, , ,

Spring in the Park-Museum Vrana palace

Reading time: 4 minutes

What is the best way to explore a destination? Of course to see the both – the nature and the history.

It was one of the first sunny and warm spring days when we decided to go there. Vrana Palace is a marvelous combination of history and nature. Though the days of Bulgarian kingdom are gone it is now open for visitors. Back to the 20th century it used to be the main private residence of the royal family of Bulgaria. It was build between 1890 and 1940 by Kind Ferdinand. The complex consists of several buildings and large botanical garden.

It is located just in 11 km from the center of the city.

Sequoias

Amazing sequoias

Read more

, , ,

Thermal water close to Sofia

Reading time: 4 minutes

It is said that most of the cities in Bulgaria back in the first millennium BC had arisen close to the thermal water. It is believed that the Tracian tribes settled around and formed the first villages attracted by the rich with mineral water land.

Bulgaria has more than 500 hot springs and all around Sofia there are mineral water and spa’s. Even in the city close to the regional museum of Sofia you will see a big square with many locals charging their bottles with mineral water free of charge. The water is hot and it is famous with its mineral composition and abilities to heal several diases.

Read more

Weird things you may encounter in Bulgaria

Reading time: 2 minutes

The good thing about Bulgaria is that the more you explore the more surprised you are. I can assure that Bulgaria is much more interesting place than you probably expect. There are many strange things that may shock the visitor at first time, but don’t worry the locals are used to live with them and everything is just fine. Even for me sometimes is funny to explore the next quirk of Bulgarian genius mind.

Nodding for no and shaking heads for yes in Bulgaria

Yes. It even happens to me – to wonder whether someone is saying NO or YES. It even can be more confusing when someone is trying to use the international way of dis(agreeing). Be sure that you have understand what have been told to you by using a gestures or double check. It’s funny.

Stray dogs hanging around

The stray dogs in Bulgaria are something like a no man’s pets on the street. They used to collaborate with people and most of the time they just want to play or beg for food. Don’t afraid of them – they are not dangerous. Most people are feeding them and all they need is love.

Huge beer and drinking beer just on the go

Good surprise for beer lovers – Bulgaria is one of the little places in Europe (to be honest I can’t recall another one apart from Russia) where you can buy a big plastic bottle of beer. There is also a kind of city culture to drink beer outside in the parks when the weather allows. You may also see some young guys walking around and drinking beer – it is popular.

Signs translated directly from Cyrilic to latin

Well this is not understandable even for me. I cannot describe it apart from poor language knowledge of the government bodies. Sometimes you will meet some strange signs like these below that you probably won’t understand anything. The way to find the directions is to use offline google maps. Be sure that you have downloaded it when travel to Bulgaria. Asking some young people on the street is also an options, as most of them speak Emglish.

Meandering bicycle lines

This is another ‘miracle’ invented by some “excellent” Bulgarian “architect”. You can see them quite often in the big cities. In general, there is a bicycle culture or at least the citizens are trying to introduce some, but most of the elder people just can get it. You can also ride your bicycle on the sidewalk where there isn’t bicycle lines. Just watch out for pedestrians and parked cars.

Car horns in the cities

Bulgarian are used to use their cars even when going to the shop. According to some statistics in Sofia there are 3 cars per capita. This of course is the reason of many traffic jams in the big cities. Usually the drivers are in a rush (as well as pedestrians) and you will hear a “horning” all around.

“Klek” shops

Klek shops are shops situated underground. You will see many of those in Sofia. Most of them are selling almost everything you may need while you walking through the city – water, café, some snacks and sometimes even sandwiches.

Traveling to Bulgaria – things to know before visiting

Reading time: 4 minutes

When is the most convenient time for traveling to Bulgaria?

The answer is – depending on what you want to do.

Bulgaria offers many activities not only in the warm season but also during the winter.

If you want skiing, then the best time is from December till the end of March. Summer is the best time for going to a seaside and hiking in the mountains where the weather is times cooler than in the cities, especially these ones located in the middle of the country such as Plovdiv and Veliko Turnovo.

September and May in general are the best time for all kind of activities (excluding skiing of course). It is the best time to go to mountains, to visit the cities and sometimes you can even go to the beach. The weather during these months is warm and pleasant.

Is traveling around Bulgaria save?

Yes, Bulgaria is as safe as all other European countries are. In busy places and some resorts like Sunny beach just be aware of some strange people and make sure that all your belongings are at secure places.

Is it expensive in Bulgaria?

