Sofia, Bulgaria (Capital)

Pat Buying Corn Sofia Bulgaria
Pat Buying Corn - Sofia, Bulgaria

Sofia, Bulgaria (Capital) (5/8-9/2011)

Sofia’s downtown is attractive with green parks with large trees at almost every turn. 

For you Oz fans, Sofia actually has yellow brick roads running along the center of the city. Sofia, with a population of 1.4 million of Bulgaria’s 7 million, is Bulgaria’s largest and capital city.

Aleksander Nevski Church Sofia Bulgaria
Aleksander Nevski Church - Sofia, Bulgaria
Sofia's main sight is the gold-domed Russian-style Orthodox Aleksander Nevski Cathedral in the center of the city. It is huge - the largest Orthodox church in the Balkans claiming to be able to hold 7,000 people.

United Buddy Bears Exhibit Sofia bulgaria
'United Buddy Bears' Exhibit - Sofia
Down the street we witnessed two back-to-back weddings at the small Sveta Sofia Church (see photo). We also were lucky to see the United Buddy Bears exhibit that has been shown all around the world (see photo). About 120 of these 6-foot bears representing many of the countries recognized by the United Nations are painted by different artists on behalf of their country. They stand hand in hand in a circle to promote peace and understanding among of the nations of the world. Pretty cool!

Wedding at Sveta Sofia Church sofia bulgaria
Wedding at Sveta Sofia Church
We stayed in Sofia in the very nice Red House B&B, a mansion that was once home to one of Bulgaria’s most famous sculptors. Sofia's Red House B&B is now a cultural center for debates with seven rooms for rent. Matching the name, we had red satin sheets.

Amazing Rila Monastery bulgaria
Amazing Rila Monastery
A highlight of our visit to Sofia was our day trip to the amazing Rila Monastery, an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Founded in 927, this monastery has benefited from generous donations for centuries and was restored several times. Rila Monastery is truly one of the wonders of Bulgaria and is still working as a monastery with 300 monk rooms on four levels. The paintings are amazing with 1,200 brilliant murals in the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin and hundreds more around the halls. 

River with Spring Flowers Rila Monestary bulgaria
River with Spring Flowers 
- Rila Monestary
Bulgarian Countryside
Bulgarian Countryside
Some history… Sofia was founded around 2,500 years ago. In succeeding centuries, Bulgarian and the Byzantine Empires dominated southeast Europe. By the end of the 14th century the region was then ruled for 500 years by the Ottoman Turks. 

Bulgaria regained its independence in 1878 largely due to the intervention of Russia and Romania. Russia lost 200,000 men liberating Bulgaria from the Ottomans and many more in WWII against the Germans. Many statues and large monuments and churches have been built to honor the Russians.

Adam and Eve Mural Rila Monestary bulgaria
Adam and Eve Mural - Rila Monestary
Recent history has been tough on Bulgaria. After a series of brutal Balkan wars, Bulgaria had the further misfortune to be on the losing side in both World Wars. Bulgaria then in 1946 fell under communist domination in the Soviet sphere of influence. 

Bulgaria held its first multi-party election in 1989. Bulgaria remains the poorest member of the European Union with issues such as a weak judiciary system, a moderate level of corruption in the local government, large budget deficit, a poor road infrastructure, and a high unemployment rate.

Having said that, we enjoyed our stay in Bulgaria.

Please also see our 3 other blog posts for Bulgaria:

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