Sofia reloaded :)

Travel journal – Sofia

It is a long time since we were planning this escapade to Bulgarian capital, Sofia. Since we went in Ruse we had it on stand by list and now it came the time for it. As usually, it followed plans after plans, days and days browsing sites about Bulgarian trains, cities, places and so on.

After almost a week of day dreaming lately came the big day. As usually we went at our best friend called North station, we took the well known train going to Thessalonic that leaves at 12.24 Romanian capital, prepared to fly over the Danube. I remember we were so anxious looking at the platform clock that shown only 12.10.

The time was walking too slow comparing with our young boiling blood. Lately, after we blunted that clock hanged in our front, the porter whistled train’s departure to our happiness. Quaffing every landscape, every sound, every human face of Romanian, Bulgarians and I don’t know any other people that were traveling with that train, after tasting the last Romanian air on the Friendship Bridge that separates the two countries we saw somewhere afar the little Vienna, in free translation the Bulgarian city Ruse.

At 14.50 we should be there, but some technical problems made us to arrive with a couple of minutes later. But it wasn’t a problem because the train that had to get us to Sofia leaves from Ruse at 22.30. It was our choice because we wanted, on the one hand to make more interesting the travel seeing as many cities as it is possible, and on the other hand, to visit one friend that live there. We succeeded in both targets.

Our friend shown us other places that we hadn’t seen last time when we went there alone. We saw the ruins of the old roman fortress Sexaginta Prista situated on Danube’s shore and a mosque. Because it was almost dark we went in a little bar to have a Bulgarian bier before taking the train. After this we went again to the railway station. We bought tickets – from Ruse to Sofia costs 17 leva/person. Unfortunately we find out too late that if you buy a two way ticket you have a promotional price. We had in our front a night sleeping between the train noise and the uncomfortable train chairs.

We arrived to Sofia in the morning, around 6, being tired and sleepy. The train arrived a little bit later and our friend too and we had to wait for him in the railway hall. It was a huge communistic waiting room, wearing yet the soviet dusted stars. After some minutes that we don’t know how it passed because of the sleepy, all I remember it is that it was pretty cold J Lately our friend came and we followed one of that streets and we arrived at the blessed place: a warm house and a big bed. J After 2-3 sleeping hours we were as new. Our Bulgarian friend and his wife had the pleasure to guide as throw Sofia to show us the main objectives.

We took the bus to arrive in center and entered into the Borisova garden, a big and beautiful park. We cut the garden to arrive near Pancharevo (Панчарево). In our first day to Sofia we visited the surroundings including: Pancharevo Lake and Boyana church, letting the center for the next day.

The following day the Bulgarian hostess guides us through Sofia, this time in the city. We saw a lot of places: the ruins of Serdica fortress, the Banya Bashi Mosque, the Sofia’s synagogue, the Public mineral baths, Nevski cathedral, Vitosha Boulevard, the University, The Market Hall, the Saint George Church (Свети Георги).

We visited a lot in Sofia. This is that type of city that you can fill pages and pages about, but I don’t want to bore or to bust your happiness to discovery by your own.

If you are a Romanian that never visit Sofia you will ask me for sure: “Is it prettiest then Bucharest?”. I will answer “yes”, but the comparison is not just at all.

Sofia is an old city, with another history, another society, another evolution. On the cultural side it is better than Bucharest, but if you look at infrastructure, life style it is not the same think.

Summing up, you really must put Sofia on your travel list. 🙂

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Plovdiv (Bulgaria)

Plovdiv (Bulgarian: Пловдив) is the second-largest city in Bulgaria with a population of 381,738. Known in the West for most of its history by the Greek name Philippopolis, it was originally a Thracian settlement before becoming a major Roman city. In the Middle Ages, it retained its strategic regional importance, changing hands between the Byzantine and Bulgarian Empires. It came under Ottoman rule in the 14th century. In 1878, Plovdiv was made the capital of the autonomous Ottoman region of Eastern Rumelia; in 1885, it became part of Bulgaria with the unification of that region and the Principality of Bulgaria.

Plovdiv is situated in the southern part of the Plovdiv Plain on the two banks of the Maritsa River. The city has historically developed on seven hills, some of which are 250 m high. Because of these seven hills, Plovdiv is often referred to in Bulgaria as „The City of the Seven Hills”.