The answer is no. Actually Bulgaria is one of the cheaper countires in Europe and this is not on account of lower quality. On the contrary you can find the same quality of food and service in small cosy restaurant for half price compared to those in Western Europe. For example a dinner for two in a middle range restaurant will cost you around 50 lv (25 euro). Most museums and attractions will charge you an entrance fee between 5 and 15 BGN per person. Acomodation in the center range from 30 BGN to 100 BGN per person, depending on what are you searching for.

The museum of Sofia is showing the history of the city. Don’t miss to pass by and to learn interesting facts about the capital of Bulgaria.

Are there any WiFi hot spots in Bulgaria?

One of the biggest problem going abroad is where and how to use internet if we cannot use our operator. Don’t worry on that topic, Bulgaria is one of the best places to be in regard to internet conection and wifi spots.

There are many options to use internet without switshing to your mobile operator. And you probably don’t know, but the internet speed is one of the fastest in the world.

In general almost all caffees and restaurant has it’s own wifi which is free for their visitors. Apart from that there are many areas with free wifi connection such as airport, libraries, squares, even some parks. Check this map with thousands free wifi spots https://wifispc.com/bulgaria And also you can check this one https://www.wiman.me

Accommodation in Bulgaria

A room in a hotel will cost around 50 lv overnight and the prices in hostels are almost the same. The best choise for big cities is airbnb. An average price for two guests on airbnb would be the same as the price for one in hotel. But the best thing is that you will be able to see typical Bulgarian home, to receive some suggestions for your staying and to feel the local life. The prices typically include free WiFi.

Is it easy to travel around the country?

When travel across Bulgaria you can choose between buses and trains. The traveling with train is the cheapest option but it can be twice as long as the bus for the same direction.

Main cities are well connected with bus net and in general you can easily reach from the Eastern to the Western point of Bulgaria. That’s means that only in one day you can lying on the beach in the morning and to have a dinner in some mountain resort in the evening.

Most of the cities have very good internal bus systems and also are well-covered with taxis. The taxis are again the most cheapest one in Europe, so they are affordable way to get around. The capital of Bulgaria Sofia has also a metro. There are several local apps that helping people to use the local transport, but in general you can use this one to plan your trip https://moovit.com/

The lion’s bridge and a tram in Sofia

Communication with locals

Most young people in Bulgaria speak English and very likely will try to help you if you ask for something. Of course you can learn some phrases before going there. Here I prepared the most used ones.

Exchanging money in Bulgaria

The local currency in Bulgaria is lev (BGN). It is better to have some cash in levs once you are in Bulgaria, as if you decide to pay in euro then you will pay more. There are many exchange offices in each town which are offering very good exchange rate and some of them are working 24 hours. Here are some for Sofia.

Most big shops, restaurants and hotels are also accepting foreign cards, but for smaller one be prepared with cash. And while we mentioned the 24 working hours

You will be surprised how many shops in Sofia are working 24 hours. Those are mainly providing some snacks, alcohol and other things of necessity, but is good to know that you can rely on them in case you need something.

These are the most important things I’m researching for when traveling to some country and I hope they will be useful for you. Of course Bulgarians as all other nations have their specific features, that may look strange on first sight, especially if you are coming from the west.  Don’t be shoked, just check this one and be ready for your trip to Bulgaria. Cultural specific things you will encounter in Bulgaria.

, ,

5 places close to Sofia to visit this weekend

Reading time: 4 minutes

Bulgaria is reach of amazing unspoiled destinations and there are plenty places close to Sofia awaiting to be discovered. If you are in Bulgaria for short break and your time is limited then you may be interested in some of destinations below.

Kremikovtsi Monastery – A touch to Bulgarian history and great walk through the forest

Kremikovtsi Monastery is located in only 20 km from Sofia close to the village Kremikovtsi. You can catch the bus to Kremikovtsi and then just to walk to there, as it is situated outside the village on nice hill. The monastery is from the 14th century. There is also an old church keeping its painting for centuries. It is open for visitors and there isn’t any entrance fee. The monastery has it’s own farm. The monarchs are growing some vegetable and sale their own products. You should try it, you will be amazed. From the top where the monastery is build you will see a wonderful panorama over Sofia. For more beautiful views, fields with horses and cows you can go to hut Strelets which is in two hours hike from the monastery. Go and see.

Pancharevo – Fresh air and stillness with lake views

Pancharevo is a district of Sofia, located at the foot of Lozenska and Plana mountains. It is famous with its lake and water activities such as kayaking, fishing, boating, sun bathing. If you are wondering where to spend a lazy day with family or friends, then Pancharevo is a great choice. You can reach it by bus number 1 or 3 which is departuring from Geo Milev station. In Pancharevo you can walk and enjoy the beautiful nature, far away from the noise of the big city. There are many alleys around the lake, so you can go there for a calm 1-2 hours walk with great views to the lake. There isn’t a lot of places for picnic on the shore of the lake, but there are enough in the surrounding area. There is also a mineral pool close to the lake.

