Thursday, March 06, 2014

Sofia

Final city of the tour was the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia.

This was probably the easiest of the 3 cities to get around. For the final leg of the trip I'd chosen to stay in the Radisson Blu which is in the centre of the city. Advantages is that its central and our of my window I could see the Parliament building, Zar Alexander II statue and the Nevskiy Cathedral. This was going to be easy.

There's Alex and my hotel. The restaurant chain "Happy" next door was great especially if you liked strawberries that featured heavily in the menu. I used these guys for all my meals.

As with Romania there were some great looking buildings here in Sofia. I've no idea what this was but I'd guess an embassy. For some reason the roads in the centre are paved with yellow bricks and why they don't lead to Oz they are likely to leading you slipping, as I did twice.

This is the the presumptuous titled "Church of St Nicholas the Miracle Maker". Whilst the name might be a bit much the building looked amazing, as most Russian Orthodox churches do. This was rebuilt in the early 1900s.

Not far from the church I spotted this bookshop with a Cyrillic Jamie Oliver. How I wish he was so popular in Siberia that he went and lived there...forever. 

This is the Ethnographic museum. It used to be a Royal residence.


Hidden within the Sheridan Hotel is the Rotunda of St George, which is believed to be the oldest building in the country and given it was built in the 4th century must be hard to beat unless they dig something up. 

That's the National Assembly building. 


This cool old church is behind the Sheriton and has been the site of a church for quite some time. This version was rebuilt in the 1930s.

This is the statue of St Sofia overlooking the city from the West.

Sofia used to be a Thracian settlement called Serdica and as they dig underground they are discovering ruins, which they're incorporating in their rather cool metro system as museum exhibits. Similar to what happened with the Athens metro in Greece. In the background is the city Synagogue.


 Serdica station is the intersection where the two lines meet. Today I was planning on riding the blue line to the southern end and the red line to near the eastern end. They're extending the red line to the airport which is great for travellers to the city, but bad for the taxis. Like Bucharest you can buy a one-day ticket but you have to have it scanned at each ticket office before it'll be accepted at the gates. So if you buy one and can't get it to work go back and get it authorised.

Their metro is great and I appreciate it's newer and less used than what we have in London but to get away from that system for something where everything is right is a joy.

My first leg took me to James Boruchier station and whilst it seemed odd to have a station named after an Irish chap a little bit of research discovered that he fought for the country in a diplomatic context and is held in high regard by the country. From the station continue south to the main intersection from where you can head east to Sofialand or continue south for Skypark


Sofialand is an abandoned amusement park that opened in 2001 as one of the largest amusements parks in SE Europe, however it closed suddenly in 2006 


Unlike Bucharest there was nobody to stop me getting close to the park and I was able to take photos through the fence. I wasn't up for jumping the fence and breaking in to get closer, especially as I could hear generators running inside. Is that a good sign for the parks future perhaps?

Having a peek inside the entranceway to the park. It all looks to be in really good condition and given the country is now part of Europe I'd like to think that it would find a new owner soon.

Heading back to the main junction and heading south the downhill walk soon brought me to the Paradise Mall and yes that is a rollercoaster on the roof. This was a park I found at the end of 2013 as part of my google earth research. 

The park is accessed via the top floor and I recommend the Happy restaurant next door, especially if you're wanting somewhere to wait whilst it stops raining. 



The ninja fly is a squat looking mini loop fighter built like Italian ride maker Technical Park. 


The coaster is called Speed Ride Cyclone and is a standard model.


From Paradise Mall I decided to head into Yuzhen Park, a huge public park that covers a large part of the southern side of the city.





and I did find a little Lunapark, but no coasters. But at least the research was paying off. 

getting out of the park proved to be a little bit harder than getting in, much like casinos in Vegas. My tip is to head NW not NE.

A nice mural in the residential area around the metro station that I was heading back to.


A couple of event posters. The rock one would be much better than the East 17 one.
Having gotten back to the station I then headed to Mladost 1 at the end of the red line and after a 10 minute walk north I made it to a shopping mall given the "The Mall". Original.

The mall is on the other side of the main motorway that joins the city centre with the airport. I found that the easiest way to reach the mall is to cross the first run-in road and then follow walk the road that comes up from underground to your right. That runs under the main road and into the customer car park beneath the mall. 



Outside the mall is a small collection of rides included a powered dragon and if you look out of your airport taxi when being driven into the city you'll pass by it. You have to buy a sheet of tickets which you then trade in with the ride operators. Due to a language barrier I ended up buying too much.

Having had my fill of coasters I headed back into the city. This is the Visil Levski stadium, the main football stadium in the city.


Statues of various sporting people can be seen outside. I like how someone had painted the footballer in team colours.

By this point in the trip I was starting to read Cyrillic quite easily. I had the same thing in Russia, once you suss how each character translates as if part of a codebreaker puzzle things just click into place. Of course you can easily guess this if you're a fan of Britain's got Talent :)



This is the Soviet Army Monument, now desecrated and turned into a skatepark. I don't know who's adding paint to the statues but it's a great touch. 


Whilst I didn't get to see this first-hand this is perhaps their best work, and it happened here in Sofia too.


This is the Nevskiy cathedral, built in 1912 it's a huge structure but like Belgrade, is empty inside. Once again I suffered the scars of having played Assassins Creed by spending too much time walking the exterior wondering how best to ascend it.


The tomb of the unknown soldier.

This lion sits in front of the tomb and is clearly popular with people who choose to sit on it given the polished section on his back.

Of the 3 cities Sofia was my favourite. Nice and compact, nice food, wonderful metro and a history that you see just walking around. I can definitely see myself coming back. 

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