Travel Journal / Sofia / by Kalie Reid

Sofia, Bulgaria in the everyday moments. A look at the sun-filtered parks, ornate cathedrals, stylish cafes, and friendly locals that this complex and historical city provides.

Sofia is the type of city that catches your attention; it imperceptibly draws you in and simultaneously poses questions and answers them. I’ve done a considerable amount of travel throughout the countries in the former Eastern Bloc, but no capital city wears its Soviet influence like Sofia. Brutalist buildings built on top of classical architecture sitting atop Roman ruins make up the landscape, the layers of history and evidence of humanity everywhere.

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On my third day, I joined in on a free walking tour throughout the city and was made privy to the generations of history and millennia of stories that Sofia holds, a city that was established in the 4th century B.C. and has seen more than a few rulers pass through. For a city that spans so many centuries, I was expecting to feel a sense of detachment, of a traveler simply stopping by. But the friendliness and warmth of the Bulgarian people welcomed me into their story.

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Recently, in my travels, I’ve made the decision to not plan every moment down to the last second as I am sometimes tempted to. Entering a city relatively unaware of its main draws, of the must-sees and unmissables, creates room for spontaneity and discovery. However, usually I’d make sure to take part in a city walking tour, which allows those who know it best to show me what they consider the city highlights, interwoven with anecdotes and historical facts. Although, In my opinion, there are several sights in Sofia that filled me with awe and inspiration. The towering and ornate Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, illuminated by a spectacular sunset, was one of those. The park around the Ivan Vazov National Theatre was another.

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Life in Sofia, I found, is unhurried and meant to be savoured. Whether that is through enjoying traditional Bulgarian cuisine, soaking up the sun with the locals, or pausing for a conversation with a seller at a market about life under occupation, Bulgaria emphasises the everyday moments. 

Article originally in Licorne Magazine