Malyovitsa – The place all mountain lovers should visit

Beauty, tranquility and fresh air – this is how Malyovitsa can be described. Going to Malyovitsa offers a bit of activities to the mountain enthusiast. A beautiful scenery, diversing terrain and the fresh mountain air giving you the reward of being there. You can go to climb the peak or just walk to the hut for a lunch surrounded by mountain hills. All worth it. During the winter there are also conditions for skiing.

Malyovitsa is located in 60 km from Sofia and is suitable for one day trip from Sofia, but I would recommend to stay there at least two days. You will understand why if you try it 🙂 It can be reached by bus and there are many accommodation options with prices range from 15 to 20 BGN. See here how to reach Malyovitsa by bus.

Vazov’s eco path – A great hike close to Sofia

Vazova eco path is a great place to spend a day far away from the big city. Located just in 50? Km from Sofia and easy reachable by train it is a destination you should go. Just in hour trip with a train you will be there to enjoy the breath taking views, mountain air and amazing scenery around you. This round route is around 3 hours and there is also a bonus for all decided to go there – an amazing waterfall Skaklya. Check here detailed info how to reach the trail.

Beli Iskar eco trail – Lazy Sunday walk into the forest

If you are searching for easy hike into the forest – then this is your place. The length of the trail is around 3 hours, but you can decide how far you wish to go as the road back is close and you can always return there. The trail is easy even for small children. Many places for picnic and rest are built among the wind of the Beli Iskar river. Incredible views to the nature and amazing pine forest with the freshest air you have ever breath – all this is waiting there all year round. Beli Iskar ecopath is reachable by car.

See more destinations near to Sofia

 

, ,

Best places for Brunch in Sofia

Reading time: 3 minutes

Traditional Bulgarian citizen will sooner have breakfast at home or buy and eat something on the go. But in recent years there is a new trend – eating outside. Check out some of the best places to have a brunch in Sofia.

CAVA Bar & Dinner

Cava Bar & Dinner is one of those places you’re rediscovering with surprise. I have been crossed the street several times until that moment I decided to take a peep into. The place is tastefully decorated, with several detached corners and great French windows that make you feel like you are having breakfast in the yard. All happening under the accompaniment of a light jazz for a great start of the weekend. Apart from breakfasts, the place is offering plenty of interesting dishes.

Prices for breakfast vary from 8 to 12 BGN. Totally recommended!

CAVA is located at ul. “Petar Parchevich” 52, Sofia

Brick Cafe & Bar

Next proposal for brunch in Sofia is Bricks Cafe & Bar. The place is not situated in the center but still in communicative place – close to Joliot Curie Metro Station. We can surely say that the breakfast there takes us to America (although never been there). From the morning the place is starting to fill with foreigners and this additionally creates a sense of being somewhere abroad. The menu includes 6-7 kinds of breakfast, including traditional English & American breakfast. Interesting is also the story behind the place – an American who moved to Bulgaria more than 10 years ago. You can read it on site. If you are searching for tasty brunch in Sofia then for sure you should try this one.

Brunch time: from 11AM till 18 PM Saturday/Sunday

Price range: 10-12 BGN

Bricks Cafe & Bar is located at ul. “Konstantin Shtarkelov” 119, Iztok, Sofia

Rainbow Factory

Rainbow factory is my favourite place for breakfast, brunch or lunch. It offers amazing homemade cakes, coffe and lemonade.
The brunch is one of the best in the city. Here you can try different Bulgarian types of breakfast! Starting from tasty banitsa through scrumbled eggs with babek(bulgarian style salami) and traditional Bulgarian mekitsi with jam.
There is also a lunch menu during the week days. The quality of the food is just WOW and the place is cosy and warm. The selection of coffee is also one of the best in the city.
You may need to wait few minutes to grab a table, as it has many other fans hungry for that marvelous brunch during the weekend.
What to say more..Totally recommended place!

HleBar

HleBar is the place holding the urban spirit, located in one not so known but very cosy street – Oborishte. It is a bakery with amazing food and drinks.
Probably the best scrambbled eggs in the town are served there. Apart from brunch they are also offering lunch menu during the week, variety of locally produced bread and modern interpretation of traditional Bulgarian banitsa. A must visit for everyone who is searching for delicious healthy food.

