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Sofia, Bulgaria

On 23 November 2006 we drove to Sofia. For us and for our guest Coen this was the first time ever to visit Bulgaria. We decided to go to Sofia after leaving Nis in the South of Serbia. We had the choice between Sofia and Skopje (Macedonia). It is just a choice between going left or right before entering the highway.

We soon left the highway and for some reason we were guided to a so called 'by pass' way. Straight through hills and on a bad road. We are not sure but we think there must be a tunnel on the main road to the border. Big trucks are allowed to pass this tunnel, all other traffic has to take the way through the hills. But why other traffic can not use the tunnel we still don't know. It just takes more time but the view is nice.

As soon as we drove into the hills it started to rain. In the direction of Skopje we saw a clear sky but the whole way to Sofia it was raining. Because of mud we even had to stop to clean the headlights of the car.

Finally we reached the border. And what a show, we had to pass a total of four! checkpoints. Serbian border police, customs, road ticket thing and Bulgarion border police. At the Bulgarian side they already show a lot of EU signs on their offices but the mentality is bureaucratic. Maybe it will change once they are member next year.

Some other things surprised us: The main road (E80) to Sofia is terrible, potholes, no white road marking on the side or in the middle and unreadable road signs. Is this our future EU member? The roads on the Serbian side are at least 10 times better, and they use lightpoles at dangerous places were they are really needed. On the Bulgarian side it was just a dark world with potholes and no lightpoles until we reached Sofia.

After some searching and avoiding potholes on slippery cobble roads we found a hotel called Rodina. They offered us renovated or old rooms. I looked at both and I would say, take a renovated room if you do not want a twilight zone trip leading you back to the 70'ties. This hotel also offers casino facilities (from now on I am a proud owner of a Rodina casino membership card), a sleezy night bar on the top floor, topless girls dancing and trying to get you to order champagne.

And how do I now think about Sofia? This city is one of the oldest in Europe according to wikipedia and I believe it. It looks like they never repaired any road or building after establishing Sofia. Maybe I am negative but for a country that is going to join the EU it did not look good at all. Belgrade looks way better, even in urban parts!I

Maybe it was because of the rain, maybe because of the wheel clamp I got that I did not like it this time. We will give it a second try when it is nice, sunny and warm because the history of Sofia and Bulgaria deserves it. But it is always the first impression that counts, and it this case it certainly counted backwards.

street sign, Athens, Skopje, Belgrade etc.

view from our hotel room

typical architecture in Sofia

The goddess Sofia (meaning wisdom) on a statue

National Theatre Sofia

Look at us enjoying rain in Sofia

Bulgarian truck, sign: long vichel?!
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