The Slavs had fully settled in the area by the middle of the 6th century and changed the ethnic proportions of the region. With the establishment of Bulgaria in 681 Philipopolis became an important border fortress of the Byzantine Empire. It was captured by Khan Krum in 812 but the region was fully incorporated into the Bulgarian Empire in 834 during the reign of Khan Malamir. It remained in Bulgarian hands for a relatively short time until it was reconquered by the Byzantine Empire in 855-856.

Under tsar Simeon the Great (893–927) the city and most of the Byzantine possessions in the Balkans were conquered by the Bulgarian Empire. The city remained in Bulgarian hands under Simeon’s son, Peter I (927–969).

In 970 the Asian army of the Byzantine Empire under the eunuch Peter was destroyed by the Bulgarians near Plovdiv. The city again came to be known as Philippopolis and became Byzantine in character.

Byzantine rule was succeeded by that of the Latin Empire in 1204, and there were two short interregnum periods as the city was twice occupied by Kaloyan of Bulgaria before his death in 1207. In 1208 Kaloyan’s successor Boril was defeated by the Latins in the Battle of Philippopolis.

Under Latin rule, Plovdiv was the capital of the Duchy of Philippopolis governed by Renier de Trit, and later on by Gerard de Strem. Bulgarian rule was reestablished during the reign of Ivan Asen II between 1225 and 1229. In 1263 Plovdiv was conquered by the restored Byzantine Empire and remained in Byzantine hands until it was re-conquered by George Terter II of Bulgaria in 1322. Byzantine rule was restored once again in 1323, but in 1344 the city and eight other cities were surrendered to Bulgaria by the regency for John V Palaiologos as the price for Ivan Alexander of Bulgaria‘s support in the Byzantine civil war.

In 1364 the Ottoman Turks under Lala Shakhin Pasha seized Plovdiv. The Turks called the city Filibe. It was the capital of Rumelia until 1382 when the Ottomans captured Sofia which became the main city of the province.

Plovdiv survived as one of the major cultural centers for Bulgarian culture and tradition. The name Plovdiv first appeared around that time and is derived from the city’s Thracian name Pulpudeva (assumed to be a translation of Philippopolis, from Pulpu = Philippou and deva = city), which was rendered by the Slavs first as Pəldin (Пълдин) or Pləvdin.

The city was liberated from the Ottomans during the Battle of Philippopolis in 1878.

The climate is temperate with mild influence from the Mediterranean Sea and a huge temperature range between summers and winters. Summers are generally extremely hot and dry. On average the city experiences 38 days of temperatures over 30c and 7 days of over 40c a year. Winters are cold, but can sometimes be accompanied by a Mediterranean influence, which can on occasions result in huge temperature jumps within just a few days.

Tourist attractions:

The Rennaissance town of Old Plovdiv was built during the 19th century. Today it has survived as a unique architectual ensemble on the three hills. Its houses reveal the remarkable urban culture of Bulgarian builders, as well as their sense of harmony and their creative power. The brilliant architecture with its noble, stylish simplicity could be called rightfully the Baroque of Plovdiv.

The Church of the Holy Mother of God (Bulgarian: Църква Света Богородица) is a Bulgarian National Revival church in Bulgaria‘s second largest city Plovdiv. The church is situated in the Old town of Plovdiv on one of the city’s seven hills, Nebet Tepe.

A small church existed on that place since the 9th century. The church was renovated in 1186 by the bishop of Plovdiv Constantine Pantehi and it became part of a monastery. Both the church and the monastery were destroyed when the Ottoman Turks conquered the city in 1371 during the course of the Bulgarian-Ottoman Wars. The current edifice was constructed in 1844 as the main church of the city.

The Plovdiv Roman Stadium is among the largest Roman structures in the Balkans. The massive edifice is 180 long and had a capacity of over 30,000. It is believed that it was built during the reign of Septimus Severus (193-211).

Today, the stadium is located in the centre of the city, under the main trade centres. Only part of the edifice can be observed from the Dzhumayata Square, the larger portion is still underground. Further excavation would be very difficult and costly.

