The train journey here was painful. All up it took around 12 hours on a really old, loud and uncomfortable loco. Luckily with the other 2 we managed to find ways to pass the time and none of them included drinking, so be proud of me mum. On arriving at the hostel we were completely surprised. The place was an absolute paradise. Set back from the road in a private quad it was an old travellers in, completely restored to look how it used to 150 years ago. Inside they had really comfortable chill out areas, free breakfast and dinner and in the bedrooms every bunk was its own private pod. Total luxury.
Not wanting to waste any time the next day I woke up and left before Aaron and Kate to explore the city by myself. Again it was a really conflicting city. The city centre was block after block of impressive government buildings and apartment blocks which would have looked at home in Vienna. Surround all of this was all of the copy-and-paste communist buildings and apartment blocks. The best way I could describe the city is a communist version of Vienna. In saying this I was genuinely surprised in a good way, I never expected the place to be a great as it is.
For the next 2 days we did some organised tours. The first was a hike of the mountain directly behind the city with our guide George from the hostel. It was a 5 hour fairly easy walk but the views over the city were pretty spectacular and we got to see a bit of everything; forest, waterfalls, hidden army bases and more good food. The second trip was a drive out to the Rila monastery, hidden in the middle of a massive mountain range a couple of hours from Sofia. Again I went into the trip without many expectations and I was really, really impressed. I’ve seen a lot of churches so far but this was by far the most original and a couple of times I found myself just standing there amazed at how tranquil and relaxing the whole location was, with not a sound but the rapids in the river below the monastery.