Yes, No, Maybe: What (Not) To Do in Sofia

29th August 2016

sofia bulgaria

So, summer is almost over, and in case you’re suffering from Post-Travel Blues and need a weekend city trip to cure your ills, I’m here to help! But where…?

Want to get away from the cliché European capitals? Well, look not further than Sofia.

Not just a star/dot on a map of Eastern Europe, this place has tons of stuff to do, but the best of it is just about crammable into only a few days. I like to think of Sofia as having an old soul witha modern heart.

sofia bulgaria

YES
Put on your best sneakers/trainers/shoes for the two-hour free walking tour. I actually came upon Sofia as it was cheaper to fly there then get the bus to Istanbul (my proper destination), but I had time to wander and it was well worth it. It takes you everywhere you need to be to satisfy your eyes and any history cravings. I had no idea on any landmarks, but I turned out one of the main ones, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, I’d seen before in pictures, it’s definitely a memorable vista!

A place for communist-era sculpture and art? Check out go to the Museum of Socialist Art and explore the history of Soviet occupation through art in this quirky-like (I’m saying quirky as it might look like that for West Europeans, but I can imagine people who suffered during the occupation see it as a dark place) museum. Large blocky sculptures fill the garden give you a good impression of the atmosphere at that time.

Dive into the city’s largest market, Jenski Pazar with a bunch of things to stimulate your senses topped off with a wonderfully chaotic atmosphere. Visiting here without feasting on the Bulgarian food should be a crime. Try some Banitsa, drink some wine, and then finish your taste buds off with jam filled cookies.

sofia bulgaria

NO
Be prepared that some people will try and get the max amount money out of you. As in all tourist areas. Definitely inquire at the airport about other means of transportation, radio taxis or fix a price with the driver before going. Just think of it as a challenge!

Don’t think you can spend a full week exploring the city. If you are staying longer definitely combine your stay with for example Belgrade, you can take the night train at around 20:30, arriving Belgrade around 05:00. Or take the train for a day trip to Plovdiv – the second biggest Bulgarian city where you’ll find lots of Greek influences that has Instagram written all over it.

sofia bulgaria

MAYBE
I didn’t get to explore the nightlife as much as I wanted, but the place has a good rep for partying. There’s bars/pubs everywhere where tourists and locals get together to share laughs over drinks. Should make for a great story for the people at home.

If you have a hangover the next day the perfect place to visit would be Boyana Church, a gorgeous little spot where you can admire its quite spectacular murals with lots of detailing AND it should be rather quiet.

If the tour raised your curiosity levels and you want to learn more about the Bulgaria’s history, the National History Museum should be the place to head. It specialises in showing you the city’s intricate past, which has been marked by the presence of some of the world’s most powerful empires (if I remember correctly this is what the brochure said).

Have you been to Sofia?

My Instant Summer: Stories from my Bosnian Hometown Hill

16th August 2016

polaroids (4)Today I’m teaching you about life on my hometown hill in Bosnia, with some polaroids to accompany.

polaroids impossible project

Coffee is life. You’ll have it in the morning, with lunch or at night, and almost always while socialising – going through everything from soaps to the state of your crops and the daily gossip. The coffee is a whole different level over there, it’s cooked in a special pot and is strong, bitter and very thick, and usually served with a sugar cube, a glass of water and something sweet. And you seriously need a higher education barista certificate to make a džezva (a copper coffee can) of coffee. This stuff will blow your eye brows off and keep you awake for days.

polaroids impossible project

Three or four houses grouped together is something you will see a lot if you would go to a small village in Bosnia. Of course this makes it easy to socialise, but the real reason is that the land is being passed on to sons – (don’t worry daughters also get some land too) – this way you get families living really close – and by close I mean you can literally shout through to each other’s kitchen windows.

polaroids impossible project

These chicks are important residents on the hill as eggs are a big part of the cuisine and there’s always a neighbour who’ll have some if you run out. It’s a very self sufficient area, some people go to the supermarket to get milk while others will ask their neighbour who owns a cow for a fresh bottle of milk in the morning or evening. Almost everyone grows their vegetables and preserves anything that can be preserved and eats what can’t be stored/saved for winter during the summer months. Beans and potatoes are popular for winter – though the potatoes have been really small this year due to the cold spring (this was big news).