The stadium is one of the many Roman remains in the city which include the best preserved Theatre in the Balkans; the ruins of the Agora; a second theatre; remains of an aqueduct, temples and villas with some magnificent frescoes.

The Plovdiv Antique theater is situated in the city center of Plovdiv. The Theater stands between the south-western slope of the Dzhambaz Tepe and the Taxim tepe hill within the old town, and is a major tourist attraction for travelers coming to the area.

The theatre was built in the 2nd century AD under the orders of Trajan the Roman Emperor at this time, and is one of the many surviving Roman constructions in Bulgaria today.

Built with around 7,000 seats, each section of seating had the names of the city quarters engraved on the benches so the citizens at the time knew where they were to sit. The theater was damaged in the 5th century AD by Atilla the Hun.

The theater was only found in the early 1970s due to a landslide, this caused a major archeological excavation, including the removal of 15 feet of earth covering what was left hidden by the landslide.

„Şahabettin İmaret” Mosque, built in XVth century.

The Cathedral of St Louis (Bulgarian: катедрала „Свети Лудвиг“, katedrala „Sveti Ludvig“) is a Roman Catholic cathedral in the city of Plovdiv, Bulgaria. The cathedral was constructed in the 1850s, during the time of vicar Andrea Canova. The first organ in Bulgaria was installed in the cathedral in 1861, later substituted with a newer and larger one. A fire severely damaged the cathedral in 1931 and destroyed the wood-carved ceiling. The cathedral was reconstructed, with Krastyo Stamatov creating the frescoes and Kamen Petkov being the main architect. The cathedral was once again inaugurated on 8 May 1932. Architecturally, it features an eclectic combination of Neoclassicism and Neo-Baroque.

The belfry was built in 1898 and was equipped with five bells cast in the German city of Bochum, a gift from Pope Leo XIII. A new 12-stop pipe organ was installed in 1991.

Armenian Apostolic Church St. George (Kevork) in the Old Town.

Northern district (Bulgarian: Район Северен) is a district of Plovdiv. The district is located on the northern bank of theMaritsa river.

The Archaeological Museum was established in 1882 as a People’s Museum of Eastern Rumelia. In 1928 the museum was moved to a 19th century edifice on Saedinenie Square built by the famous Plovdiv architect Josef Schnitter. The museum contains a rich collection of Thracian art. The three sections „Prehistory”, „Antiquity” and „Middle Ages” contain precious artifacts from the Paleolithic to the early Ottoman period (15th-16th centuries). The famous Panagyurishte treasure is part of the museum’s collection.(Thracian treasure. It is dated from the 4th-3rd centuries BC, and is thought to have been used as a royal ceremonial set by the Thracian king Seuthes III)

The museum is situated at the north-eastern side of „Saedinenie” square, which is located to the north of „6 Septemvri” avenue, which crosses the town West-East. You can get to the Museum by bus № 20 from the Central railway station in Plovdiv or by bus № 99 from „Philipovo” railway station.

Source: Wikipedia

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Pancharevo (Bulgaria)

 

 

For bigger size click on the map

 

Pancharevo (Bulgarian: Панчарево) is a suburban district located in the south-eastern parts of the Capital Municipality. As of 2006 it has 26,000 inhabitants. It is the largest region in Sofia with total area of 364,7 km². It includes the largest artificial lake in Bulgaria, the Iskar Dam as well as Lake Pancharevo and Pasarel Reservoir.

The districts offers excellent conditions for relax and tourism for the citizens of the capital. The three large dams have nice spots for fishing, camping and boat trips. There are many historical sights from the Middle Ages which include the ruins of the Urvich fortress which was a sight of a desperate and unsuccessful battle against the Turkish invaders in the late 14th century. There are many monasteries and chapels, some of which lie in ruins since the fall of the Second Bulgarian Empire.

Village of Pancharevo is located 12 km southeast of the city center of Sofia, along Samokovsko shosse Blvd. It lies at 700 m. above sea level between Vitosha and Lozen mountains, and at the end of Pancharevo gorge of the Iskar River. In PancharevoVitoshka Bistritsa River, sloping steeply from the highest parts of the mountain flows into Lake Pancharevo.

