Following our stay in Cappadocia, we took a flight back to Istanbul and began our night train to Bulgaria! It wasn’t a difficult process to buy the tickets and everyone was pretty helpful. You end up taking a train from the city center to get to the primary train station. The train station is a bit out in the middle of nowhere, which to be honest was a little bit sketchy. We hadn’t eaten for awhile and knew we were going to be on the train all night and morning so I made my way exploring to find anything we could with what little Turkish cash we had left. The only thing that worried me more than the location, was returning back to a hungry Rainier.
The overnight train had two beds in each of the room. We ended up spending a little more to have a private room overall I believe each train ticket was about 35€ for the private room. We experienced a stop at the border at 2 a.m. where you have to get out of the train and then line up to go through immigration to get your passport stamped. A HUGE TIP, try to get in line as quickly as possible so you don’t have to stand in line and can quickly get back to sleep! Then at 3 a.m. Bulgarian Immigration control boards the train to check your passport and stamps you into Bulgaria. Rainier was fortunate enough to sleep a majority of the night. I, on the other hand, was too stressed about making sure we got our passports back from the train conductors/immigration officers during these stops, to get much sleep.
As we made our way into these new countries and cities in the Baltic areas, we had no real idea of what we were going to do or where we were going to stay. All of our research was done as we were traveling to the city, and often times we were booking our hostels and Airbnbs 24-48 hours before check in. One of the best things to do when you’re in a new, different city is laying a foundation of geographic and cultural understanding via a free walking tour! This will help summarize everything, and you can always go back to areas that stood out. In addition, you can get some awesome recommendations from the locals on where to go and what to eat. Even with the internet being so helpful with all the travel blogs, things change so quickly. It’s important to get the right recommendations. Especially in a post Covid-19 world that seems to be changing so quickly.
I recommend staying in the center of the city. We stayed in an Airbnb in the old city center. In the old city center you could explore in every direction. Everything was really well kept and worked well for a walking city. It seemed like there was recent development for the preservation of ancient ruins beneath the city. Another cool experience is they have these kneeling boutique stores! We decided to grab a couple of road beers along our walk. As it pertains to dinner, we really enjoyed a restaurant called The Little Things. Really fresh and delicious food with great wine options.
Some cultural aspects that were very interesting to hear about was the history of Bulgaria. World War 2 had significantly impacted this country. It was interesting to hear of how they were on the side of the Axis during WWII and how they really didn’t have a choice. In addition, Bulgaria delayed and tried to avoid by any means the extradition of Jews to concentration camps in Nazi Germany. They used labor shortages as an excuse to procrastinate shipping them off and they country. It’s because of their efforts that the survival rate of the Jewish population in Bulgaria was one of the highest in Axis Europe.
Overall Sofia we really nice and exceeded our expectations. It was really well designed with great history.