Sofia #3: Regional History Museum and the Red Flat


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Europe » Bulgaria » Sofia City » Sofia
March 3rd 2020
Published: March 29th 2020
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Today was a holiday in Bulgaria. Bulgarian Liberation Day celebrates the liberation from the Ottoman Empire during the Russo-Turkish War in the 19th century. Hopefully, it wouldn't be too busy with people out and about. My first port of call was the bus station to get my bus ticket for the next day to Skopje. I took the subway to the Railway Station and took the exit for Serdika Bus Station. Domestic buses go from the main bus station and international buses go from the Serdika Station. Luckily, the two stations are next to each other. Something that I found quite annoying in Bulgaria is that buying bus tickets is not on a centralised system, for both domestic and international, so you have to go to the specific office or counter for the bus company you want. Bit of a pain as it means doing a spot of DIY comparison to find the best departure time and/or price. The reviews I'd read of Matpu (the company I would be travelling with) were less than complimentary, but the woman in the office was pleasant, breaking off from serving the guy in front as he was taking forever, to check that I wasn't in a rush and spoke pretty decent English. Bus ticket in hand, I could now continue doing more fun stuff for the rest of the day.

I had wanted to visit the Regional History Museum, which is housed in the old bathhouse so I made my way down there. It was only about a twenty minute walk from the train and bus stations. I quite enjoyed the walk as I saw a different part of Sofia that I probably would not have seen. Th area near the station was a mix of high end name hotels, casinos and less salubrious looking places. I came to Lion's Bridge, which I found rather cool. I really liked the lion statues on the bridge and the views of Sofia and the surrounding mountains. I continued on until I came to the History Museum. Since today was a holiday, the entrance fee to the museum had been waived. I started off downstairs and the first room I entered showed Sofia in the past. I liked the old car and tram that were on display and looking at the pictures that showed how life was in the past. I also got told off by a member of staff for trying to take some pictures with my camera. Loads of people were taking pictures with their phones and she didn't stop them, so I followed suit. I headed to the next room which contain objects relating to the Royal Family. These were mainly furniture. Another gallery was all about the different archaeological excavations that were going on all over Bulgaria and the things that they had found. The new room showed life in the more distant past when people lived in a more agricultural society. My favourite room was the one filled with religious iconography. I love the dark colours and all the detailed work that is involved in producing it. One funny thing about this room is that some of the artefacts had sensors around them so if you got too close they would go off. One must have been particularly sensitive as it kept going off, the attendant in the room kept explaining to the people close to it and was so chill about it. The last room I visited downstairs was contained a giant horse and carriage set up. It looked magnificent and I think it was used for coronations and weddings.

I headed up the stairs to check out the rooms up there. The first room I came to was filled with old clothes and an old fashioned bedroom. There was some information in the museum, but I felt like there could be more in English to help visitors understand what the exhibitions were about. I made my way to a room that was the exhibition of old government/city offices. There was another that was filled with more clothes and examples of how people enjoyed their free time by going out to listen to music and other social activities. The last room I went to was my favourite. On display in here were artefacts that showed life under communism. There were lots of propaganda posters and some pro-Communist artwork. There were also children's uniforms form when they were in the Young Pioneers. I really enjoyed looking around all this stuff. I quite enjoyed the museum on the whole, it wasn't amazing and you couldn't spend hours in there, but it was fairly interesting. I'm glad I didn't have to pay the entrance fee though.

I was hungry after leaving the museum and headed down to the main pedestrian street
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Two Giraffes
as I had seen a bakery there the other day that had some tasty looking pizza slices in the window. However, when I got there and had a look at the other stuff that they had for sale inside i ended up with a couple of banitsa instead. This bakery had ones with many different fillings, so I opted to try a cheese and spinach one, and a cheese and ham one. There was plenty of public seating outside on the main street so I sat there in the sunshine. The banitsa were quite nice, but I preferred the one I'd had on the food tour. I think it is because these ones were cold and being warm just makes them so much tastier. It was time for a coffee, I headed back to Starbucks, but it was rammed so I ended at a cute little cafe called 'Two Giraffes' that was rather quiet. I ordered an iced Americano and a vegan ganache cake. The coffee really hit the spot and the cake was really nice and very rich, so it took me a good while to get through it. The cafe was really nice and a great place to
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chill for a bit, the only downside was that it was far too hot. They had an air conditioning unit but didn't seem to have it cranked.