In Pancharevo and its environs have remained significant traces of the Roman Empire. Then it was built mineral bath which had seven pools. There is reason to believe that both the springs in Sofia and in Pancharevo has practiced the cult of the god-physician Asklepius and the nymphs, as both places were found fragments of bas-relief of three nymphs. Over bath Gradishteto in the area found the remains of Roman buildings and security fortress designed to keep the barbarian invasions of the access routes and Serdica Iskar Gorge, in the direction of Samokov, but unfortunately no more extensive archeological studies are performed later in area.

Pancharevo was first mentioned in the 16th-century Urvich Collection as ПАНЧАР, ПАНЧАРЄВѠ, ПАНИЧАРЬ. Those early references allow linguists to derive the name from the noun pan(i)char, „bowl maker”, itself from the noun panitsa („bowl”). Panitsa might be a geographical term referring to a concave place.

Source: Wikipedia

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Sofia (Bulgaria)

For more infos click oon the map

Sofia (Bulgarian: София) is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria and the 12th largest city by population in the European Union, with 1.4 million people living in the Capital Municipality. It is located in western Bulgaria, at the foot of Mount Vitosha, and is the administrative, cultural, economic, and educational centre of the country.

Sofia was first mentioned in the sources as Serdica in relation to Marcus Licinius Crassus’ campaigns in 29 BC. The name Serdica or Sardica (Σερδική, Σαρδική) was popular in Latin, Ancient Greek and Byzantine Greek sources from Antiquity and the Middle Ages; it was related to the local Celtic tribe of the Serdi.

Sofia’s development as a significant settlement owes much to its central position in the Balkans. It is situated in western Bulgaria, at the northern foot of the Vitosha mountain, in the Sofia Valley that is surrounded by mountains on all sides. The valley is the largest one in the country with territory of 1,186 square kilometres (458 sq mi) and average altitude of 550 metres (1,804 ft). Three mountain passes lead to the city, which have been key roads since antiquity, connecting the Adriatic Sea and Central Europe with the Black and Aegean Seas.

It is located 130 kilometres (81 mi) northwest of Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city, 340 kilometres (211 mi) west of Burgas 380 kilometres (236 mi) west of Varna, Bulgaria’s major port-cities on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast. The city is situated at less than 200 kilometres (124 mi) from the borders with three countries: 55 kilometres (34 mi) from Kalotina on the Serbian border, 113 kilometres (70 mi) from Gyueshevo on the frontier with the Republic of Macedonia and 183 kilometres (114 mi) from the Greek border at Kulata.

Bulgarian "meze-мезé" appetizer (with mastika is great)

Romanian Dacia store in Sofia 🙂 (in last years more and more bulgarians buy Dacia cars)

Front view of the renovated Central Railway Station in Sofia (renovated and reconstructed in the 2000s under Milan Dobrev and Olympic Stadium Munich-style tensile elements of 4,500 m² were added)

A cute little bulgarian cat (kotka :P)

Bulgarian coach at first class in the train Bucharest-Sofia

Konstantin Velichkov (Константин Величков) Blvd

Konstantin Velichkov Metro Station

The same station operational since 28.01.1998

Bulgarian tram in old center

Holy Sunday Church (Bulgarian: църква „Света Неделя“ Sveta Nedelya), probably built in the 10th century

Vitosha Boulevard (булевард "Витоша")

Central Sofia Market Hall (It was opened in 1911 and is today an important trade centre in the city)

Banya Bashi Mosque (Баня баши джамия) build in 1576

Sofia Public Mineral Baths (It was built in the early 20th century near the former Turkish bath -then destroyed- and was used as the city's public baths until 1986)

Bulgarian National Bank (down you can observe Viennese yellow cobblestones)

A turtle at National Museum of Natural History

Grand Hotel Bulgaria, near the National Museum of Natural History

The Russian Church or the Church of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Maker, built in 1914 is dedicated to the patron-saint of the Russian Tsar at the time Nicholas II

The early Byzantine Church of St Sophia was built in the 6th century on the place of an ancient Roman theatre and several earlier churches.

The gold-domed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral was built in the early 20th century in memory of the 200,000 Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian and Bulgarian soldiers, who died in the Russo-Turkish War, 1877–1878. It is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world. The cathedral's gold-plated dome is 45 m high, with the bell tower reaching 50.52 m.

