Thanks for tuning in this week for my travel story! So after my ordeal with my missed flight (you did not know that happened? Okay before you continue, catch up on how I missed my flight).
Lucky for me, I did not have to buy a whole new ticket, however, I had to pay a fee of £80 (ouch! I know). This was for a flight for the next day – meaning my initial plan to spend 2 days in Bulgaria was now shortened to 24 hours, was devastated by it but then I was determined to make the most of it.
6.05 – 11.30: Flight from London Gatwick to Sofia Bulgaria
Overall it was pleasant flight! Drop me a comment if you’d like to read about the book I read or the songs I listened to whilst flying. I mostly catch myself daydreaming and looking at the pretty clouds.
I arrived in Sofia and from the plane, the landscape eye view reminded me of Switzerland; so green and beautiful. On arrival, it was nice to be greeted by my friend who was patiently waiting for me. To be honest it felt good to be welcomed. Most of my time during my solo journey airport, arrivals consist of me whisking through the arrival and trying to find the nearest means of transportation to my final destination. I know no one will be waiting for me with a welcome banner or flowers.
11:30-11.45: Taxi to Center of Sofia
We quickly made our way to the central region of Sofia using the taxi service. A tip for you guys is that there are always people in the airport promoting their taxi companies, they tell you the price in dollars so it would sound cheaper than the local currency. Don’t pay attention to them, a better alternative is to book your taxi from the official taxi booth, that way an agreed price would have been set before the journey begins and if the price is not fixed, make sure the taxi driver makes use of a meter so at least that way there is some kind of regulation to the taxi journey.
We had lunch at the local Chinese restaurant located on the main high street, which I totally recommend. The food there was fab and reasonably priced.
12:15-2:00: Exploring Sofia
After our meal we decided to have a quick walk around, visiting the local churches, the parliament buildings (remember I told you from the Switzerland post that the government building is the symbol of power and it is quite nice to always visit it when visiting a new city). We finally went to see the famous Sofia Opera and Ballet. Although the weather was amazing, it was blazing hot meaning it was very imperative we cooled down. We opted for a fruit slushy (My gosh did it hit the right spot).
14:00: Sofia to Plovdiv
My friend stays in Plovdiv, but it was cheaper to fly to Sofia take the bus to Plovdiv then fly directly to Plovdiv. Sometimes you’ve got to do these things – not only does it save you money but you also get to visit two different cities in one trip. We headed for Plovdiv, about 145 km from Sofia. It was a long bus ride but it had such an amazing scenic view. We drove past a huge sunflower field and I wished I could get off the bus and run through it (That is stored in my bucket list for now). The bus journey was made shorter by speaking to a local who was born in Bulgaria but lived in the USA. She told us her story and the importance of international exposure in order to reduce prejudices that are formed when you only stay in a certain location.
16:30: Arrival in Plovdiv
I was already tired but the adventure, and it was just beginning! So we went home to relax for a couple of minutes and to drop my suitcase so I didn’t have to drag it around the city.
17:00- 20:00: Old mosque – Dzhumaya
Our Plovdiv tour started with an exploration of the whole mosque, which had the underground original Roman structure within it. The influence of Islam in Plovdiv is still very strong. As we walked across the street we could hear the Adhaan (call to prayer) echoing. It is certain that it is very rich in culture.
The ruins of the old Roman stadium are still preserved. We were able to explore and imagine what was life like back then. it was quite fascinating to see how it had been preserved for such a long time.
I would advise you wear comfortable shoes when exploring the old town. It is a bit of a long walk but it was filled with so many hidden gems. I even found flowers that matched my top. A coincidence or what?
Plovdiv churches are absolutely amazing! The historical detailing is very much present and I encourage you to light a candle when ever you go into the church building. ‘For we are the light and the salt of the earth’ It serves as a little reminder to me. Although you have to pay for the candle (which was a small change), the proceeds go into the maintenance of the church.
