Live on a budget in sensual Sofia –

With seasonal food, stormy weather and 2,000 years of history, Andrew Fraser talks about his experiences in Sofia, one of Europe’s cheapest capitals.

Strange and wonderful, city and country, old and new, you may travel for miles and centuries Sofia without even leaving the city limits. And for pennies. What are you doing stuck in the tourist traps of European capitals when you could be here? Sofia really is the queen of bargains city ​​break. Let me tell you about some fantastic places to visit foodand its sand, but very cute character.

First impressions: what to look for

Sofia’s mannequins seem to be watching you wherever you go – Shutterstock

Walking through the streets of former Stalinist Sofia, you can’t escape the unsettling feeling that someone is watching you. But in these days of freedom, you are not being watched by the Communist State Security Committee. They seem to be the mannequins without pupils that adorn the facade of every other store in town. These strange, empty Bulgarian idols, male, female, fashionable idols, one woman in a long flowing dress with a gas mask, creepy childlike… They follow you as you meander through the streets of this extraordinary city. My friend Greg, who is as scared of clowns as I am, would have a seizure within ten minutes of arriving downtown.

Lightning strikes Alexander Nevsky Cathedral - ShutterstockStorms in Sofia may prove apocalyptic – Shutterstock

Another thing you will notice about this ancient Balkans the citadel is light. Don’t get me wrong, when storms hit Sofia, they pack like Mike Tyson’s fist. Simmering, apocalyptic maelstroms of flashing lights, torrential rain, black skies and thunder so loud it seems the gods have summoned them from the depths of the universe. It even drowns out the crashing notes of the city’s hum tram how they break the cityscape.

But boy, when the sun finally comes out, this strangely charming city takes on a sunlit glow I’ve never, ever seen before. Not even on sparkling norwegian on the coast or inland Madridwhere spring and the autumn light is as pure as the sigh of an old lady.

Colorful flower bed and fountains in Sofia - ShutterstockWhen the rain clears, bright colors are visible – Shutterstock

The prettiest apples, the reddest peppers, the yellowest pumpkins, and herbs as green as Sting and Trudie Styler are blooming everywhere. There are also many colorful fabric shops and stalls selling hand-woven Bulgarian fabrics of various textures. They combine this city to color this city in a beautiful technicolor that is simply impossible to capture on camera.

The budget city break

South Park in Sofia - iStockSouth Park – iStock

Sofia is famous as one of the best in Europe the cheapest capitals. Several low-cost airlines operate at the city’s airport, even just to receive to Sofia is cheap – a one-way ticket can cost as little as 20 euros. I came to live here for a while while I finished my first book, Fantastic flight. This is my adventure story (shameless plug warning) to 10 European in cities for €170, order through Writing a book was an incredibly rewarding experience, but unless you’re JK Rowling, it’s never going to make you rich. I thought Sofia could save me money while I was putting the finishing touches on it. I wasn’t wrong.

I was wrong about how much work it takes to finish a book. I fondly imagined myself sitting in Sofia’s South Park and writing. But for the most part, the first month was spent as a prisoner in my wonderful and lovely Airbnb apartment, which costs just a few euros a day, in a flower-drenched suburb. Indeed, accommodation is also a disgusting thing. If you really on a budget, stay here Hostel Mostel – cute, negotiate A bohemian hole with very nice and helpful staff who will make you feel like you are among family.

Sofia through history

Piece of Burek - iStockSofia’s story has layers, much like burek does – iStock.

When I finally came out of my literary confinement, I found a city of flakes story are layered on top of each other. Just like the air light crust of their famous ones delicacy, burek — a sweaty pile of fragrant lemony Bulgarian Siren cheese and herbs or ground lamb and sophisticated local spices wrapped in golden phyllo dough pieces.

Sofia is not pristine like Prague’s Old Town or Budapest. It wasn’t razed to the ground like Gdańsk or Wroclaw and then beautifully rebuilt from scratch. What you see in these cities is a painstakingly resurrected replica of the past, painstakingly and lovingly reconstructed by failed governments determined to ensure that all traces of brutality are restored and repaired. Beauty must win, they decided together.

Largo in Sofia - Shutterstock.Located in the center of the city, Largo is one of the best examples of socialist classicist architecture in Southeast Europe – Shutterstock.

But Sofia, despite being caught in two World War II fires, somehow survived relatively unscathed. It’s a real, real deal. Much has been repainted and polished. But for me, the most beautiful corners of Sofia are frayed around the edges, a little crumbling – even ruined. It’s the same charming decay you see in Havana.

Fading multicolored facades of Sofia reveal the passage of time over two and a half millennia. The Romans conquered, then the Byzantines OttomansIn 1878, then liberated by Russia, all over this charming city there are reminders of all these past invaders and liberators. Also the old Bulgarian Empire, as well as Stalin’s stamp after World War II. It makes a thrill architectural hazy

Eat, drink and dance

Bulgarian food is a treat, especially if you are a vegetarian. I’m not, but I basically became one during my stay thanks to the amazing local produce. Organic food is the only food in Bulgaria. Mass, artificial food production has never been necessary in this verdant land. There are countless great main dishes, but Sofia is best for summer salads and nourishing winter soups.

Perhaps the best restaurant in town Made at home. A beautiful place off Patriarh Evtimiy boulevard, with a complex but simple menu printed on what looks like endangered children’s books.

Everything is seasonal and the menu is never the same twice. But the highlights of my visit were the pink tomato salad and tarator – a refreshing yogurt, walnut, cucumber, herb and lemon juice soup. The fish soup with chorizo ​​offers an Iberian flavor and the raspberry and blueberry cheesecake is divine. It’s one of the city’s most respected eateries, but they’d really force you to spend 20 leva (about 10 euros) here for lunch, and not much more for dinner.

Done as an American canteen on steroids, urban chain happy restaurants offer an extensive menu of ridiculously good fresh food and delicious cocktails. Select the Bulgarian base shopska. The salad is topped with dressing, iceberg lettuce, cucumbers and feta-like sirene cheese. Or try the Caesar salad with crispy calamari and you’ll be in heaven (but not out of pocket).

Then, if you like, head to one of Sofia’s fancy nightclubs, where you’ll always be treated to a view of the parties swirling around the local Chalga. music. It sounds like a mix of Balkan hip-hop with Balkan, Roma and Middle Eastern accents, in a way that would make Rihanna blush. This is a truly special experience that you will only have in a Bulgarian city.


View of Vitosha from downtown Sofia - ShutterstockHike, ski or just watch the city go by at the top of Vitosha – Shutterstock

Like everyone European In today’s cities, Sofia offers a typical, boring shopping mall. And, of course, there is shopping, but unlike most cities, Sofia boasts its own Mountain, Vitosha. Just a few minutes from the city center, there is a wonderful view of it from Vitosha Boulevard.

A taxi to this monstrous rock will cost you less than 15 euros. You can go in winter skiing, and in spring and summer just wander around the glowing village. Gaze upon the metropolis below, catch your breath and immerse yourself in the peace and tranquility calm on the side of the Bulgarian capital. You’ll be glad you came.

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