During my research of things to do in Sofia, I had come across The Red Flat, which is a fairly new museum that has been set up in the city to see how life was in 1980s Communist Bulgaria. It looked really interesting and right up my street so headed to the ticket office, which is in a different location to the actual museum. You can buy/reserve tickets online, but I just showed up and was able to go to the museum immediately. However, they limit the number of people (about 15?) allowed in the museum at one time and I would hate to be there if it was filled with people because for me it would ruin the experience. The ticket price is 18 lev, which is pretty expensive for Sofia, but when I was buying the ticket the staff asked how I'd heard about the place and if I'd done any other tours in Sofia, since I'd done the 'Free Sofia Tour' I got a 2 lev discount. The staff
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The Red Flat
seemed very eager to give discounts. The flat is in the adjacent street a few minutes walk away. There is a guide who takes you from the gift shop to the museum. The flat was in an old building and we headed up the stairs as the flat was on the first or second floor. The building had changed over the years, I cant' remember the full story, but I think there used to be more apartments on each floor and then hey were knocked together to make bigger apartments for families.

We entered into the hallway, where I could hang up my coat and get the audio guide to listen to as I went around the house. I liked the set up of the museum, that you are given an audio guide that corresponds to different places in the house and you hear 40 odd short stories about the family that lived there and their day to day life. It is a great concept. In the hallway, I learnt that some people would remove their shoes and make guests do the same, I was quite surprised as I always thought this was more of an Asian thing, I
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The Red Flat
stand corrected. I headed into the dining room and had a look around there while listening to the stories. I found out that the family were quite well off for those times as the husband worked abroad so had access to foreign currency and foreign products. I loved that the dining room table had some old photo albums on it. It was great to take a look through them and put faces to the names I was hearing about. There were also some old school Communist chocolates on the table so I got to sample one of those. I loved having a good snoop around the living room. I was well into opening all the cupboards and trying to read the books that were on display. There were some in German, but I didn't have a clue about the ones written in Bulgarian. I was surprised to find out that the flat had only one bedroom. I think this is because the rooms were all rather large. This family had given the room to their son, and since the husband worked overseas the mother had a day bed in the living room. While I was in there, the guide had
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The Red Flat
made me some toast and a glass of pop. I sat eating and drinking those while I listened the rest of the living room stories. I really enjoyed the pop as it had a cream soda taste to it and reminded me of Irn Bru, which I love. The toast was really good to as it was buttered and had salt and a seasoning on it that made it extra yummy.

I headed into the bedroom next. The room was massive and I bet the son loved to play in there when he was younger. I enjoyed poking around his toys, some were very similar to ones I had growing up. I learnt that education was important, but I was quite surprised that the son had been a bit of a rebel in school, getting in trouble for wearing jeans. I loved looking at the pictures and photographs on the wall, and going through his collection of pin badges. The bathroom was separated into two with the toilet being separated from the sink and shower. I nosed around the different toiletries they had and liked the old hair rollers. The kitchen was small compared to the other rooms in the house. You could tell the family had money due to all the appliances that they had. There was a small balcony off the kitchen and I wish the door hadn't been locked as I would have liked to go out there. I liked the cross stitch picture of Lenin on the wall in the kitchen. I really enjoyed the Red Flat, it was definitely one of the highlights of my time on Sofia. Although it is expensive by Bulgarian standards, the museum is well worth it. I must have spent more than two hours in there, definitely good value for money.


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