Sofia from A to Z: Welcome, dear EU officials

Written by on October 29, 2017 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Sofia from A to Z: Welcome, dear EU officials

Bulgaria will take over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union on January 1 2018. Lots of visits by EU officials and other individuals and groups are a foregone conclusion. This A to Z list might serve as a first portion of information about Sofia, for guests who have not been here before.

A: Ayran 

This yoghurt drink is refreshing and healthy. Bulgarians drink it a lot, and you will most likely like it.

B: Beauty

You are visiting a beautiful country of seven million inhabitants, with great skiing slopes and a Black Sea coast. Bulgaria is a tourist haven.

One lev equals 100 stotinki. One euro is 1.95 leva. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

C: Currency

Since Bulgaria is not part of the euro zone yet, the national currency is the lev (plural: leva). 1.95 leva = 1 euro.

D: Driving

The guy wearing sunglasses and a golden chain in his new AMG Mercedes always has the right of way. Oh, and watch those potholes you paid for.

E: Expenses

Staying in Sofia can be very inexpensive, especially if you use little restaurants in side streets. Just pick a place with lots of guests and order what they order.

Driving in Sofia is a challenge. Not just in winter. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

F: Foreigners

Foreigners are being accepted in Bulgaria, as long as they are white. The other side of the coin: The level of racism in Bulgaria is alarming.

G: Good Museums

A good example: Try the Museum of Archaeology on Tsar Osvoboditel Boulevard. It is recommended.

H: Hotels

Among all EU capitals, Sofia may have the lowest percentage of hotels belonging to international brands, but there are countless places of all kinds, from the cockroach haven to the most exclusive spot.

I: Inhabitants

Officially, Sofia has 1.3 million inhabitants. During one walk through the city centre, you will probably see 2000 of them.

Sofia Synagogue, a place which came to new life after the communist decades. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

J: Jewish Life

Up to 5000 Jews are left in Bulgaria. The Sofia Synagogue is worth a visit, for non-Jews as well.

K: Knowledge

Knowledge about Sofia and Bulgaria can e.g. be acquired by using The Sofia Globe’s search field. Just type in anything you want to know about and hit enter. Chances are, you will find the background information you need.

L: LGBT Community

Bulgaria’s LGBT community is being ignored by both the government and Sofia Municipality. Homophobia in this country is wide-spread.

Sofia’s Pirogov Hospital is the first address for emergencies. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

M: Medical Help

In emergencies, Pirogov Hospital might be the right place. But don’t expect many English speakers among the staff or the kind of service you are used to.

N: Nightlife

Sofia has a great nightlife. Try Sofia Live Club, Swinging Hall or Studio 5 for some good performances, and any place you see for mostly inexpensive drinks. Try to avoid places run by Hulk types who drive expensive, German-made vehicles.

O: Opera

Sofia’s Opera is known for its stunning productions and inexpensive admission. Part of the audience flies in from abroad.

P: Public Transport

Public transport is cheap: 1.60 leva, the equivalent of 82 euro cents. But every time you board another bus, tram or Metro, you need a new ticket.

Inside Nevsky Cathedral, the largest cathedral in Bulgaria, and second-largest on the Balkan peninsula. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

Q: Questions

You have questions? Just walk up to any 20-year-old and ask. Chances are, they will speak English and know the answer.

R. Religion

Most religious Bulgarians are Orthodox Christians. The second-largest religious group are the Bulgarian Muslims. Protestants are third.

S: Security

Sofia is generally safe. Walking the city centre even at night is possible. But there have been cases in which people of colour were attacked by racist criminals.

T: The Sofia Globe

The Sofia Globe is the only English-language news and features publication in Bulgaria produced entirely by expatriates. News and features? Think Sofia Globe.

Sofia’s Metro is elegant, clean and fast. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

U: Underground

Using the Metro is the most modern, the fastest and the least annoying way of moving around Sofia. On the other hand, whoever wants to see the city on the way should use buses and trams.

V: Vampires

So far, none have been spotted. They are supposedly next door, in Romania’s Transylvania region.

W: Whereabouts

While in Sofia, you are closer to Baghdad and Tel Aviv than to Amsterdam, London or Paris. This is basically the south-easternmost spot in Europe.

X: Xenophobia

Unfortunately, there is more xenophobia in Bulgaria than in most other European states. Refugees in this country are being robbed, beaten and stripped of their rights.

Y: Your Stay

The Sofia Globe wishes you a good stay in Sofia. You will like it here. Caution is advised regarding taxis and traffic in general, including crossing the street on green or on zebra crossings.

At Sofia’s Zhenski Pazar, you will find anything. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

Z: Zhenski Pazar

Zhenski Pazar, (“Women’s Market”) in the heart of Sofia, is an interesting market, which offers good photo opportunities.

Sofia, Bulgaria: The new tourist magnet

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