According to my Lonely Planet travel guide, there is a lovely walking tour of the main sites in Sofia you can do by yourself. So, a few Sundays ago, we set out to conquer the city. According to the plan, we would see some churches, government buildings, and the old Turkish baths which were under construction.

We started off on one of the main roads, Vitosha Blvd, where we had lunch and mapped our way around:


From there, we headed down to our first stop, a church. Mark is not so interested in churches, so I usually get two minutes to look at it and then he’s moving along. The next stop was to have been a mosque (another kind of church) and the Turkish baths. But the Lonely Planet travel guide did not tell me that they were going to start building the Metro, or train tracks, right in the middle of our path. So, we ended up turning too soon and getting ourselves all out of order on our little tour. No worries, though, we found our way back.

The book said I would see minarets at the mosque. I was imagining those tall, gold, circular towers with all kinds of art on it. Well, here’s what I got:


I suppose it is a minaret, but not exactly what I had in mind. The mosque and the Turkish baths are right next door to each other. Again, this comes back to the time when the Turks ruled the country. They built mosques to practice their Muslim religion. The baths are here because Sofia is naturally surrounded by springs of fresh, clean mineral water that come out of the earth. That is why it is safe to drink the water from the tap. The baths used to be a place where people would bathe in the water to heal their sicknesses. It looked like it would have been a cool place to visit, and maybe will again one day, if they ever finish the construction…


Then it was onwards to the government buildings. They are huge and well-kept. They are, perhaps, the only buildings in town with no graffiti. The travel book suggested we NOT take too many pictures of government buildings. The police get suspicious if you photograph the official places in town. We knew this of course because on a prior visit Mark was taking pictures of the U.S. Embassy when the police put handcuffs on him and took his camera. Well, come to find out, Colin Powell was due for a visit and they thought Mark was preparing to do something criminal. He did get out of the handcuffs, but the police kept the film.

While we were walking, Mark noticed these men working on the side of the government buildings:


Would you do that? Me, neither!

Then, we continued down our path.


Next up was the Russian Orthodox Church. Now, here is what I was expecting to see!! I’ve visited many churches in several countries, but this is one of my all-time favorites:


Plus, there is a little garden right next to it with flowers and a lawn. I should say here that even though Sofia is a busy city with lots of graffiti and trash, there are many parks. The parks are large and peaceful and have nice trails to walk around on. Sometimes they also have funny statues, Here are some examples:



Also, Sofia is full of people who perform music on the streets. You will see an accordion player playing a little minuet on the sidewalk, or a kid playing the violin. I think it is nice to hear music when you are walking around the city! They think it is nice if you give them some money….

Once we passed the Russian church, the next stop on the path was the Nevski Church and we had already been there. So we walked around the streets a bit and saw some ambassadors’ houses. An ambassador is an official from another country who lives in Bulgaria. So, for example, the United States has a person who is in charge of taking care of all the United States business and all the people from the United States who visit Bulgaria. If we had a problem, we would go to the United States embassy and they would help us. The ambassador is the boss of the embassy. Other countries have ambassadors here, too. Right next to our apartment are two others: India and Hungary. It is fun to walk by the ambassadors’ houses because they are huge and fancy. And they are always cleaned up. So we walked by a few houses, and then decided to head home.

The next day, Niki asked us what we did that weekend.
“Oh, we went all around and saw the Russian church and the Turkish baths”, I said.
“We have Turkish baths here?” he said.

So, I guess I know more about Sofia than even the Sofians do…hahaha!

**If you want to see lots more pictures of our walking tour, I made a new photo album for them. Just click on the picture of the big, yellow church on the right that says “Click here for pictures of Bulgaria” in teeny tiny writing…