Who am I kidding? I am not a big beer drinker... but I am a sucker for alliteration! :)
Either way, you get the gist of the post... here are my top 5 spots in Bulgaria to grab something cold while soaking in this Balkan country's stunning mountain vistas and charming street scenes.
Apartamenta (The Apartment)
As the name says, this is a bar in an apartment in central Sophia - each room sports a different vibe... slightly 70sesque living area, an airy enclosed balcony with floor cushions, a bar in a dinky little kitchen, pedestal fans and homemade strawberry wine... what's not to love?
Even in the days of Google maps, this isn't the easiest bar to find but is well worth the slight trepidation of walking into a deserted, unlit side street in Sophia. The cave-like wooden bar lit entirely by candlelight is a great spot for a night cap - turn up too early and you risk not being able to find yourself a seat. We turned up late on a rainy summer night and found a perfect cosy corner to settle in for a couple of drinks.
Sophia's answer to Central Park, Borisova Gradina is a joy to wander around on a summer evening to watch the city come out to play. We happened to catch a music festival in one of the park's wooded enclaves which was full with milling crowds of students, kids and pets. Local beer, greasy fries and Bulgarian music made a fine end to a summer night in Sophia.
Like many of its sisters that emerged from behind the Iron Curtain, Bulgaria shares a love for hot springs and there aren't many things better than settling down with your favourite drink, avjar and grilled trout after a couple of hours of cooking yourself in a boiling outdoor bath.
Under the Linden Tree
This atmospheric restaurant in the capital, hidden along the slightly amusingly-named Elin Pelin street in a quiet residential corner of the city, is an excellent spot to enjoy a glass of Bulgaria's excellent local wines (or throat-numbing rakias!). The rambling restaurant spills up and down several outdoor and indoor levels and serves up an excellent selection of local specialties beyond those found on most other menus in the city... like caramelised onion pie and meat and fruit stews. You won't regret a dinner here...
When in Bulgaria
Hike up and around the beautiful Rila Mountains to soak in the spectacular beauty of the Seven Lakes or Skakavitsa Waterfall. If you time it right you can have the trails almost all to yourself.
Visit the majestic Rila Monastery - a stunning complex of inn-like structures and a central church, beautifully decorated with richly-coloured frescoes. Don't miss seeing the unbelievably detailed Rafail's Cross - a wooden cross with the most amazing miniature 3d wood carvings you will ever see.
Buy some local colourful pottery, rugs and juicy cherries and plums at the "Ladies Market' in Central Sophia.
Ride in a Trabant - the notorious East German motorcar that was a symbol of the East Bloc nations is the star of a local Sophia city tour... and yes, you do get a ride in the tiny backseat!
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