After landing about 1pm, first chore was to get cash from the ABM and head to the hotel. Based on advice from Wikitravel, I decided to get a taxi from the soothingly named “OK Taxi” – and true to name, they were ok! The lady at the counter walked me out to a taxi, who didn’t speak English but we did just fine in French, and he was very curious why I’d chosen to visit his city – even more curious when he found it was for just one day! Wikitravel had told me to expect 10-12 leva for the taxi, and it came to 9,20…wow, a city with an honest taxi system, I was liking this place already.
This is a good place to mention…I was seriously impressed with Sofia, which given how tired and jet lagged I was says quite a bit. Although it was a brief trip, I was perhaps more impressed than with any other place I’ve visited in eastern europe. I can’t wait to go back for a longer trip, and explore more of the country. Everyone was friendly and helpful, and between English, French, and Russian I never once had any trouble communicating…and not just getting what I “needed” but asking enough questions to get what I was really looking for. Huge thumbs up!
That said, in deference to points collecting and status whoring, I decided to stay at the super-cheap and affordable Sheraton Sofia. Was upgraded to a fantastic junior suite which was amazing for the one short night. Friendly, helpful staff that answered all the questions I had, went out of their way to help me find things, and all-around were awesome. Highly recommend this place based on my brief experience!
By this time it was around 3pm, and I headed out for a few hour walk in advance of the 6:30pm tour I was planning to take. Walked a total of around 8km around the city, just taking in sights. Stopped for a couple espressos (I confess, one of them was at Starbucks for all-too-predictable and needed caffeination) and then just camped out for a little bit at a small cafe near the start of the tour for a couple local beers and people-watching.
For a tour, and to see as much as possible in a short time, I’d decided to go on a walking tour with Free Sofia Tour – which was also ranked the number one thing to do on Tripadvisor! Let me just say, it was definitely an excellent choice! They say the tour is about two hours, but our guide was fantastic, and at the urging of our group of approximately 10 he went for nearly 3 hours. That combined with my earlier walk definitely had my feet sore, but it was well worth it! If you get a chance to take this tour I highly recommend it, and our guide Kiril was fantastic!
So, on to the tour! Hopefully I get the names of all the sights right…it was lots to see in three hours!
First stop was the Sveta Nedelya Church.