We saw a very surreal seating area and it reminded of a monk house. It was later discovered that it was actually a restaurant. The owner came out and welcomed us so joyfully, she spoke about her restaurant but was more fascinated by our hair. She insisted we took pictures with her. This reminds me of my visit to India. Click here to find out how people always wanted to take pictures with me and how I dealt with it. We took the picture and then I insisted on a selfie of my own, for once, I also wanted a copy to keep for myself.
Learning the art of weaving
We were walking past a weaving shop, not exactly sure what caught our attention but we looked at each other and knew we had to go in and explore. We walked in and felt so welcomed. She introduced herself and even allowed us to do some weaving, which we were not good at. Our conversation erupted with laughter so much so that tourists stopped outside the shop wondering what was going on. We then waved them in come in and take part in the fun. Her store was filled within minutes, which lead to a couple of sales – this made me so happy. Travelling for me is to make someone else’s’ day just a little better. Remember travelling is not about counting the countries you visit but instead making long-term friendships from people around the world.
We took a break here to sit and reflect on the journey so far before we headed out again. It was perfect and surreal. It was a high point that provided a breath-taking view of Plovdiv city. At that moment I felt myself come alive; I was very present. I watched as people sat lazily reading a book or on a date and I appreciated life as it is. I wonder where my next travel adventure will be.
Heading back to the city from the old town we came across a free concert in the city centre. Everybody gathered around and the atmosphere was electrifying. The loud singing boomed into the microphone and the beat was so infectious that you could not help but dance. Everyone was jolly and in high spirits. Aylak means “to be relaxed and do nothing at all’ and that’s how Plovidians live their lives. The expression is only used in Plovdiv and it’s a place so special it certainly deserves its own word.
20.00: Get a snack waffles at Afreddo
The day had been busy after the filling lunch we had we wanted to snack on something but not a proper meal so we visited the famous Afreddo have some waffle and ice cream (it was glorious). The chocolate melted perfectly on the warm buttery waffles, even as I am writing this I am reminiscing on how amazing it tasted.
We wanted to do something relaxing to round off the evening so we decided to see a lake. We made it extra special by making sure we saw the sunset. It was my favourite kind of sunset with pink clouds; yet again I stood facing forward again wondering what my next adventure will be. The flags reminded me that the journey ahead is great but I only need to take one step in front of the other, and everything will be just fine.
22:00 Chilled evening drinks and cinema visit
We wanted a chilled evening since I had a morning flight to catch. We opted for drinks and then a cinema visit. The city is very vibrant during the evening and our chosen drinking spot was a small café, which was an adaptation of the popular TV show ‘FRIENDS’. The waiters were so pleasant. One thing I noticed also was the laid back attitude as after we asked for our bill, this took a while to get as they just did not understand the concept of hurrying, again reminding me of Aylak.
The cinema visit was a totally new experience since we went to see ‘War of the Planet of The Apes’ and numerous portion of the movie was sign language which was then subtitled in Bulgarian letters. The good thing about watching a foreign movie is the full concentration it demands. You no longer rely on your passive means of getting information about what is going on in the movie. Instead, several times I caught myself leaning in, fully concentrating on the facial expressions and body language of the apes to understand what was going on. Overall it was a memorable experience!
The night ended on an extremely good note, and I did not want it to end. It was time to go home and prepare for my travel back later on that day. We woke up said my final goodbyes and was on my way back. Overall I was able to make use of the major transportation system in Bulgaria, taxi, bus and train. The airport check in was swift and before you knew it I was going to be up in the clouds again reflecting on my journey.
Funny enough there was a slight delay to the flight heading back and wished this had happened when I was coming so I could have caught my flight, but everything happens for a reason. I was talking to the air-hostess about my travels while we waited for the flight; a tip I shared on my 10 secrets to an easy – breezy trip. Suddenly, I was invited by the pilots to join them in the cabin; you could tell by the picture how delighted I was. It was definitely one of the highlights of my trip to Bulgaria!
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