A Sojourn in Sofia

Hello Sofia!

Leaving Serbia we continued southeast into Bulgaria.  At the border crossing there was a short queue of vehicles.  When we made it to the front of the line the immigration officer stamped our passports and a customs offer asked how much alcohol and cigarettes we were bringing into Bulgaria.  We replied three bottles of wine and three bottles of beer he was satisfied that we didn’t need to pay any duties so he waved us through.

At the border there was a great deal of signage letting us know we had to purchase a vignette to drive in Bulgaria.  Essentially this is a sticker showing that we’ve paid the fee to drive on the fancy roadways in the country.  A week long pass was 8 Euros and when Wes handed the seller a 10 Euro note the attendant shoved it in a drawer rather gruffly then passed the sticker back through the window without offering change.  Wes considered demanding the 2 Euros but decided to let it go rather than taking the chance of causing an incident at the border.

With passports stamped and vignette purchased, we drove onward to Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

After settling in, we set out to see Sofia’s best-known landmark, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.  One of a few cathedrals across Europe bearing the same name, the Sofia version is definitely the most impressive.

The inside of the cathedral is adorned with huge chandeliers and painted walls. 

Entry is free but a photo permit costs 10 Lev (about $6).  This is enforced, as Annette found out.

Just outside of the Nevsky cathedral is Russian Church “Sveti Nikolay Mirlikiiski” that is also worth a visit.

Also nearby is the Byzantine St. Sophia Church (in the background of the photo below) that dates back to the 4th century.

Other Sights

The statue of Saint Sofia is relatively new, installed in the year 2000.  The kids liked her pet owl, which symbolizes wisdom.  

The Banya Bashi Mosque was built in the 1500s when the Ottomans ruled the city.  Today the mosque is one of four religious buildings standing in close proximity (along with a synagogue, Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church) that make up the “Square of Religious Tolerance.”  


Our kids always enjoy visiting children’s museums so we were happy to learn that Sofia has one.  Muzieko opened in 2015 so the exhibits still looked brand new.  The lobby is dominated by a huge sculpture that incorporates musical instruments.

As we ventured further into the museum we found plenty of hands-on activities.

The kids learned about different kinds of architecture and built their own replicas of famous structures.

There were also exhibits on energy production and the environment.

Borisova Gradina Park

“Boris’ Garden” is a large central park named after Tsar Boris III.  As we strolled through the park we saw lots of locals out enjoying the fall weather and colorful leaves.

A little further on we found a large playground that the kids loved.

Summing Up

Before traveling to Bulgaria we weren’t sure what to expect from the country but we were pleasantly surprised with our short stay in Sofia.  With the children’s museum and numerous parks and playgrounds, the city is definitely a good choice for families and we’d like to return and explore more in the future.

In our next update, we’ll travel to the Rila Monastery and taste some traditional Bulgarian wine.