A collection of pretty average rooms in a residential district of Bulgaria, run by the rowdiest gaggle of youngsters in town.
The downstairs basement bar has a set of decks in the corner, permanently prepared for impromptu parties…that seem to take place nightly.
For a bunch of arty ravers, they put together a cracking continental(ish) breakfast, served in a basement room covered in top notch wall art.
A new hotel, excellent location, 5 mins walk from anywhere. Ticks all the boxes for a city hotel, with prices a fraction of its peers at this level. A quiet, comfortable sleep, fast wi-fi everywhere, no hookers, bars, etc, and an excellent buffet for breakfast.
Just some observations - public transport is poor in Sofia. However, taxis are very cheap and plentiful. I have never had a problem, but of course there are stories of cabbies trying it on. Normal caution should suffice.
Pavements are dreadfully dilapidated, and often obstructed by parked cars. This is not a town for baby buggies, let alone wheelchairs (I have never seen anyone in a wheelchair). The elderly should also beware.
A good guide, published quarterly is Sofia in Your Pocket: www.inyourpocket.com
Also, an English-langauge newspaper Sofia Echo, published Fridays with listings: www.sofiaecho.com
In August, theatres are closed, and some restaurants. Check first.
A hotel with spa (massage and other therapies) swimming pools outdoor and in, tennis courts (clay, international standard) and indoor courts. Gym with the latest equipment. Very child friendly. Very pleasant, helpful, English-speaking staff.
The architecture and particularly the interior decor rather "Soviet" of the 80s, although this hotel was built within the past eight years.
Large bedrooms. Garden restaurant in summer, where the food is pretty good. Good buffet breakfast. Many shiny black expensive cars with tinted windows and "colourful" local clientele.
The hotel is situated a 15-minute (very cheap) cab ride from the centre of Sofia, towards the Vitosha mountain and park, which may be a plus or a minus, depending on requirements.
There is internet in all rooms, but this is charged for. I protested that nowadays they might as well charge for hot water, and the charming young female owner (ex international tennis player) said they would be looking into it. I am trying to wage a campaign against internet charges in hotels.
Advertised prices (Jul 07) range from €96 single room to €220 Maxi Privilege suite. There are weekend deals and there are also apartments.
Breakfast and use of all spa and sports facilities are included.
Plovdiv, 120km out of Sofia - on the airport side, is the place to go to experience the "true" Bulgaria. Or should that be Macedonia? The people here will talk to you for hours about their ancestry, so you may end up slightly confused!
However, confusion is all part of the fun – for example when your table begins to fill up with a lot of the world’s most tantalizing white wines, you are, of course, at first confused at why the Bulgarians export such cheap rubbish while keeping these liquid treasures for themselves, and when lots more start to arrive, you reach the section in your guidebook which reminds you that nodding horizontally is affirmative, so each time you thought you were saying “no”, it was “yes” - you’ll work it out eventually!
So why else Plovdiv?
In the first instance it’s not Sofia – which most locals will lecture you about; “Sofiacentrismus” is a political disease which has caught on since the fall of communism, giving rise to a huge hate and jealousy of the capital which seems is the magnet for FDI, tourism, etc as the government seems to ignore all other areas of the country (apart from the Black Sea resorts).
Secondly, you will get to Plovdiv in a luxury hire car for about $35 per day, faster and more comfortable than to anywhere in the traffic-snarled smog of Sofia, via a rolling carpet of comfortable uncrowded motorway. That should take about 1 hour – no more no less, as speed cops are everywhere pulling the faster cars, but also the slower ones!
Thirdly – it’s cheap! Amazingly cheap! One “Lev” is 50 euro cents, so it’s easy to calculate exchange rates on the go, but when you eat and drink like Donald Trump, do lots of tipping, and count in the accidentally-ordered extras from the nodding errors, and find yourself paying a bill of say 15 LEV (EUR 7.50), your mind is going to reevaluate exactly why you do that commute every day back home!
Fourthly, the people are wonderful, happy and very proficient in English! There is no misery here, so you don’t have to feel like Kofi Annan listening to woes of hard lives, gypsy issues, “fall of the wall”, etc; they are happy – as have been the people here for 3000 years, as would you if you lived in this little part of heaven with beautiful weather all year around, fresh produce abundant in fields and gardens, etc.
Fifthly, the standards here will shock you! As in they are so high! Your ROI brain will wonder how every restaurant and bar can be more stylish than any in Manhattan, and the service more friendly (genuinely as tipping doesn’t feature) and professional at these prices. It’s like Terence Conran was let loose here with one of the Roux brothers as part of a community service operation.
Sixth! There are lots more reasons to visit Plovdiv, lots more reasons to rush there before the Eurocrats get there to impose lots of regulations, and we hope to continue - especially when we start to talk about skiing opportunities here! Meanwhile check the links!
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