Retro: Boyana, Bulgaria

So we had booked this trip through a travel agent as a “compromise”.

I’m confident enough in pretty much any foreign country, let alone one where I have somebody who speaks the langage, to get around and see the sights without a guide.  My mom loves adventure, but she prefers the security of being in a group, even if it’s a small one.

As a result, I planned the trip and then handed the itinerary over to a company called Mir Corporation, which specializes in travel around the old Soviet Bloc.  The upside was nice things like private cars, tour guides that would be with us for a few days, easy transport options and some flexibility when we get to a site.  The downside is that, if we were stuck in a place, we were stuck in a place, as our itinerary was built around various flights and guides.

Such was our time in Sofia, a great little city, but one you realistically only need one day to see.

We had three.

Fortunately, I also had my Lonely Planet with me, so I started doing some research on what we could do in and/or around Sofia that we hadn’t done just yet. 

Up came Boyana.

Boyana is known for it’s UNESCO Heritage Listed church and for the National History Museum, and for being a rich, nice suburb of Sofia.  It’s also known as the location of the Big Brother Bulgaria house, although I’m only find that fact out now thanks to a Google search.  Who said you can’t learn anything from Google?  We’d be taking transit today (a combination of local tram and bus) and would be checking out the first two sites.

The church is a 10th century Bulgarian Orthodox church most notable for its frescoes that depict the life of St. Nicholas.  It lies in the middle of a nice, small park and there’s only a few people allowed in at a time, so you’re not fighting elbows or flash bulbs (no pictures) to get a view of the frescoes.  The church also provided a nice bit of cool compared to the still sweltering temperatures outside.

The church itself went through three stages of construction, a few hundred years apart, but looks remarkably uniform, if not entirely even, from the outside.

The National History Museum occupies an old government residence and is the largest museum in all of Bulgaria.  No photos allowed inside, but I did manage to sneak this one, a statue of a kid smoking.  Because when you get to see but not photograph golden head wreaths, marble fragments and collections of treasures, you take a picture of the fake kid smoking.

Overall, Boyana is a good side trip if you’re not quite out of Sofia but kind of feel like you’re done with it.  The church is interesting, the museum is kind of cool and the suburb is easy to get to.

We’re going from small town charm to big city crazy in the next posts in the series, as we tackle Bucharest, Romania!

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