I left Las Palmas Gran Canaria one month today. It has been an interesting month so far but I have had times when I have wondered if I have done the right thing. One thing I decided when I started this blog that it would be one thing for sure. Honest.
I really liked Las Palmas. The weather. The city and the people but after 4 years I had become lazy. My mind had become lazy. I needed a new adventure. For better or for worse here I am in Eastern Europe and for now here I will stay but?
I have been in Sofia for one month now. I have enjoyed it here but as always I wonder what is next door. I plan to stay in Bulgaria for a while but I also want to see neighbouring counties and now is the time to do it. The winter can be harsh in this part of the world.
I have booked a bus for 15 euro and on Sunday I will go to the Macedonian capital Skopje. A journey of just less then 250km taking 5.5 hours. I am going to base myself there for a month. I have been able to find a nice apartment there for 350 euro for a month. It is right in the city centre. It has what I need. Wifi, kitchen, washing machine and aircon. I booked on Airbnb as I like the flexibility this gives me. No deposit required and no bills.
One month in Sofia and Bulgaria
So what are my impressions of Sofia and Bulgaria so far? I think you can never really know a place in so little time. I also think if you live in a place to long you can miss things a new person will see. I know when I was in Las Palmas new people to the city told me things about the Las Palmas I did not know. Fresh eyes are always good.
I have barely scratched the surface of this interesting country. Other then Sofia I have just visited the cities of Plovdiv and Veliko Tarnovo. Both very interesting cities and well worth a visit. I have found most Bulgarians to be friendly and have been lucky enough to chat with a few most days. Sofia the capital I have enjoyed walking around it and seeing its history. While Sofia is not considered one of the great European capitals it is well worth a visit. Of course, one other big reason to visit Bulgaria is it is cheap. Very cheap compared to western Europe.
It is not all great. No country is. The majority of Bulgarians I spoke to do not seem to be happy with their lot. I have been surprised that most people feel that things in Bulgaria today are as bad as they have ever been. That is some statement considering the chaos that happened after the collapse of communism and the hyperinflation of the mid-90s. I think it may be the disappointment that democracy has not turned out the way people expected.
The one common complaint people mention is how they feel their country was plundered after communism collapsed. Inbetween the end of communism and the move to democracy there was a vacuum. Some less then honest people saw an opportunity and took it. One of the better articles I have read about this is from Frances Coppola. It is 4 years old but I am sure many of the problems still exist.
Organised crime is still a problem in Bulgaria. You probably will never see it but too many people mention it for it not to be true. That said organised crime is everywhere. It can be in the bar on the Costa del Sol you might be enjoying a beer in. I do know it has been a problem in my own country capital Dublin in recent years. I just think it may be on a different level here in Bulgaria. I am looking forward to getting to know more about Bulgaria when I return. Despite its problems, I can see so much potential here.
There are direct flights to Sofia Bulgaria from Dublin.
Sofia Bulgaria weather. In the month I have been here there temperature has been around the high 20s. People say it that so far this summer has been colder than normal. About 50% of days had thunderstorms that did not last long.
Sofia Bulgaria beach. The nearest beaches are on the black sea or northern Greece so it is a beach holiday you are looking for Sofia is not for you.
Sofia Bulgaria nightlife. I think it is safe to say Sofia is not one of the great European cities for nightlife. I have regularly seen bars refuse a group of foreign guys together. They seem to just don’t want the hassle. It might not be the best choice for stag or hen nights. On the other hand, the city has many good restaurants and some cool bars. It has a population of over 1 million people so I am sure if you look hard enough you can find what works for you.
Serdika Center Sofia. Said to be the best in Sofia for shopping. Took a 4km walk from the centre to see it. It was not a waste of a walk as I like walking. Other than the walk I think I spent 10 minutes there. I have begun to think all shopping centres look the same. Just bigger or smaller of the same shops. The Serdika center looked like any other centre. Prices looked a bit high for Bulgaria. I think Bulgaria could do with a Primark to shake things up.
Macedonia Greece or Bulgaria
I know virtually nothing about Macedonia but I know enough to be careful what I will say when talking to people. Every Bulgarian I have mentioned I was going to Macedonia have told me it is Bulgaria. I do know that Greece and Macedonia have had issues over Macedonia calling itself Macedonia. I have seen the 2004 movie Alexander the Great starring, Colin Farrell. I like history and Colin Farrell has made some good movies. In Bruges is one of my favourite movies but I am afraid the 2004 movie is not by any means a classic. I think Colin did his best to get most if not all of his Irish acting buddies a job. At times I felt I was watching the Irish rural soap opera Glenroe.
The Irish rebel and patriot Rodger Casement once declared I know of two tragic histories in the world. That of Ireland and Macedonia. Both of them have been deprived and tormented. I am looking forward to learning more about this country but will tread carefully also.
Sofia Bulgaria things to do
Metro and the Museum of Socialist Art
On Tuesday I took the Sofia metro for the first time. I was impressed. It has 2 lines and very cheap and easy to use. It began service in 1998 part funded by the E.U. There are just a few European capitals without a metro system now. My own counties capital Dublin is one of them.
One of the more unusual things to do in Sofia is to visit the Museum of Socialist art in Sofia. It is about 4.5km away from the city but just 4 stops from the centre by Metro getting off at the Dimitrov stop. As it is a bit out of the centre there were not many people there. I thought it was well worth a visit. As well as a great collection of Socialist statues on the outside there is an interesting video of communist propaganda inside. I have to admit as I get older the more confused I get on the difference between a communist and a fascist dictator. I don’t get why they don’t like each other so much. The more I watched the propaganda video the more they looked the same.
This week’s short video is from Tsarevets fortress in Veliko Tarnovo. See and hear my heavy breathing as I go up the hill to the fortress. Click here.
Travel Tips. Taxis
Ah yes, taxis. Up there with car rental companies there is a good chance when you travel you will encounter a rogue taxi driver. Of course, most taxi drivers are decent people but there can be a sizable number dodgy in some countries. For example here in Sofia one company that rips off tourists have gone as far as copying another reputable company’s name and logo. In the telephone number, there is just 1 number different. Local people say it is even difficult for them to know the difference. Once you finish your journey you will know the difference in the price. The price in little letters and numbers on the window will be a lot higher than regular taxis.
How to avoid. These people will always be outside hotels or tourist areas. I usually go a street or two back. These days most cities will have a popular taxi app. This way you can see the price before you agree to the trip. In Sofia TaxiMe is the most popular and seems to be the most reliable.
Next week the blog post will be from Skopje Macedonia. Skopje population is just over half a million. I wonder how much a beer is there.
Join me on my journey.
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