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Published: July 15th 2004
Sophia at Night
The National Theatre
The train from Belgrade to Sophia did appear as scheduled this time, and after the rough night before we paid the $10 upgrade to sleeper. It was well worth doing. I had an almost uninterupted nights sleep, and felt good when I arrived in Sophia.
First impressions of Bulgaria.
1 - Friendly people - for the most part, a guy helped us get the sleeper carriage, a Bulgarian.
2 - Great coffee - again a real cafe society.
3 - Great Ice Cream - the best Sara has ever eaten in her life 😊
4 - Magnificent churches - hope the photos show this well.
5 - Watch out for pickpockets!
- more later.
On arrival in Sophia we got talking with Hyun from South Korea on his way to Istanbul with 10 hours in Sophia, so we hung out for the day. Wandered around the town and decided to soak up some atmosphere. Sophia is quite a cool breezy city so far, about 550m above sea level makes it Europe's highest capital, most of the time I wear long sleeves. A national park with 2000m high mountains sits just to the south, there is no lakes or large river
so feels different to most European Capitals. What it does have is many beautiful buildings, impressive churches, lots of bars and cafes, and it is the cheapest place I have been in Europe. Beer in a cafe in the touristy area is about 65c (40p), and similar prices for the amazing ice cream.
We followed a tour of historic buildings suggested in the Lonely Planet, I'll name them in the photos, but one thing they all had in common was beautiful exteriors, lots golds and colour, and very very dark, but peaceful interiors.
On the way into Sveta Nedelya Cathederal I was followed very closely by two women, too closely, felt a touch to my bottom - more precisely my wallet, swunground and grabbed it as one of the women attemped to pick pocket me - I looked her directly in the eye - she was waiting for me to put the wallet back and have another go! - (btw - this was my fake/small change wallet - so I wouldn't have lost anything) - so I shouted at her and made myself look very angry - they got the message and ran off. There were no police around - and
The oldest Building in Sophia, foundations from 3 bc.
I didn't really know what I should have done. Later outside another church another similar woman attemped to steal from two women, a bulgarian guy caught her pushed her to the ground and was really rough, shouted a lot more - I think this is the Bulgarian way to deal with the situation.
So watch poor looking women sitting in front of these churches - the kids do the casing and then the women hustle behind tourist to pickpocket them. The use the coat over the arm tactic just like in London to conceal their actions.
We had a lovely time anyway, picked up our luggage and said bye to Hyun at the train station - and went back to our hotel. Cheap, really cheap, Hotel Chance 22lv (10 euro) for a double room - but no hot water and really uncomfortable matresses - we will treat ourselves later when we have a feel for the place and we will also be camping - so I expect some to be better and some worse.
Today we wandered the Ladies Market and bought fruits and bits pieces that we had forgotten to pack.
Tomorrow - off to the Rila monestery and hiking in
the Rila Mountains.
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