Our night at the football certainly wasn’t a true reflection of Sofia, as the rest of our time in the city was fantastic. We spent three days exploring its beautiful Byzantine architecture and stark communist history. We joined every free tour on offer – our favourite being the free food tour where we learnt lots about the country’s food culture, including the importance of yoghurt (featuring special Bulgarian bacteria)! The city itself is full of hidden quirks. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Bulgaria moved away from communism and people started to set up their own businesses. The cost of renting shops was very high, so ‘klek’ (knee) shop evolved. These shops operate out of basements, and a window at pavement level was used as a way for passers by to ask for what they wanted. Although a dying trend, Klek shops can still be found across the city, selling everything from tobacco to shoes. Martenitsa are red and white yarn bracelets which Bulgarians wear from 1st March until when they see the first blossom tree. They tie the yarn to tree to welcome in spring. Despite it being October we saw lots of these in the city parks.
To top off our time in Sofia we had two wonderful Warmshower hosts, Helen and Stefan, who couldn’t have made us feel more at home in their beautiful top floor apartment overlooking the mountains. We shared lots of laughs over dinner and rakia, and they kindly sent us off with a jar of their homemade lutenica (smokey tomato/pepper paste). This provided us with the best lunch of the trip so far as we cycled out of Sofia, and since then we have eaten lutanitsa every day for lunch in Bulgaria!