Bulgaria – Part 1
When I first saw my itinerary for Remote Year, there were two cities I had never heard of – Belgrade, Serbia and Sofia, Bulgaria. After two weeks here in Sofia, I have to admit it’s quickly climbed to the top as one of my favourite cities.
Sofia is a large city (pop. 1.26 million) but it feels small. It’s easy to get around and you can be in the mountains within 30 minutes. I love being surrounded by nature – reminds me of home!
Bulgaria food is also my favourite so far! There are so many healthy options – farmers’ markets and fresh pressed juice shops everywhere.
One of their main salads is “shopska” – cucumber, tomatoes, red or green peppers, sheep’s cheese and olive oil. Refreshing! They also have sweets, with “banitsa” being the most common – eggs and cheese layered between filo pastry and then baked.
As always, I joined a walking tour when I first arrived, taking in all the major sites of Sofia’s city centre – Palace of Justice, Saint Sophia Statue, Church of St. Petka, Communist Party Headquarters, Ancient Serdica Open Museum, Rotunda of Saint George and of course St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.
We also had our usual history and language class, although it’s been our most challenging to date! Bulgaria uses the Cyrillic alphabet, which has Greek and Latin roots. There are additional letters and symbols and nothing sounds as it appears! (The letter “P” sounds like “Er”)
I’m still working on how to say “thank you” (Благодаря)!
All the walking and traveling can be exhausting so I decided to treat myself to a monthly massage. The city team recommended I go see Alexandra, a local masseuse who also practices Tibetan medicine.
The studio was small, accessed by a narrow staircase leading down from the sidewalk, but warm and inviting. The massage included heating Indian herbs, wrapped in cloth, and placing them on various parts of my body. It was an interesting combination of sensations – the smell of incense, plus heat and then massage. I left feeling relaxed and restored.
I’m also feeling more rested as I have my own apartment this month. It’s a cute little studio with a balcony big enough to sit outside with a cup of tea. I’ve always had my own bedroom on this trip but I’ve had roommates and after 12 years living alone, it can be a challenging adjustment to live with someone!
Bulgarians are active, outdoorsy people and love to hike up mountains, raft down rivers and recharge in hot springs. I’ve joined in all these activities, including canyoning – walking through a canyon, up a river and ending at a waterfall.
They are also generous people – eagerly sharing everything they love about their country. The boyfriend of one of the city team members was so excited we were here, he organized a camping trip for us to one of his favourite childhood locations on Vitosha Mountain. He cleared a path, set up tents, cooked all the food and let us discover why camping in Bulgaria is so refreshing.
As we sat around the campfire under the full moon, gazing at the stars (I found the “Big Dipper”!), and making s’mores (we had to introduce our own traditions!), my heart was full of gratitude for the kind and thoughtful people we’ve met along this journey.
The more I travel, the more I realize the world is full of beauty and magic.