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They also grow a lot of corn and there are 3 things to do with it: 1) it’s a snack and everyone loves boiled or oven fried corn 2) to feed the cows and put it – together with hay – in the stables for the cows to lay on and 3) to grind it for corn flower to make pura (aka polenta) in winter. In my area it’s eaten with either yoghurt or cottage style cheese and onions. But wheat is the first thing everyone makes sure to have enough of, once it has been harvested you get it grinded into flour and used to make pita’s -link-

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You might think a dog is a must-have pet, but here it’s a must have to guard the house. The rule is that you have to call the dog either Lasi, Rex or Miki. During the day they usually chill around the house and wait for food, but during the night they get-together and run around – and occasionally bark so no-one notices they aren’t doing what they’re supposed to. There’s not too much snip snip here, so in heat they tend to mix around and you get very interesting mixes of puppies.

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People also head to the local Big Town for coffee meet ups at a cafe bar, of which there are a ridiculous amount. Other things you’ll find in the Big Town is a high school where pretty much everyone from the area goes to, a department store, a few banks, a market, restaurants, a sports centre and the city park. Which is as you can see just like any other park really – including two old guys chatting about how it was way better back in the days and two young friends promising each other they won’t become like those two.

polaroids impossible project

This is probably the number one (tourist) attraction in the Big Town and plays a big part in everyones lives, it start with teens on dates around the castle, if you graduate you’ll be likely to hold your graduation here and if you have the money you rent the castle for a huge a wedding reception – even if you don’t do the wedding you’ll probably end up there to shoot your wedding photos. Hell, you’ll go up there for any photo opp.

Have you been to Bosnia and/or the Balkan region?

Salut! From Dordogne Valley: The Most Beautiful Villages of France Edition

14th August 2016

dordogne valley

Here we are – part two of my adventures in the Dordogne Valley. Don’t forget to catch up on part I in case you missed.

dordogne valley dordogne valley

The entire area is brimming with caves, many filled with the original street art – prehistoric cave paintings. The Padirac cave is a must-visit, and these wonders keep reminding me at how incredible nature and history really is. You get to be the captain of a gondola-style boat that whisks you through part of the cave, from where you head on venturing on foot.

dordogne valley

You might remember from part one of journey that I wouldn’t stop going on about few cute and beautiful villages. If you don’t take my word for it, they’re actually officially dubbed the ‘Most Beautiful Villages of France’ which obviously knows there stuff. Loubressac is one of them, located on top of the mountain. Besides its stunning panoramic views the village you offers a journey back in time as you wander the cobbled streets.

dordogne valley (1)

Continuing our small villages fix, we headed to Autoire. Though the name reminded me a bit of Stella Artois, it was nothing like the beer – it was quiet and sleepy though not as grand as some of the others we visited, but because it has far fewer tourists it had more old-time charm and as they say: still waters have deep grounds.

dordogne valley

If your legs are up for 30-minute walk you will find a waterfall, yes, a waterfall, not something that first comes to mind when thinking of France. Great place to catch a breath and sit down for a little cool down after the hike, and watch the waters flow on by.

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Just when you think the next village can get any cuter there’s Collonges-la-Roug, a charming historical town famous for its red sandstone houses, little towers and narrow streets. It’s really as picturesque as it gets, there’s not skill requirement for taking a good photo here.

dordogne valley

Dibs on this house! But you’re all invited to come by and sample my wine collection (yet to be collected!).

dordogne valley

For the last evening we were at Brive Festival, an annual music event held at the end of July, part of a season with lots to do across the city. Although we didn’t know any of the artists, it was a great evening and it proves that not matter where you are and the language you speak, music connects and the festival vibe is the same everywhere.

