FolkestoneJack's Tracks

A long weekend in Sofia

Posted in Bulgaria, Sofia by folkestonejack on May 20, 2016

A weekend of sightseeing in Sofia beckons after the excitement of a week playing with trains, but the first priority was to head out to Sofia airport to meet up with Brett who was coming in on the early morning flight from Gatwick.

The airport is well connected to the city centre by metro and it only takes around 20 minutes from Sofia University St Kliment Ohridski and only a little longer from Serdika or the Central Railway Station. It’s a smooth journey to the cathedral of steel and glass that is Terminal 2, but getting to Terminal 1 is somewhat trickier!

The metro station at Sofia Airport which opened in April 2015

The metro station at Sofia Airport which opened in April 2015

The metro does not connect to Terminal 1 and there is no obvious walking route between the terminals, so the only option is to take the free half-hourly shuttle bus which runs from T2 to T1 departures. It is operated by a mini-bus with just sixteen seats so it was no surprise that it was completely full for the 15 minute run in each direction.

Terminal 1 presents a stark contrast to its ten year old sibling, looking fairly unloved inside and out. The terminal was constructed during WW2 and it’s clearly a struggle to squeeze all the check in desks and security systems of a modern airport into the space available. On top of that, some of the public facilities are rather poorly maintained as I discover on a descent to the toilets in the arrivals hall. It’s a rather grim first impression to give visitors.

Our hotel for our short stay in Sofia was to be the Radisson Blu Grand Hotel, located right in the heart of Sofia and directly opposite the National Assembly. I was relieved to see that the square was relatively quiet when we emerged from the metro as the previous night it had been the scene of a large demonstration with a heavy police presence!

The view from our hotel room

A room with a view – the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria and the golden domes of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

I got a little glimpse of Sofia’s beauty a week earlier, but no time to explore properly. Most of the major attractions in the city are located within a 15 minute walk of the hotel, but the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the Monument to the Soviet Army are only a minute or two away so these were top of our list.

I would hazard a guess and say that the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral has to be the most photographed building in the country and I made no effort to resist the temptation to add to the many millions of photographs that must already have been taken!

Monument to the Soviet Army

Monument to the Soviet Army

After visiting the most obvious sights near the hotel we set our sights a little further afield and took the metro to the fascinating Museum of Socialist Art, comprising a gallery of socialist paintings and an impressive collection of socialist sculptures in the grounds. The heavens opened whilst we were in the museum so once we had seen everything we headed back to the shelter of the hotel and called it quits on the sightseeing day!

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