If you want to go someplace that’s not touristy, super cheap, and damn pretty, go to Sofia.
I had no idea what to expect from Bulgaria. Honestly, I figured it’d be dirty, dingy, and full of old bearded dudes who didn’t want me in their bar but bugrudgenly tolerated my existence.
I don’t mean that as a knock, I was actually looking forward to it.
But the place was way cooler than I expected.
Here’s the play-by-play of how the first 2ish weeks went by.
First order of business: Pub crawl
Not sure why it took us 3 months to realize the best way to explore a new town is through a pub crawl.
The first night, Remote Year hooked us up with a tour where some Bulgarian folk brought us to a bunch of hole-in-the-wall bars.
One was “Apartment Bar”, which is exactly what it sounds like. Imagine a clean hipster with great taste in art invited you to his apartment and every room in the place was designed to drink with your friends. That’s pretty much it.
Though we didn’t quite fit the vibe. We’re ~10 loud mostly-Americans crashing a place where everyone’s chatting quietly (this has been a theme.)
My guess is a lot of the conversation in this place revolved around how people who don’t buy Mac’s are stupid.
The next spot was the barn/printing press that got turned into bar.
They couldn’t be bothered with things like “electricity” so they lit the whole thing with candles, which was pretty sweet.
The bar also had a manican in armor behind the bar for some reason
The rest is a bit of a blur…
Overall, Sofia was a bit of a hipster paradise. But not in the annoying “Oh look how ironic we are” or “Try this coffee that takes 3 hours to pour properly” kind of way. It’s more natural. They do things like convert homes into restaurants and put cool/corky art there because that’s just how they roll.
Second order of business: Wander and see how pretty everything is
After coming from Morocco (that word still makes me feel slightly dirty and cower in fear that someone’s gonna pop out and try to sell me something,) Sofia was a breath of fresh air.
One guy on the trip, Jacob, talked about how he spent the first day wandering the city with a big smile on his face. “You turn the corner and it just makes you happy”. The more aimless wandering I did the more I understood exactly what he meant.
The place is god damn delightful.
Sofia being awesome
Sure there’s an absurd amount of graffiti. But the buildings are the big communist buildings you want to see in Easter Europe. Plus that old pretty architecture… okay I dont know what I’m talking about but it was just damn pretty, okay?
These aren’t even the good pics but apparently my phone sucks at saving pictures… Or I don’t know how cameras work. Or both.
Maybe my favorite part was that it’s super walkable. I’m not a city guy but could totally live here because everything is a 20-minute walk. And the food was great (they’re dessert game is on point). And the women were pretty. And it was cold enough to keep you from turning into a wimp (looking at you, everyone who grew up in SoCal) but not so cold you hate your life (looking at you, Canada).
And sometimes, when you wander, you wind up stumbling across a bar doing Swing night where everyone’s dressed like it’s 1956 and are outrageously good dancers.
I’m not one to shy away from making a fool of myself on a dancefloor. And know enough swing to suprise women who think I’m just a pretty face. But I was intimidated to get out there because these people were legit.
It didn’t stop me from getting out there and embarassing some poor girl who actually knew what she was doing. Just sayin’, it was intimidating
Third order of business: Horseback riding!
I almost didn’t ride horses through the Bulgarian countryside because… eh… I was never a horse guy.
But after passing on the chance to ride camels in the Sahara, and having to hear everyone rave about how amazing it was, I started to embrace a more “eh, screw it, why not?” attitude so I signed up.
This trip was a home run from the start. First, we drove/walked through the beautiful Bulgarian countryside.
Second, we go to this tiny hut in the middle of nowhere. They don’t advertise this, we only knew about it because our city manager knows people who knows people.
Third, we meet our Horse Master. Which I didn’t know was a thing but this guy was everything you could possibly hope for in a Bulgarian Horse Master (he’s on the left.)
Horse Master on the left in a robe thing, with a bald head except for flowing locks down the back of his head.
We had some traditional breakfast….thing… (basically, an egg pastry that’s 85% butter and dangerously delicious.) Then rode our ponies, then threw a bunch of meat on an open fire and stuffed that in our face.
Turns out, riding horses is super fun. It’s hard not to feel like a badass up there. And the guy leading us (the horse master’s son) is apparently a huge crazy good. He can shoot arrows while standing on the back of his galloping horse and doesn’t use reigns when riding (apparently that’s how Bulgarians roll.)
Here’s a video one of my friends, LG, made of our day of pony riding.
So, yeah! Bulgaria! Horses!
Everyone loved Sofia (I think)
As far as I can tell, all 70 of us were pleasantly surprised with Sofia. If Remote Year suddenly got canceled and I found myself stranded in Sofia for a few months I wouldn’t have minded one bit. Especially because it’d give me a chance to find that adorable girl who led our pub crawl but disappeared before I could propose. Hate when that happens.
What’s cool is the people there don’t even realize how great it is. The guy at the kabob place next door (where you can get a massive, yummy kabob for $3.50) straight up asked “What the hell are you doing in Bulgaria”.
It was a common theme. Locals would always ask what the hell we were doing there.
Ummmm, because it’s awesome?