The Monument to the Tsar Liberator is an equestrian monument in the centre of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. It was erected in honour of Russian Emperor Alexander II who liberated Bulgaria of Ottoman rule during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78.

St. Clement of Ohrid University of Sofia (Софийски университет „Св. Климент Охридски)

National Assembly of Bulgaria

Monument to the Soviet Army built in 1954, near to Vasil Levski National Stadium

Monument of Vasil Levski in Borisova Gradina (Boris's Park)

Slaveykov Square (Площад Славейков)

St. Sedmochislenitsi Church which was created between 1901 and 1902 through the conversion of an abandoned Ottoman mosque, and was inaugurated on 27 July 1903. The church is named after Cyril and Methodius and their five disciples, known in the Orthodox Church collectively as the Sedmochislenitsi.

Georgi Rakovski Street (Улица Георги Раковски)

A nice old Jaguar 🙂

The Church of St George is a late Roman rotunda dated from 4th century situated in the courtyard of the Sheraton Sofia Hotel. It was constructed with red bricks and is considered the oldest building in Sofia. It is known for its Medieval frescoes in the central dome dating from 12-14th centuries.

Presidential Palace

Serdika Metro Station (into operation since October 31, 2000)

The biggest shopping mall in Bulgaria (Serdika Center)

The mall is located on the Sitnyakovo Blvd.

It has 210 stores with a commercial space of over 51,000 square meters on three levels, and office space of some 30,000 square meters

Inside of Central Railway Station (Централна железопътна гара) located near Central Bus Station (Централна автогара София, Tsentralna avtogara)

Communist blocks

Martenitsa (мартеници) is a small piece of adornment, made of white and red yarn and worn from March 1 until around the end of March (or the first time an individual sees a stork, swallow or budding tree). In Romania we also have a similar but not identical holiday on March 1, called "Mărţişor".

The train ticket from Ruse to Sofia which was 17 leva-34 lei-9 euro (the distance is 405 km)

Bus and metro tickets are 1 leva, which mean 0.50 euro or 2 lei

Bus and metro tickets are 1 leva, which mean 0.50 euro or 2 lei

National Museum of Natural History

National Museum of Natural History

Belgrade (Serbia)

Belgrade (Serbian: Београд, Beograd) is the capital and largest city of Serbia. The city lies on two international waterways, at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, where Central Europe’s Pannonian Plain meets the South European Balkans.

Likewise, the city is placed along the pan-European corridors X and VII. With a population of 1,630,000 (official estimate 2007), Belgrade is the fourth largest city in Southeastern Europe, after Istanbul, Athens and Bucharest. Its name in Serbian translates to White city.

One of the oldest cities in Europe, with archeological finds tracing settlements as early as the 6th millennium BC, Belgrade’s wider city area was the birthplace of the largest prehistoric culture of Europe, the Vinča culture.

It was first inhabited by the Thracio-Dacian tribe of Singi who would give the name to the city after a fortress was founded in 3rd century BC by the Celts who named it Singidun (dun, fortress).

It was awarded city rights by the Romans before it was permanently settled by White Serbs from the 7th century onwards. As a strategic location, the city was battled over in 115 wars and razed to the ground 44 times since the ancient period by countless armies of the East and West.

In medieval times, it was in the possession of Byzantine, Frankish, Bulgarian, Hungarian and Serbian rulers. In 1521 Belgrade was conquered by the Ottomans and became the seat of the Pashaluk of Belgrade, as the principal city of Ottoman Europe and among the largest European cities. Frequently passing from Ottoman to Austrian rule which saw destruction of most of the city, the status of Serbian capital would be regained only in 1841, after the Serbian revolution.

Northern Belgrade, though, remained an Austrian outpost until the breakup of Austria-Hungary in 1918. The united city then became the capital of several incarnations of Yugoslavia, up to 2006, when Serbia became an independent state again.

Belgrade has the status of a separate territorial unit in Serbia, with its own autonomous city government. Its territory is divided into 17 municipalities, each having its own local council. It covers 3.6% of the territory of Serbia, and 24% of the country’s population lives in the city. Belgrade is the central economic hub of Serbia, and the capital of Serbian culture, education and science.

