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This is a guest post by Tasting Travels Team (Roberto Gallegos and Annika Wachter)
Saturday afternoon on a blue sunny sky a couple of youngs quarrel over what could have been the decisive point of a friendly ping pong match.
Not far from the game, a mother teaches her five year old daughter how to ride her first brand new red bicycle.
Two trees down the brick road, two young girls dispute their imaginary championship of Badminton.
Such meaningful events take place every day on this green area of the city. The truth is, we could probably be anywhere in the world.
The real truth is we are not.
We are in one of the many picturesque parks on a city in Eastern Europe. We are in Sofia, Bulgaria and we’re enjoying it.
Sofia is home to 1.9 million humans in our planet. They speak Bulgarian, write in Cyrillic alphabet and like football as in many other European countries.
In this part of our world it is still strongly visible in it’s architecture and city planning the reminesence of communism. Groups of tall grey buildings that house many families, very common in the communist era, are all evident through the city.
It is also possible to find old war tanks and control boths as part of the road scenery just outside the capital. Nevertheless these surprises make up to what in our opinion makes this place so unique.
Sofia also dwells a number of religious temples, all of them in a well preserved state and a charm of it’s own. In a day’s walk it is healthy to say that you might be able to visit several of these temples.
These architectural jewels include, the Christian-Orthodox Alexander Nevski Cathedral, St. Nedelia Church, Banya Banshi Mosque and just a couple of blocks from it the Sofia Synagougue, which is the oldest in all Eastern Europe. Walking the city one can enjoy of a great world religion class for under a 1 Euro or nothing for each entrance.
Other highlights include the National Palace of Culture, the Lady’s Market – where you will be able to find incredible food at a very reasonable price – and the National Art Gallery located on the beautiful Tzar Osvobeditel Boulevard.
So much to see in this capital that a couple of days is never enough to experience it all. Fortunately, a couple of days are also enough to make you want to come back for more.
After so much sightseeing we ended on this park and it was here that we realized the following:
No place can live without it’s inhabitants and here is no exception.
We realized that all the buildings and streets that we had just seen would only be pretty pieces of rock if it wasn’t for the people that used them. For all I know, it could be that in a near future the boy we saw playing ping pong will end up getting married in the Alexander Nevski Cathedral with the girl of his dreams.
Maybe the 4 year old girl will ride her bike through the streets of Sofia looking for inpiration on her new architectural project for the city.
Maybe one of the girls playing Badminton will later become a renown artist and exhibit her pieces on the National Art Gallery.
The Essence of Travel
And as we were listening to the sounds of the park, a laughter here and a cheer somewhere, we began to conclude that probably this is what traveling is all about.
Perhaps traveling is not only about visiting the highlight of cities but it is also a way to celebrate the life that takes place around them and with this, embrace new things that will later become our own.
You see parks and monuments are all over the world, but it’s the local people – in this case the friendly people of Sofia – that make our experience of travel a life long lesson of human understanding.
More Resources for Eastern Europe:
Check out these helpful travel guides:
Our other posts:
- Doing A Working Holiday In Central or Eastern Europe
- The Kindness of Strangers in Eastern Europe
- Three Czech Republic Cities to Visit
- Why you shouldn’t be afraid of Eastern Europe
- Travel Pinspiration – Places to Visit in Croatia
Bio: Annika Wachter (25 yrs German) and Roberto Gallegos (28 yrs Mexican) have been travelling in Mexico and Europe together since they met 2 years ago. They are also co-founders of the project Tasting Travels. Starting on September 6, 2011 they will travel slowly and economically from Germany to Malaysia publishing stories in their blog about the people, the environment and the cultures that have left a positive impact in their lives. Their main goal is to promote travel as a means to strengthen social empathy in our world. Visit them on their blog, post a comment or become their friends on facebook.
*all entries are written in English and the original texts in Spanish and German respectively.