February 18, 2012

0 Bulgaria: Sights of Sofia

Every travel website listed Free Sofia Tour as the #1 Thing to Do, so we decided to take the tour our first morning.  Our guide was a 22-year-old University of Sofia student, studying the history of Bulgaria and Slavic Languages, and clearly loved his city!  We walked around Sofia, hearing stories about the various buildings and the history of the city.

The Mineral Bath was built in the early years of the 20th century, and served as a public bath house until 1986, when building safety issues forced its closure.  It is currently undergoing renovations to become a museum of history. 

The designed walkway outside the baths, both cleared of snow-

and covered!

Park benches carved out of the snowbank.

Changing of the guards outside of the Presidential Palace.

Many trees around town had red and white strings wrapped through the branches- these are called martenitsi, and are a symbol of Spring.  Traditionally worn by Bulgarians beginning March 1 until a stork is seen, the strings are then tied to tree.  I'm not sure why these were in the tree early, perhaps because the below-zero temperatures of the previous weeks had finally ended.

I do enjoy the ubiquitous old gentlemen and pigeons of Europe!

This sign was in the back of one of the open markets.

These two dilapidated buildings show a lot of character under their peeling facades- it put me in a fixer-up mood!

The road alongside TZUM, the department store, looking towards Sveta Nedelya.

This building is across the square from Sveta Nedelya. 

See the mountain in the distance?

The roads outside of the presidential palace are paved with yellow bricks, a gift from the Austro-Hungarian Emperor to Tsar Ferdinand I for his wedding in 1893.  It is a symbol of pride in central Sofia, and native residents are said to be "born on the yellow cobblestones."

The yellow brick road became rather funny as we walked around, as it is very slick and slippery when wet, and led me to sing "Fall on the Yellow Brick Road."

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