting a while in our room after our Mount Vitosha excursion, we headed out to the Archaeological Museum, because Dave hadn't been before at all and I hadn't been since October so I wanted to see if a) the wonderful Thracian treasure troves were still there and b) if the temporary exhibition had changed. We went there via the amazing pizza place and also the Rotonda Church of St George.
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It was very interesting for me to get another look at everything, and Dave was impressed by the Thracian treasure in particular. At first we thought the Thracian treasure room was closed off, but then we realised that although the door was closed, people were actually still allowed in. I couldn't get over how amazing a lot of the craftsmanship was. The burial masks, helmets, jewellery, drinking horns, wreaths of almost paper-thin gold leaves... just absolutely stunning.

The temporary exhibition room now had an interesting exhibition of the finds from a Roman Thracian villa. It included two of the finest pieces of Roman glassware ever found (according to the blurb - they did indeed look very fine), plus an assortment of other things; an extraordinarily well preserved and engraved helmet, a stone with a carving of a Thracian Horseman, some coins, metal tools and other household objects.

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We headed back to the main part of the hostel then, though we looked into the Sveta Nedelya Cathedral on the way. The scaffolding that had been along the whole of one wall ever since I first saw it (last October) has been taken down now, so the results of the fresco cleaning that had been going on there could clearly be seen.

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Back at the hostel we played some games of pool and had our free dinner before returning to our room.

We've got an early start tomorrow - our bus to Veliko Tarnovo leaves at 09.00 - so I'd better be off now for a relatively early night.

Posted by 3Traveller 08:23 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged museum cathedral hostel dave sofia bulgaria orthodox_church roman_remains Comments (0)

Dave arrives - ready for 3 weeks of adventure!

Sofia


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Yesterday I returned to Sofia and checked into my old favourite, Hostel Mostel. The journey from Skopje went smoothly and the border crossing was quicker than on the way in.

Taken on my walk to the hostel;

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Once I'd checked in, I walked down the road to another old favourite - a particular pizza kiosk/ café I know of round the corner from Boulevard Vitosha and the Court of Justice - for a late lunch. After that I just relaxed for a few hours at the hostel, before having their free dinner of pasta, sauce and salad. I met up with 'R' and her brother for a bit before going to bed - I was in a dorm room that night, but after Dave arrived today we moved into a private double.

This morning, before Dave arrived, I took 'R' and her brother to the Monument to the Soviet Army. After looking round it for a bit I left them to explore further, because I needed to get the bus to airport.

Once Dave and I had checked into our double room, we didn't do all that much for the rest of the day. He had had to get up very early to go to the airport, so he was now knackered and needed a rest.

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We did go out for a walk with his DSLR camera, however; we revisited the wonderful pizza place and Dave got a few shots of the Court of Justice and Boulevard Vitosha.

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This pizza place makes all their pizzas by hand; we saw a woman getting freshly-made dough out of a huge tub and then rolling it out into a massive circle. I've seldom seen such massive pizzas before. Every now and then she'd get delicious-looking, well loaded pizzas out of the oven, cut it into slices and transfer them into the glass cases from where customers can take their pick.

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In the evening we played some pool, had our free dinner and saw 'R' and her brother again. Tomorrow we've decided to go to Mount Vitosha, the mountain that provides a picturesque backdrop to Sofia.

Posted by 3Traveller 10:48 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged airport hostel dave sofia bulgaria boulevard_vitosha soviet_monument Comments (0)

Money-changing in Sofia


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A short time in Sofia to change buses - a much smoother process than I was expecting. I'd heard that I might have to get my ticket to Skopje from Serdika bus station, rather than the central one; my only previous experience of Serdika being my unsuccessful attempt to find a bus to Koprivshtitsa back in April, I thought it might turn out to be a lot of hassle to find one to Skopje. As it turned out, however, I managed to get a ticket for the next bus to Skopje from the central bus station very quickly and easily.

I had a bit of time to kill, so I tried to change some leva into Macedonian denari. No such luck, so I decided to walk along to Serdika bus station after all, just to find another bureau de change. Luckily I managed to find one quickly and got my hands on some denari for the first time. It looked quite exotic to me, very colourful. The name is evocative of the Roman denarii, too - after all, Macedonia did used to be in the Roman Empire...

Posted by 3Traveller 06:57 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged buses sofia bulgaria Comments (0)

Lovely way to finish our holiday

Veliko Tarnovo and Sofia


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Our bus to Sofia didn't leave until 15.00, so this morning and early afternoon was spent packing, editing photos, walking along Gurko Street in the sunshine to the ETAP bus station to buy our bus tickets in advance, eating ice cream from a stall in the main street and having lunch and browsing the shops on the craftsmen's street.

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We had lunch on the balcony at Stratilat Café (an old favourite of mine), so we could look at the view while we were eating.

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On our way back from the station we passed a gathering by one of the monuments off the main street. There were lots of bikes around, along with a giant inflatable Nescafé mug and someone talking over a loudspeaker. I found out the next day that there was a mountain biking festival going on; cyclists were biking through the hills next to VT, down the hill of Varusha (the old town), emerging at this monument junction and then continuing through the town. We didn't get to see any of the actual cycling though.

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Dave's flight was at 21.55, so on arrival at the central bus station in Sofia we took a taxi straight to the airport from there. I say 'straight' but we actually had a bit of time to kill, so we had some dinner at the main café first. Pizza and Bulgarian rice pudding went down a treat.

Once I'd seen Dave off, I took a taxi to 'Ploshtad Makedonia', where Hostel Mostel is. I was in the same dorm where I'd been last week.

Tomorrow morning I will have just enough time for breakfast before I get the 9 o'clock bus back to Veliko Tarnovo.

It's Dad's birthday today, so I've had him in mind all day. I'm so glad that Dave was with me for most of the day.

Posted by 3Traveller 15:45 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged airport dad dave sofia bulgaria veliko_tarnovo bulgarian_cuisine gurko_street Comments (0)

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