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Travelling to Plovdiv

Bulgaria day three

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I slept less well on my second night in Sofia - no fault of the Hotel COOP, which was as comfortable as it had been the night before, naturally, but perhaps due to the rich and plentiful, albeit delicious, food consumed the previous evening! Nevertheless I was up and ready for a good leisurely breakfast with the rest of the VT crowd.

A photo walk

After breakfast I finished packing my case ready for the journey to Plovdiv. I had several hours free before we needed to leave for the station, so I decided on a little photo walk down a nearby street where my friend Anne Marie had previously spotted some good street art. And it proved an excellent route!

I did indeed find some great street art, my favourite being this lady in the yellow dress.

My favourite Sofia street art mural

More street art

There was also some adorning the many electricity/telephony cabinets such as I had observed on my first afternoon in the city.


On electricity cabinets

Not sure what was going on here!

I also spotted some attractive if at times rather scruffy buildings.

Restored house (now a language school), and another in need of work!

The street was surprisingly quiet for such a central location – mainly residential, with a few small shops and cafés, and what looked like it might be a school, although I could hear no children. It was a good place for street photography as people were engaged in their own business and paid me and my camera little attention.

On the streets of Sofia

I passed some more remains of ancient Serdica. Interestingly the sign was in French as well as Bulgarian, and helpfully too, as I was able to read enough of the former to understand that I was looking at the north-east corner of the fortified wall that once encircled the city. The sign goes on to explain that the wall was built in the 2nd century AD, destroyed in the 3rd, and rebuilt in the 5th using bricks and stones in alternate lines. In the Middle Ages it was rebuilt again, from bricks this time, and used by the Bulgars. Or so I understood!

Ruins of ancient Serdica

At the end of this street I found myself by the History Museum, located in the former public baths we had learned about from our guide Deni yesterday. I love the ceramic tiles used to adorn this building!

Regional History Museum (former public baths)

And nearby was the area with lots of drinking fountains where locals were filling bottles, just as she had described.

Drinking fountains with spa water

Just beyond the baths was the mosque and the Central Market Hall. I decided to leave the former for our return journey through Sofia as I was planning to visit it with my friend Yvonne. But the market wasn’t in our plans, so I popped inside for a few photos.

The Central Market

The Central Market Hall was built at the start of the 20th century, opening in 1911. It is an imposing building, rather grand outside considering the practical function it serves. It is in a Neo-Renaissance style, with elements of Neo-Byzantine and Neo-Baroque design. The façade features the city’s coat of arms above the main entrance, which is opposite the mosque.


In the Central Market

I found this a good spot for people shots, although I needed to be discrete. I noticed that while most of the stall-holders and (non-tourist) shoppers were women, it was men who dominated the scene at the small café in the centre of the market - it is clearly a place that old friends like to frequent, to chat, drink coffee or beer, and play cards.

Women buying and selling

Men relaxing!

I also bought one of the red and white wool charms we had seen in the plum tree yesterday as a mini souvenir - for just one lev (less than 50p)!

My charm

The lady who sold me my souvenir

By now the morning was getting on so I retraced my steps along the same road, rather more quickly but still stopping for a few more photos en route.

Love this yellow door!

And this café table

Off to Plovdiv!

Back in my room I downloaded and reviewed the photos, happy with my morning’s work. Just before midday I met up with the rest of the group in the lobby and we took taxis to the train station. Or at least, that was the plan. The driver of the second taxi, which I was in, misunderstood our destination (whether wilfully or through miscommunication I’m not sure) and dropped us off at the bus station! Luckily the two are only a short walk apart, and on the bright side, at least he didn’t rip us off.

Once we had joined the others in the right station we needed to buy our tickets. It was a while before we worked out that we should go to the ticket desks downstairs, a while before we found the lifts and escalators to take us there, and a while before we got to the front of the queue. Just as well we had allowed plenty of time! Eventually though we had our first-class tickets to Plovdiv, costing the princely sum of 10.10 leva (less than 5 EUR).

Some of the VT crowd at Sofia Central Station

Buying a snack for the journey also presented us with some challenges as the shop assistants spoke no English and all the pastries on display, labelled only in Bulgarian, looked very similar. But a helpful customer played the role of translator and eventually we were all served.

The final challenge was to find the correct platform. The sign was ambiguous as there were two platform ones, east and west, but by dint of asking several people, and getting the same answer (‘east’), we became confident that we should board the train on that platform despite the sign that suggested that this was a totally different train from the one we sought!

Is this our train?

Yes, so all aboard!

We found our two compartments and settled in, once an elderly gentleman had been evicted from his wrong seat! The journey passed pleasantly with plenty of friendly chat and a mix of pretty scenery, small town stations and odd pockets of industry passing outside the window.

All taken somewhere between Sofia and Plovdiv!

We did all comment, however, that if this was a fast train we would have hated to have been on a slow one! My video gives some idea of the speed of travel (this was about as fast as it got), but also of the lovely scenery that the slower speed did enable us to see more clearly.

