For those wondering where to spend their summer holidays, this account by Andrea Peycheva of her native Sofia may sway you.
Sofia has many attractions. Over the centuries, this city has collected something new, something old and something borrowed and does not embody the typical historical, one-and-the-same image of other European capitals. Instead, it has gathered the styles and spirits of many colorful (if I can call them that) cultures.
If you take a stroll around Sofia (stroll because to see the main sights will take you no more than 3 hours maximum) you will observe that there is hardly one building comparable to another. Add ancient remains here and there and the situation becomes even more interesting. The history of Sofia dates back from about 6,000 years ago when it was actually called Serdica, named after the first tribe that inhabited the area – Serdi. The name Sofia was obtained later – in the 14th century. The city is, in fact, named after a church, which still stands today in the very centre of Sofia.
What I find the most fascinating from a historical point of view is that the Bulgarian capital consists of several layers – the lowest one is remains of the Roman Empire, on top of which you can see a church built in the Middle Ages and above it you see twentieth century buildings. Fortunately, different generations throughout the ages did not destroy what the previous ones created but instead built next to them.
Speaking of buildings, Sofia has many architectural styles. They vary from Christian Roman architecture through oriental touches, Neoclassicism and typical massive and heavy-looking socialist buildings. Something very typical for all former socialist countries in Europe are apartment blocks. The locals call them panelki because of the material they were made of.
Of course, there are buildings that look very Western European and their style is Europe in the late nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries. This is so because after Bulgaria was liberated from the Ottoman Empire in 1878, the authorities ‘borrowed’ architects from Western Europe to give the city a more European style. Also, after the Liberation many students went to study in the West. When they came back they brought the style of the country where they resided back to Sofia.
When it comes to art and entertainment Sofia has much to offer – the art of theatre is very popular both among young and older population. Theaters are the most visited venues after cinemas. The oldest theatre in Sofia is the National Theatre, named after a prominent figure of Bulgarian literature (Ivan Vazov). Cinema is also very popular and in the last years it has been concentrated in large shopping centres. Sofia is also the home of big museums and art galleries and is applying to become the European Capital of Culture in 2019.
And about the nightlife – there is an abundance of nightclubs, discos and cafés where you can go and enjoy more unpretentious atmosphere. There are also many creative and themed cafés. Cafés are very popular among young people, especially during summer, when you can sit outside, enjoy the weather and chat with friends.
To sum up, Sofia is a city of many sides and it is beyond the scope of this article to describe all of them. However, if I managed to light up your curiosity about this part of Bulgaria, come to see and explore it yourself. You be pleasantly surprised!