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Check out the puddle pool at the backstage area. And yes, that’s an Airstream dressing room/trailer in the background.

dordogne valley

We went on to a little tasting of chocolate and other delicious sweets at Chocolaterie Lamy. This diabetes-inducing wonder is not only a great coffee and sweets hotspot, but also the place to be for chocolate related presents for the home front – or just yourself, I really didn’t want to ever leave.

dordogne valley

No trip would be complete without investigating the weekly market with on one side fresh fruit, vegetables and meat. I was so surprised about the cheap prices they offer, they put city farmers markets to shame, on quality, price and atmosphere. On the other side you can find clothes, bags, belts, shoes, toys, and basically everything that you need for your home.

dordogne valley

dordogne valley

Before we explored Turenne, we got our castle groove on the hill, which included a surprise charming garden. The owner took us around, explaining that his grandfather started the garden, he’s been maintaining it, and he likes to keep it on the down low as he loves to see the look on the people’s faces. And, they are not looking for a princess and no the owner does wear the armour. I asked (just once I swear!).

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In the words of Chanler Bing: ‘ Can these villages get ANY cuter? Well, I can tell you that Turenne stole everyone’s hearts. The tiny, pretty pretty village has to be the region’s best-kept secret and from what I heard it’s often bypassed for the larger and more famous spots. Which is a no doubt a good thing as you’ll almost always have its snoozy, old-time charm and castle all to yourself.

Sadly all trips have an end, and with ours in sight we headed back to Brive Airport for our flight home

Instant July

1st August 2016

polaroids london

I skipped June because asolutely no photos were worth sharing here, but the two trips I went on in July meant I took more polaroids than ever.

croatia polaroids

I went to Croatia to catch up with my old pal Zagreb and dip my toe in the Plitvice Lakes (this is just a figure of speech though, as you’re not allowed swim here sadly).

polaroids bosnia

Then I retreated to Hometown Hill in Bosnia and I can’t think of anything that feels more home to me than these polaroids of the chickens and the cornfield.

polaroids london

The everchanging London skyline // My London polaroid bingo continues with Big Ben and the red bus, one day I’ll capture the Queen and Colin Firth on top of an open-top bus playing the Spice Girls driving past Big Ben and I’ll call it quits.

polaroids franceLiterally every inch of the Dordogne Valley was polaroid worthy, getting super shots was easier than catching a Pidgey or Ratata (see, I can do references that aren’t all 90’s films/tv shows!) .

Online I wrote about things I’ve seen and done in Zagreb, a post on the high and low lights of my visit to Plitvice Lakes, a diary from the first two days in the Dordogne Valley – part two is coming soon and my Bosnia/Croatia packing list tag. And I also shared some food hotspots not to miss in London, and if one post on that city wasn’t enough, one on the 5 best spots to savour an afternoon tea in the capital.

Have you photographed anything you want to shout about?

The Packing List Tag: Bosnia/Croatia Edition

31st July 2016

packing going away vs going home

I went on an 8 day trip to Bosnia and Croatia and this is what I crammed into my bag for my lil adventure.

Where: from London to Zagreb (3 days) and Plitvice Lakes (2 days) in Croatia and Hometown Hill in Bosnia (3 days)

Weather: hot hot hot and also humid, did I say hot already?

Travel clothing on the plane: my standard travel outfit is super comfy jeans, long sleeve top, Nikes.

What you actually packed:

Carry – on suitcase
1 pair of sandals, 1 skirt, 1 pair of jeans, 1 dress, 7 short sleeve tops/t-shirts, 1 long sleeve, 1 cardigan, pyjamas, underwear and socks, the usual toiletries, adapter and converters, chargers and some presents

Totebag
Polaroid camera, 8 packs of films, playing cards, a little bag with travel documents, passport, notebook, pen, 1 pair of sunglasses

Did you wear everything?
I ended up wearing everything, except one shirt that got lost in the pile.

Anything you wished you had brought along?
More socks! I always end up not having enough.

Anything you wished you had left?
No, for a change I had it all sorted, though I wish the polaroid camera had a ‘miniaturise’ button so it would fit in my trouser pocket – please invent this soon!

Did you buy anything while traveling?
Just chocolate. A lot of chocolate

Any advice for travellers going to Croatia/Bosnia?
Bring extra jumpers/long-sleeve tops, especially when you are near the seaside, as despite the glimmering waves and to-die-for sunsets, the temperature does drop in the evenings.


Not specifically for these countries, but bring along items of clothing that can be chucked in a washing machine and have no special care instructions. Don’t bring your favourite items, you don’t want that one top to be destroyed by the washing machine, sweat or sunscreen.