Brunch time: from 10AM till 12 АМ Every day

Price range: 6-10 BGN

HleBar is located at Oborishte Str. 16

Sputnik

As you can see from the name – Sputnik is a bar with cocktails, but is also offering food. Those which catch our eye is the interior design. The other think we like is its location nearby the park and the view outside. The food for breakfast is simple and the coffee is good. They are also offering many coctails.

A must stop in Sofia, even not for breakfast.

Brunch time: from 10AM till 12 АМ Every day

Price range: 5-8 BGN

Sputnik is located at 17, Yanko Sakazov blvd.

 

To be continued..

Short guide to Sofia Public Transport

Reading time: 4 minutes

If you think that traveling in Sofia is easy, then you are probably wrong. The main problem with Sofia public transport is that there is a limited info in English despite the many tourists coming here recently. As a traveler going to another country I used to pick an info brochure from the Airport and this way all my problems with public transport during staying are solved. But in Bulgaria, even in the capital, you won’t receive any brochure of the transport net neither you will see a map in English at the Airport. The options are to ask people at the airport or to research for info in advance. So if you are searching for tips and suggestions how to travel easily in Sofia, then you are at the right place.

At a glance..

Sofia’s public transport is covering almost all routes that you may need and is fairly reliable, except the cold winter weather and some rainy days in autumn. Of course, the metro is the fastest and regular transport but if you wish to experience Sofia like a local you may try the trams and trolleys too. The cost of one-way journey is 1.60 for all type of transport inside the city.

Getting to the city center from Airport / Bus station

The line that will take you from and to the Airport is bus line 84. There is another option – to catch the metro from Terminal 2 – both of them are going to the city center.
The best way to get to the center from the bus station (or railway station) is to take the bus line 213 or bus line 214.

Working hours of Sofia public transport

Most of the buses and trams are working from 5 till 23 pm and normally you should wait no more than 10 minutes for each bus in the center area. The metro has the same schedule. There is also a night bus every 40 minutes, covering prevailing part of the city, which have different stops and the ticket cost is 2 levs. Here you can check the information about the schedule and bus stops of the Sofia public transport.

Where to buy a bus ticket?

There are many ticket’s offices close to the bus and trams stops. Arriving at the Airport you will probably won’t see such but there is an option to buy the ticket from the driver of the bus. The cost for one traveling (never the mind distance) is 1.60 lv (0.80 euro). After obtaining your ticket you should validate it with one of perforators which are located in every bus. Once perforated it can’t be used for another traveling – each vehicle’s perforator leave a unique pattern of holes through your ticket. Be careful and don’t miss this step, as usually there are many controllers close to the traveling spots which are “hunting” for violations and it may cost you a 20 euro fine.

Some of the vehicles are equipped with ticket-selling machines, that print the tickets when you insert coins. You don’t need to perforate it as they have date and time valid period and also can’t be reused.

Metro tickets

Metro tickets are issued in each metro station and they are valid 30 min after release. You can buy them from a ticket-selling machine or from the desk in as well – the price for one way traveling is again 1.60lv.

Daily cards and passes

If you are planning to spend more time in Sofia the daily cards or collection of 10 tickets for city buses is a good cost-effective option.

One day pass

The cost of the daily card is 4 lv (2 euro) and it allows you to use all kind of city transport during the day, including metro. It can be bought from all offices that are selling tickets, except the metro station’s desks (strange but fact).

Collection of 10 tickets

These kind of tickets are only for bus, trams, and trolleys. Actually, you can buy the same “cut” for the metro, but you can’t use it for the bus. So you should choose whether you are going to use metro or bus. The price for this is 12 lv for 10 tickets for the bus and 14 lv for the metro.
There is something specific with the bus tickets here – all of them are numbered from one to 10 and each is valid only for 1 person and only when you keep the number 10 – explained easily if a controller comes to the bus and asks you for your ticket, you should show him the perforated ticket and the ticket number 10..

3 Day electronic card

This kind of card may be used for all kind of city transport, including metro. The price is 12 lv and again it can be issued from all offices which are selling bus tickets (sorry the metro one’s wouldn’t work).

Maps and sites for better orientation in Sofia city jungle

It’s a shame but until recently there weren’t any transport map of Sofia transport, so if you have used to take a transport map from the Airport and hope to take one from Sofia’s I will disappoint you and tell you that you won’t be able. Below is the link to a map that been invented from a voluntary and I really hope that a paper version will be spread around important spots soon.

https://sofia-transport-map.firebaseapp.com/

Another option to check which bus you need to go somewhere is to use this map

http://www.bgmaps.com/map/sofia

Not sure how the English version is working, but if you click the place arrow is pointing you will see all bus stops (blue spots) and pointing some particular the number of bus which are going to this stop.