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Our flight from Batumi, Georgia was delayed by over an hour and when we landed for our short layover in Istanbul, we had missed our connection to Sofia, Bulgaria. It was a bit of hassle and the Istanbul airport is HUGE. After three hours of being sent from one desk to another, having to purchase a full Turkish visa, and finally getting to a hotel paid for by Turkish Airlines, we settled in for a well deserved rest. It was a lovely hotel about 20 minutes from the airport.
We slept in a bit and got to the airport with our boarding passes already issued. Getting through security was quick and our flight to Sofia was on time. We landed an hour later to a winter-scape of snow and ice. Sofia at first blush is a lovely European styled city. Lots of buildings form the late 19th century. The one thing that stood out immediately was the amount of graffiti. And |I mean everywhere...on nice buildings in the middle of the high rent district, the facades of banks and office buildings...and this is what our apartment building looked like from the outside. We would have been alarmed if it wasn't for the neighborhood and EVERY other building being the same.
Once inside this is what met us. Once again a great deal. This whole apartment nicely furnished and equipped for $30 a night.
We were exhausted and after getting unpacked we went to the local store for supplies and then crashed for the rest of the day. We had a nice dinner and got a good night's sleep.
For our first full day out we decided to take in the local Free Walking Tour offered by a non-profit called 365. It was really cold, but a beautiful sunny day and the guide was quite entertaining. We walked ten minutes to the city center, met the group, and for the next two hours we saw a lot of the city from the outside. We took a lot of mental notes and ended up with a good idea of what we would visit over the next few days.
We retraced some of our steps the next day and visited a few of the buildings inside. This is the grand mall in the city center...lots of shops and restaurants.
St. Sofia Church built in the late 1220's and the first official church of Bulgaria. What we did not realized until we got in is that this is the fourth church build on top of the prior three.
Our last days in Sofia were quiet and comfortable as we relaxes and made ready for our road trip up into the mountains.