Arrival in Plovdiv


The train came into Plovdiv on time and we clambered down the steep train carriage steps on to the platform in blazing sunshine - 32 degrees! The search for the taxi rank left me rather hot and bothered, as signs were misleading/nonexistent and we went the long way around. But once in our taxis, things improved as our driver (I was sharing with Rick and Sylvia) was friendly and informative, even if he did try to persuade us to visit his friend’s restaurant!

We arrived at the Hotel Ego and checked in. My third floor room was a good size and the dark wood and bamboo blinds gave it rather a Japanese Air. I liked it! It was however rather too hot and the a/c took a while to have any impact (I was to discover in fact that it never had any impact!, so I took things easy and relaxed on the bed for a short while before showering and getting ready to meet the others for dinner.

Our first dinner in Plodiv

Outside the Hotel Ego,
on the way to dinner

Some weather forecasts for the evening suggested that rain was likely, others not. The sky was blue with only a few clouds when we left the hotel in search of dinner, but I took my umbrella just in case. As it turned out, when it rained (and it did rain - cats and dogs and some bigger animals too I reckon!), we were inside the restaurant, and by the time we left it was dry again and the air much fresher.

The restaurant we had chosen was Memory, only a few blocks from our hotel and well-reviewed, which proved a very good choice. They happily accommodated our large group of 15 in their air-conditioned dining room, and although the service was a bit haphazard at times, I forgave them that as there were so many of us.

Memory restaurant
My starter

It was also perhaps understandable that they were distracted from our table for a time as they had to deal with the sudden influx of all the outside diners when the heavens opened and started to flood their courtyard!

The food was for the most part delicious - especially my trout fillet en papilliote. And while dearer than the other restaurants we had eaten in so far, it seemed to me very reasonable compared to London prices - I paid around 20 euros for a starter of taramasalata and smoked salmon, the trout and a rather strange cheesecake with very good ice cream, plus a large beer, small bottle of water and a tip!

My trout, and the cheesecake dessert

VT friends and VAs ('Virtual Attendees') in Memory Restaurant

After the meal we strolled back to the hotel in the cooler air, bumping into three other VT friends on the way. This is one of the delights of these large meetings, as old friendships are picked up where they last left off through just such chance encounters, in addition to the planned events.

Neon signs passed on the way back after dinner

Back in my room I flung open the window to let in the fresh air and relaxed for a short while before an early night - we had a prompt start planned for the morning.

Posted by ToonSarah 00:29 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged night trains food architecture signs history hotel market shopping restaurants friends details street_art sofia bulgaria euromeet plovdiv street_photography virtual_tourist

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Table of contents


That flamingo looked like a captive. Is that legal there?

I like the slower trains. You're right; it gives you a chance to really enjoy the scenery.

by Beausoleil

Great post as usual. I love trains and am thinking I might have to include some on my next trip.

by Bob Brink

Thanks both - yes, train journeys are (usually/often) great :)

'That flamingo looked like a captive. Is that legal there?' - lol Sally

by ToonSarah

Great stuff again Sarah. I should heve warned you guys about that train, the 13.20. There's two trains leave from that platform at the same time, one to Plovdiv and the other to Bourgas, both head east! I've gotten on the wrong one before.

by IvanIvanovich

No worries John, we made it OK :) Although I believe the train we were on was going on to Bourgas after Plovdiv?

by ToonSarah

The first of several evenings when the heavens opened but it never seemed to dampen our spirits and it certainly left the air much fresher. Another memorable day.

by Yvonne Dumsday

Enjoyed your interesting job, Sarah.

by FruitLover

I love your VA-practice! Really nice way to include the ones who can not make it there!:)
I noticed that you have same saying that we do, "Raining cats and dogs", usually sayings do not translate the same so it was funny to see that this one do :)

by hennaonthetrek

I really enjoyed reading about the train trip to Plovdiv. I wondered how that would be. Another great blog and looking forward to whats up next. xxx Lori

by Lori Waalewyn

Thank you all :) You're right Yvonne, the rain didn't dampen our spirits in the slightest - except perhaps briefly on the Sunday evening when it seemed we might not make it to dinner!

Interesting to learn Henna that we aren't the only ones to use that phrase :)

by ToonSarah

Great reading this newest journal entry, Sarah. You've captured in your excellent photos not only some of the interesting sites of Sofia, but also our train journey and first night in Plovdiv. It actually makes me sad to think how fast it all went by -- loved this trip and sure miss the great times had there with you and all our VT friends!

by Sylvia

Hi Sylvia, and thanks as always for the lovely comment. We did indeed have some good times together, didn't we?! But there will be more next year

by ToonSarah

Lovely street art (not that on the train!) and other detailed pictures Sarah. Great intro and my appetite is now whetted for Plodiv proper :-)

by Wabat

Thanks again Albert :) Yes, the train graffiti was less than artistic ;)

by ToonSarah

I must say that I really loved the pictures of the street art of Sofia and despite the hassle of reaching the right station, it seems you guys had a really nice day!

by Ils1976

Thanks Ils, it's always fun to travel with VT friends and anything that goes slightly wrong just makes for a good story afterwards!

by ToonSarah

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