Beautifully Ugly


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Europe » Bulgaria » Sofia City » Sofia
July 23rd 2011
Published: September 30th 2017
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Communist Times Monument ...Communist Times Monument ...Communist Times Monument ...

... stark Soviet-style features and drab concrete splashed with the colours of graffiti ... uber cool.
Geo: 42.7105, 23.3238

Oxymoronic, but I cannot think of a more apt description for Sofia. It's a city in transition, rough around the edges, an exciting but curious melange of former Eastern Bloc relics and modern Western European sensibilities. Beautiful? Hardly. There's no precious little old town that is so common in other European capitals, only austere Soviet-style concrete buildings, which can only be described as grotesque abominations.

There are no quaint and perfectly-maintained cobblestone streets, but many crumbling roads and sidewalks. Buses and trams have seen better days, though they still meet the needs of Sofia's citizens. It's a far cry from picture-perfect, but like many cities of its type, it offers beauty in unexpected places, and in unusual forms. Definitely an acquired taste, Sofia still manages to offer up many of the same pleasantries as Europe's great, and more famous capitals. Parks full of life and revelry, cafes perfect for whiling away the hours over a cup of excellent coffee and a good book, sunny terraces filled with laughter and boisterous conversation ...

This isn't Paris or Rome, it's not uniformly beautiful - expectations like that obviously would only lead to disappointment and really, why would you come to Bulgaria
The Ladies Market ...The Ladies Market ...The Ladies Market ...

... an embarrassment of fruit riches - giant peaches, juicy melons, and the tasty-little plums that are so popular and prevalent in Eastern Europe.
if that's what you were looking for? Sofia is severely lacking in tourist sights; some would even argue that it only has one worth seeing, the Aleksander Nevski Church. While I largely agree with this assessment, Sofia still has something to offer those that are looking for something different. And you know what? Sometimes different is good.



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Aleksander Nevski Memorial Church ...Aleksander Nevski Memorial Church ...
Aleksander Nevski Memorial Church ...

... to remember the 200,000 Russian soldiers who fought for Bulgaria during the Russo-Turkish war. Surprisingly dark and empty inside.
City Park ... City Park ...
City Park ...

... cafe culture abounds in Sofia, with this park being an exceptionally suitable location for a coffee or drink.
Sveti Georgi Rotunda ...Sveti Georgi Rotunda ...
Sveti Georgi Rotunda ...

... originally built in the 4th century and rebuilt in the 6th. Cool that it's located in the courtyard of a Sheraton hotel.
Pure Propaganda - Monument to the Soviet ArmyPure Propaganda - Monument to the Soviet Army
Pure Propaganda - Monument to the Soviet Army

... complete with gun-toting Soviet soldier, towering over a grateful working populace. Uh huh ...
Mineral Springs, Found All Over Bulgaria ...Mineral Springs, Found All Over Bulgaria ...
Mineral Springs, Found All Over Bulgaria ...

... it's common to see Bulgarians filling their water bottles, wherever they can.
Statue of Saint Sofia ... Statue of Saint Sofia ...
Statue of Saint Sofia ...

... replacement for what was once Lenin statue.
Needed Back Home - Fitness Park For Kids ...Needed Back Home - Fitness Park For Kids ...
Needed Back Home - Fitness Park For Kids ...

... the government needs to get them off of video games and the internet. That goes for adults too!
Stuffed Peppers w/n Yogurt Dill Sauce ...Stuffed Peppers w/n Yogurt Dill Sauce ...
Stuffed Peppers w/n Yogurt Dill Sauce ...

... super tasty., with rice and meat inside. Surprisingly light yogurt sauce, super fragrant with fresh dill. The abundance of sauce came in handy, as it did double-duty as a dip for the accompanying meat ball. The Kamenitza beer was light and refreshing, with just a hint of bitterness.
Balkan Masters of the BBQ ...Balkan Masters of the BBQ ...
Balkan Masters of the BBQ ...

... I don't know how they do it, but Balkan chefs turn out some of the finest grilled meats, making any chef proud. Just a simple grilled "meat ball", stuffed with cheese ... but nicely seasoned and supremely juicy, absolutely delicious. Some of the meals I had last year in the Balkans were only a couple of CAD dollars, for some great cevapcici, little grilled ground beef sausages. Overall, a good value meal at a contemporary-feeling restaurant for about $8 CAD. The restaurant was recommended by the hostel, and I had troubles finding it, as the spelling in the Latin alphabet is "Divaka" (the Cyrillic version is shown on the menu in the background).
National Palace of Culture ...National Palace of Culture ...
National Palace of Culture ...

... more beautiful ugliness.
Very Odd That This is Called Lover's Bridge ...Very Odd That This is Called Lover's Bridge ...
Very Odd That This is Called Lover's Bridge ...

... when it's a pedestrian bridge over top of a major roadway, hardly the romantic location that the name implies. And the McDonald's sign, the ultimate symbol of Capitalism, hovering over the vanquished Communism ... Lenin would be spinning in his grave, like the giant skewer of meat found at Sofia's numerous kebab shops ... there was also a fabulous photo exhibit along the bridge.
Photo Exhibit on Lover's Bridge ...Photo Exhibit on Lover's Bridge ...
Photo Exhibit on Lover's Bridge ...

... this sandbar had formed naturally. Too cool!
Super Useful Description of the Exhibit ...Super Useful Description of the Exhibit ...
Super Useful Description of the Exhibit ...

... if you can read Cyrillic.
First Non-English Word I Understood in Sofia ...First Non-English Word I Understood in Sofia ...
First Non-English Word I Understood in Sofia ...

... and it's not in Cyrillic, but in Spanish!
Sorry Excuse For a Kebab ...Sorry Excuse For a Kebab ...
Sorry Excuse For a Kebab ...

... luckily it was tucked into a little plastic bag, because it was a greasy mess after, with a puddle of oil, kebab sauce, and meat and vegetable juices in the bottom. Not digging the fries that were stuffed inside, and the kebab was COLD. There was a nice acidic citrus note, perhaps a bit of lime was squeezed over it? But other than lime, this was one of the worst kebabs I have EVER had. Surprisingly, the place was run by an Iranian - do they even have kebabs in Iran? Perhaps one day I'll be lucky enough to go there and find out - it's also on the list!


3rd September 2011

Ha! I know this menu, itīs restaurant Ambika! :D

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