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A travel writer for the Daily Mail was pleasantly surprised by his trip to Sofia, including the Alexsandar Nevski Cathedral, “the sort of dreaming wonder of a church that, were it located in Paris, Rome or Barcelona, would gaze out from a million postcards.”
Here’s what he had to say about his weekend getaway:
Capital flair in bright-eyed Bulgaria: A long weekend in Sofia, eastern Europe’s unknown city of art, culture and even skiing
• Bulgaria’s intriguing capital is one of Europe’s less known major cities
• It has historic buildings from the Ottoman, Communist and Roman eras
• The colossal Alexsandar Nevski Cathedral is its most significant landmark
By Chris Leadbeater for MailOnline
4 February 2015
Standing in Ploshtad Sveta Nedelya – the large square which spreads out at the heart of Sofia – I am momentarily unsure what year it is.
Behind me, the Holy Sunday Church is a swarthy slice of the 19th century – an Orthodox temple competing for souls with the 16th century Banya Bashi Mosque, which sits a few doors down.
In front, the broad facade of the TZUM department store is an austere reminder of the grim communist Fifties – even as it towers over the archaeological remains of the Roman settlement of Serdica, which are framed beyond glass at my feet. Only when the adjacent metro station bursts into life, disgorging a crowd of commuters, does the 21st century seem to feel present and correct.
Bulgaria’s capital is rarely anybody’s first suggestion for a mini-break. But, easily reached via a three-hour (direct) flight from London, it is deserving of closer attention – not least because few cities wear their past quite as openly as this fascinating little corner of eastern Europe.
Just about every dominant power that ever thrived on our home continent – ancient Greeks, road-building Romans, Ottoman Turks, the heavy hand of the Soviet Union – has had its say here at some point. The result is an intriguing cocktail of architectural styles and overlapping eras that is certain to delight more intrepid travellers.
Exploring the centre, I soon encounter the Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral.
Indeed, it is hard to miss Sofia’s keynote building. It is the sort of dreaming wonder of a church that, were it located in Paris, Rome or Barcelona, would gaze out from a million postcards.
In truth, it looks like it has escaped from Moscow – an epic, domed creation that was built between 1878 and 1912, at a time when Bulgaria was in thrall to Tsarist Russia. Its flanks are adorned with mosaics – while its interior, where the aroma of incense hangs thick in the air, is a feast of space.
It has a neighbour too, the smaller St Sophia – a humble red-brick pile that, remarkably, has occupied its site since the sixth century. Inside, medieval frescoes supply colour and beauty, saints peering piously at the observer.
Read the rest here.
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