Day 22: The Final Countdown

Well folks, this is it – the last day our the DeCaigny Abroad Trip 2017.  Today we only had a few last things to wrap up in Sofia, including the inside of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, and Pa wanted to get a Harley-Davidson Sofia t-shirt.  We slept in, did a bit of housekeeping for our travel tomorrow, had a leisurely breakfast and headed out towards the Cathedral.

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Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is an Orthodox Cathedral, one of the largest in the world, built in the Neo-Byzantine style.  It’s also known as the main tourist attraction in Sofia.  Alexander Nevsky was not Bulgarian, but a Russian Prince of Novgorod who in the 13th century led a Russian army to defeat the Teutonic army (you can see the dramatization of this in Sergei Eisenstein’s masterpiece “Alexander Nevsky”, with the score written by Sergei Prokofiev).  It was named after a Russian prince as opposed to a Bulgarian one, because it was built in memory of the Russian soldiers who died during the Russo-Turkish War (liberating Bulgaria from the Ottomans).  Anyhow, the name of the Cathedral was changed between 1912 – 1916 to St Cyril and Methodius as Russia and Bulgaria were on opposite sides in WWI.

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There is no entry fee to the Cathedral, but you do have to pay 10 LEV ($7.50 CAD) to take photos.  I paid and the lady at the desk gave me a piece of paper with some Cyrillic written on it, and a little man in black robes approached me as I entered, gave my paper a little tear, and said “safe photo”.  There is little to no talking in the Cathedral, so the silence was deafening.  I definitely could have done with some orthodox chant.  We quietly walked about, watching the faithful light candles, pray to the saints, and line up and pray to the alter.

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Like many of the Orthodox churches and cathedrals we’ve been to, there is a giant chandelier right above the alter and in front of the iconostasis.  Alexander Nevsky is a really beautiful building, but I would say I have definitely seen more breathtaking Orthodox churches.

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After we felt like we had spent a sufficient amount of time in the Cathedral, we stepped out into the sun and headed to a nearby restaurant called Cattedral for some lunch – pizza, risotto and Irish breakfast for Pa.  We finished up and ordered a taxi for Pa using this app called Taxi Me.  It’s essentially like Uber, but finds you good and reliable drivers who won’t gouge you.  The driver pulls up and Pa hops in, on his way to Harley Davidson Sofia, so Ma and I walked around the nearby university grounds and sat on a sunny bench and talked about next year’s trip.

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After about 25 minutes or so, Pa returned, purchase in hand.  We had discovered by accident that Sofia actually has a pretty popular pedestrian only boulevard just steps from our shitty apartment called Vitosha Boulevard, lined with shops, bars and cafes.  We decided to do a bit of a cafe crawl, so we started at a place where we got sparkling water and ice cream.

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Moving on, we came across a few street musicians, a cellist and a guitarist/vocalist who were playing some original works as well as some covers.  We grabbed a bench and watched for a while.

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After watching the musicians, we wandered some more and eventually got to the end of the street.  By that time, we decided to find a place for dinner, and had read about a restaurant on the strip called Boom Burger, so we decided to try it.  We had some beers, burgers and onion rings and it reminded us of Cannibal Cafe in Vancouver.  We settled up and headed back down the boulevard, looking for a good place for Ma to get some dessert and Pa and I to get some rakia.  Rakia is a liqueur in the region, usually made from grape or plum, and is a lot like brandy (or the Palinka we had in Romania), and Pa and I figured we had to have some before we left.  We found a busy patio and Ma ordered a slice of cheesecake, and Pa and I each ordered a shot of their finest rakia – only burns a little bit going down!  We paid our delightful waiter and waddled back to our apartment, ready to pack for our flight tomorrow and ready to come home.  Until next year, Europe.

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