I was taking a 4:30 am bus from Niš, Serbia to Sofia, Bulgaria. My Niš apartment was on the third floor of a building that had a cement spiral staircase, and no lighting at all in the hallway. Being that I am leaving at this ridiculously early hour, there is also no sunlight in the hallway.
I gave myself an extra half an hour to sit down on the stairs and scoot down them with my suitcase in tow, to avoid breaking my neck and killing myself. It is times like these that I almost wish I were not solo, just so that someone else could witness how stupid my life is.
The walk to the bus only took about fifteen minutes. As I was boarding the bus, I was shown that on my ticket, it clearly states that there is a charge for storing luggage on the bus. I cannot recall the exact amount, but it was less than $1 USD. I flashed back to the conversation I had with the driver’s assistant back in Sarajevo and now realized that I was probably about ten cents short with paying for my luggage on that route. I had no idea what was even going on. Now, I know.
The bus ride was relatively uneventful, save for the beautiful scenery outside. When we crossed over into Bulgaria and had to show our passports, it became clear to everyone that I was from America. This caused a lot of the usual interested stares I have gotten this trip, but the only person who commented on it was the driver’s assistant who seemed very surprised I was traveling solo.
We arrived in Sofia at around 9:30 am. I did not even realize we were in Sofia at first. We were let off at an annex to the main bus station. All that is over on this side is rows of store fronts that contain only specific bus company ticket desks inside. It took me a bit to realize that the main bus station was right next door.
I had approximately eight hours to go see Sofia before heading on a bus to Belogradchik (I would be back in Sofia tomorrow for more time to spend here). I did not want to leave the bus station until I had secured my ticket for Belogradchik. Finding out the bus information for this route was not the easiest thing. The internet is so not clear on anything. As a bonus, today was Sunday and the schedule I had, clearly stated “every day except Sunday”, which I had not realized until I was getting my stuff together when leaving my hotel back in Niš. Oh I feel a migraine coming on.
The counter for the bus company that goes to Belogradchik was not open yet. It did not open for two hours. I spent two hours in the bus station waiting for it to open.
Once I got my ticket, I checked my luggage. Then off to the tram to head downtown. This was a headache as well as I could not figure out how to buy a ticket. OH HEY you can buy one on the tram. Duh.
My main plans in Sofia for today are: (a) follow the tram directions for the hotel I am going to be staying at tomorrow night, so I know how to get there tomorrow to avoid getting lost (I AM ALWAYS LOST) with luggage and (b) visit St. Alexander Nevsky Church.
My plans were slightly thwarted when outside the tram window, I spot the holy grail – DUNKIN FREAKING DONUTS. AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH! DUNKIN DONUTS. THERE IS ICED COFFEE AT DUNKIN DONUTS. I HAVE NOT HAD ICED COFFEE SINCE LEAVING HOME. I NEED ICED COFFEE. GIVE ME ICED COFFEE NOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.
I get off the tram and bolt back to the Dunkin Donuts. I was so excited. I think the guy working there probably thought I was a bit off with HOW excited I was. Not only did they have iced coffee (well, iced lattes, close enough!), they also had donuts with smiley faces on them. Of COURSE I am going to buy a donut with a smiley face on it. I am so happy ICED COFFEE (OKAY LATTE, CLOSE ENOUGH). I place my order in pretty much a sing song voice, which was even singier when i asked for “smiley faced donut please!!!”
As if this wasn’t cool enough (it totally was!), I managed to then walk to the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral without getting lost! I read a map correctly! What a fantastic day.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is gorgeous. Insanely gorgeous. One picture will never be enough.
I was really surprised at how empty it was inside. There were maybe about ten people in there, with about eight of them praying. You are not allowed to take pictures inside. Of course, the two other tourists were ignoring this and doing it anyway until they got told to stop. I sat in here for quite some time just admiring it. It was so quiet and peaceful.
After leaving, I wandered a bit around Sofia before heading back to the bus station.
How beautiful is Sofia’s backdrop?