a vegan guide to sofia, bulgaria
Hi guyssss! IM BACK.
I know I haven't been posting anything over the past two weeks. My eczema flared up pretty badly and I tried to spend my free time away from the computer. It was also Jeroen's birthday last weekend and I took him on a surprise trip to... Sofia! The bustling capital of Bulgaria. A friend of ours, Rani, works half-time in Sofia, so we could stay with him for the couple of days that we were there.
I know it's not always easy to plan your travels when you're vegan/ want to stay healthy while trippin'. So let me be your free virtual Sofia guide. I'll show you how I planned our trip and how I managed to eat healthy in an Eastern European country where meat, wheat and cheese make up the major part of the menu.
It's gonna be a long post this time, so if you'll xcuze me for being overenthusiastic?
We left Saturday morning in Charleroi (BRU) with WizzAir and landed about 3 hours later in Sofia. I made a smoothie the evening before we left, so we'd have something healthy to fill our stomach for those first hours on the road. I also took vegan crackers and spread with us for lunch. Just enough to keep our stomachs from grumbling — but as soon as we landed in Sofia, we were really hungry! You know how it goes, right? Little sleep, sitting still for too long, a little stress here and there — it just makes you go hungry ;)
Rani picked us up at the airport, we dropped our bags at his apartment and he took us to one of his favourite restaurants, Spaghetti Kitchen. One fancy place! If I weren't in Bulgaria, I'd think one meal would cost a fortune... But we WERE in Bulgaria, so this was indeed expensive compared to Bulgarian standards, but quite affordable for us. They have an extensive menu with salads, pasta (also gluten-free!), vegetarian pizza, meat & veg grill etc. They also have some interesting side dishes that would perfectly combine into a healthy meal: baked vegetables w/ quinoa, homemade pan-fried potatoes, steamed wild rice w/ quinoa, marinated mushrooms, glazed sweet potato and glazed zucchini. Sounds like a solid meal to me!
It took me some time though to work out which things I could eat — so when I thought I had figured it out, I asked the waitress if it would be possible to have a dish with certain things left out — but she wasn't really pleased with all my questions. This was my first experience with Bulgarian hospitality ;) People aren't as customer-oriented as in Western Europe, I noticed. They have more of an 'I don't really care if you buy from me or not' attitude.
I struggled a little bit with this in the beginning, but after some time I realized I just had to let go of my cultural preconceptions and just blend in.
That's what travelling is all about anyway, right? Discovering other cultures and ways of thinking so you can realize which preconceptions you have yourself — and let go of those that aren't constructive.
So good, we went to explore the city a little bit by strolling around. This is one of my favourite ways to discover a new place — just hanging around and letting all that new scenery seep in. I love that feeling! It's so refreshing and inspiring.
Soon it got dark and as the boys (we were with 4 guys + me) got into nightlife mode, they decided they wanted to stay up for a little longer. I was tired so I went to bed — the guys only came home around 4am ;)
The next day — as you probably expect, the guys were hungover. Jeroen and I got up first and we made us a healthy breakfast with organic muesli we found at the supermarket + dark chocolate, dried cherries, banana and organic oat milk. Plant fueled for another awesome day!
Then Rani told us about a place near Sofia where you can go cable wakeboarding. It's called Hydropark Kazichene, this is what it looks like:
I've never been a fan of watersports, so I chose a shady spot, grabbed a book and a blanket and chilled out. A great opportunity to ground and charge me up with some Sun and Earth energy ;)
Remember I told you my skin was so bad right before we left for our trip? I thought it would even get worse, because airplane air and little sleep... But I was stunned, as after two days in Sofia, my skin was clearing up, getting softer and stronger! I even slept great. I couldn't believe it.
I guess my key to better health is more Sun, Earth, movement & relaxation. Now I'm back home, spending more time indoors, and I can feel my eczema is coming back again. Maybe it's time to move away from Belgium ;)
That day, I also discovered there was a Loving Hut just around the corner where Rani lives — hurray! They even had an extensive range of raw vegan dishes like a nettle-spinach-sunflower seed burger w/ raw sunflower seed paté (YUM!), smoothies, raw soups, salads, and even raw desserts like chocolate mousse, chia seed pudding, cookies and cheesecake! Heaven on Earth in Sofia ♥
The last day, we went on a guided tour to Mount Vitosha with Free Sofia Tour. Our guide was a funny and opinionated guy, who had a lot of knowledge about Sofia as well as Bulgarian politics and history. He was a volunteer guide as well as a musician — a creative spirit, living from donations he got from tourists and gigs. Respect! We were with a group of 8: 4 Londoners and us 4 Belgians. The tour started at Boyana Church at the foot of Mount Vitosha, and then it was all the way up!
Ahh I love those hikes, feels like you're conquering something — a mountain, outside & inside. We hiked all the way up to Boyana Waterfall, where we had a lunch break with food we brought from... The Loving Hut ;)
After our visit to Boyana Waterfall, we headed down. Our final stop was at Boyana Lake.
And then we headed home again by taxi — which are very affordable in Sofia. I think we paid 10 Leva (5 Euro) in total to get back to the city centre (about 15 min).
We finished our last day in Sofia with an amazingly delicious meal at Soul Kitchen. Sad we didn't go there earlier! This was my Sofia Highlight ♥ Their kitchen is completely plant-based and they only use real food ingredients like Himalayan salt, mainly organic products, local & fresh produce, raw or with minimal heat treatment. Check out their menu! Salads, appetizers, dips, risotto, pizza, pasta, raw dishes, savoury pancakes and sweet desserts. I had the Soul Kitchen Chef's Dish and I will definitely have the same thing next time I go there.
YOU MUST TRY THIS PIECE OF GOLD.
PS. Sorry for this crappy photo, I ate a piece already cause hungry me = not in mood for taking special pictures.
Anyway, that was it! Next morning, we had our flight home. I grabbed another sunflower seed burger + chocolate cupcake at The Loving Hut to take with us to the airport. I was completely happy & relaxed and will cherish this lovely experience forever ♥