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Bulgaria's capital, Sofia, is a living canvas depicting the past, present and future of its people, land and culture. The architecture, cuisine and lifestyle of the locals reflect the Roman, Greek and Ottoman influence on this Balkan territory. Sofia may feel like a young, modern city, but the remains of its 7,000-year history can be found in almost every element of its culinary culture and heritage. And since Sofia has much more than it cuisine to enchant you with, in the city you will find dozens of museums, galleries, temples and archaeological sites, which will take you on a journey through time, history and the religious diversity of Sofia; a patchwork of influences that the city has embraced harmoniously in its course from the past, to the present and continuing in the future. For winter and mountain lovers, Sofia has to offer the traveler the beautiful mountain Vitosha, where one can enjoy unique walks in nature, ending at the top of the mountain for a cup of hot tea and large amounts of fresh air! And the activities do not stop here, since the art lovers can enjoy moments of entertainment in Sofia, with the famous opera and ballet, who organize unique performances that shall not be missed! A charming, historic and multicultural city awaits you to explore it!
Originally known as Serdica, Sofia was founded 3,000 years ago by the Thracians, but the history of the city dates back to around 7,000 years, making it one of the oldest cities in Europe. By 29 BC, Sofia was in the hands of the Romans under the Emperor Trajan. He, along with his successor Diocletian, began to expand the city. The city was loved by the emperors, later became a node of the Eastern Roman and then of the Byzantine Empire, before being razed by the Huns in 447. It was rebuilt by Emperor Justinian, and remained an essential part of Byzantium until 809, when it was conquered by the Bulgarians under Han Krum. In 1089 the city returned to Byzantium until 1189, when it was conquered definitively by the Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Assen I. Another conquest, this time by the Ottomans, came in 1382 and the Turks came in Sofia to stay. Under the Ottomans, Sofia flourished and became one of the top cities of the Empire – a position held until the 18th century. With the Turks finally expelled in 1878 during the Russo-Turkish War, Sofia became the capital of the newly independent Kingdom of Bulgaria. World War I brought the city close to disaster, after it joined the war on the Axis side, while 20 years later, fighting again with the Axis Powers, the city was left heavily bombed by the RAF. The end of World War II brought Soviet occupation to the city as Bulgaria became part of the Eastern Bloc. This was followed by rapid industrialization, with new factories and apartment buildings emerging all over the city. Independence returned after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, although things seemed precarious in the 1990s as hyperinflation prevailed. Today, politically calm and prosperous economically, Sofia has returned to its beautiful best.
St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
One of the most awe-inspiring symbols of Sofia and the whole of Bulgaria is the imposing and huge Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevski. It was built between 1882 and 1912 in honor of the 200,000 Russian soldiers who lost their lives fighting for Bulgaria's independence during the Russo-Turkish war (1877-1878). It was named after a 13th-century Russian warrior prince, Aleksander Nevski. Designed by the Russian architect Alexander Pomerantsev, the temple was built in the neo-Byzantine style preferred by Russia at the time and is adorned with mosaics and golden domes. The interior is decorated with naturalistic frescoes, hanging chandeliers and elaborate onyx and alabaster thrones.
Banitsa is considered the national dish of Bulgaria, so it could not be left out of the "must-try" dishes in Sofia! In its classic version, this dish consists of handmade pastry leaves, butter, eggs, yoghurt and traditional Bulgarian white cheeses such as sirene. But you can also come across it with other fillings, sweet or salty,whatever your appetite craves! The locals, in fact, fill banitsa with charms, coins or greeting notes, something that is particularly common during the festive winter season. As a dish, banitsa is usually served for breakfast with yogurt or a boza beverage on the side.