1 Mar 2009 - Sofia, Bulgaria
After returning to Sofia I had the rest of the day to explore before the flight back to blighty. Getting the bus was in itself an event as the bus to the airport did not depart from the main bus or train station. The customary poor customer service and disinterest at the bus station was no surprise so as I wandered the bus station and train station looking for someone able to help I attracted the usual sharks offering me taxi ride for a stupid price.
However, outside the train station and 100m from the bus station there are more buses and a number of cabins which sell tickets for other buses and after finding a Bulgarian Spanish speaker with some English, my Spanglish mix got me the information I needed and several more enquiries later I worked out how to get the bus to the airport. This was no straight forward matter as it involved a change at the Hotel Plisca and then another bus. Still, the cost of getting to the airport was only about £2.
Sofia - Church of St George
I love it when you explore a new city and then stumble across a hidden gem. This church is one of those gems. Hidden behind the Sheraton hotel and only just viewable from the road when walking past is the 4th century Roman Christian Church of St George - the time of Emperor Constantine the Great and visitor to the city many times. It is considered to be the oldest building in Sofia and stands in the remains of ancient Serdica, the Roman forerunner of Sofia.
Sofia - Serdica foundations besides the Church of St George
The church is mainly famous for the 12th-14th century frescoes inside the central dome. Three layers of frescoes have been discovered, the earliest dating back to the 10th century. Magnificent frescoes of 22 prophets over 2 metres tall crown the dome. Painted over during the Ottoman period, when the building was used as a mosque, these frescoes were only uncovered in the 20th century.
Sofia - Hagia Nedelja Church i
The original church was built in the 10th century and survived remarkably long until destroyed in an earthquake in 1858. It was rebuild but then destroyed in 1925 as a result of a communist terrorist act against the Royal family. The church we see today was build in 1931.
Sofia - Hagia Nedelja Church II
Sofia - The Largo
This is regarded as one of the prime examples of Socialist Classicism architecture in Southeastern Europe, as well as one of the main landmarks of Sofia. The former HQ of the Bulgarian Communist Party
Sofia - Banya Bashi Mosque
The mosque derives its name from the phrase Banya Bashi, which means many baths. The most outstanding feature of the Mosque is that it was actually built over natural thermal spas. One can even see the steam rising from vents in the ground near the Mosque walls. The Mosque is famous for its large dome and the minaret. The mosque was completed in 1576, during the years the Ottomans had control of Sofia.