Source: Wikipedia

Inside of the international train from Bucharest to Belgrade (second class). The two-way ticket was 50 euro-226 Lei at second class)

The railway station of Vrsac

The New Belgrade railway and Beovoz station

Beovoz train at Novi Beograd "New Belgrade"

Serbian Railways (Железнице Србије/Železnice Srbije). The locomotive is made in Romania, at Craiova

The info panel from the international train

The railway station in Belgrade, from inside

The same station from outside

The tram no 12, near to the railway station

Saint Sava hospital

A building which was bombarded by NATO in 1999

The same building

A public phone which is very rare used 🙂

Car plate from Belgrade

Palata Beograd (Belgrade Palace)

Parking

Police car (Policija)

Serbian cats near to Belgrade Hostel 🙂

On Kralja Milana, near to Terazije Square. The tall building is Albania Palace

Ascension Church from Admirala Geprata 19, which was build in 1863

Brodsko Torpedo TG-53, near to Military Museum, in Kalemegdan Park

Anti-aircraft gun M 1935 Breda 20 mm

German mine

Other german mine

 The confluence between Sava and Danube rivers

The confluence between Sava and Danube rivers

The walls of Kalemegdan fortress

Clock gate with Clock tower

Ružica Church in Kalemegdan fortress

The confluence between Sava and Danube rivers

Are you prepared for attack ?:P

The medieval tower from the time of Stefan Lazarevic (1389-1427)

Humvee vehicle at the entrance into the Military Museum

The entrance into the Military Museum

Medieval demonstration of throwing axes and using arrow

Tram no 9, near to Hostel City Center

Tram no 9, near to Hostel City Center

The statue of Prince Michael "Mihailo" from Republic Square (Трг Републике)

Mihailo Obrenović III, (Михаило Обреновић) Prince of Serbia which has two reigns: 1839-1942 and 1860-1868

Russian Tsar "Ruski car" fast-food

A guide panel from center (you can see the english version)

Hotel Moscow from Terazije Square

Old center

The Spanish Institute "Miguel Cervantes"

Tram no 9, near to Hostel City Center

A nice shop with souvenirs, near to the railway station

Sveshtari (Bulgaria)

Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari

Sveshtari royal tomb below Ginina Mogila Mound - 4th - 3th century BC (www.getika.com)

Sveshtari royal tomb below Ginina Mogila Mound - 4th - 3th century BC (www.getika.com)

The Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari is situated 2,5 km southwest of the village of Sveshtari, Razgrad Province, which is located 42 km northeast of Razgrad, in the northeast of Bulgaria.

Discovered in 1982 in a mound, this 3rd century BC Thracian tomb reflects the fundamental structural principles of Thracian cult buildings.

The tomb’s architectural decor is considered to be unique, with polychrome half-human, half-plant caryatids and painted murals.

The ten female figures carved in high relief on the walls of the central chamber and the decorations of the lunette in its vault are the only examples of this type found so far in the Thracian lands.

It is a remarkable reminder of the culture of the Getae, a Thracian people who were in contact with the Hellenistic and Hyperborean worlds, according to ancient geographers.

Source: Wikipedia

A mine on the road from Rousse to Sveshtari

A mine on the road from Rousse to Sveshtari

Near Sveshtari village

Near Sveshtari village

A table in the forest, near to the Reception centre

A table in the forest, near to the Reception centre

The forest from behind the Reception centre

The forest from behind the Reception centre

Thracians outside the Reception centre

Thracians outside the Reception centre

The road to the tombs

The road to the tombs

The principal tomb (royal tomb)

The principal tomb (royal tomb)

Reception centre

Reception centre

Royal tomb

Royal tomb

Picture postcart and calendar with the Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari

Picture postcart and calendar with the Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari

Prospectus from the Reception centre

Prospectus from the Reception centre

Prospectus with the tomb

Prospectus with the tomb

The ticket for the entrance to the Sveshtari royal tomb (5 Bulgarian lev "лев")

The ticket for the entrance to the Sveshtari royal tomb (5 Bulgarian lev "лев" which mean 2.5 euro)