Our trip begins in Sofia, Bulgaria's capital. The city has a long history, which can be seen by the onion-domed churches, Ottoman mosques, Roman ruins and old Soviet monuments. However, it is largely modern and youthful with a wealth of museums, art galleries, cafes and restaurants.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Sofia at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today you need to arrive into Sofia Airport (SOF), which is about 30 minutes' drive from the city centre. For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. Should you miss the meeting, your leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
We have packed in as many highlights of Sofia as we can, but there is very little free time in the city, so if you wish to spend some time discovering more on your own then we would recommend extending your stay for a night or two. Depending on your flight times or if you're extending your stay then you may like to visit the Archaeological Museum where there are Thracian, Roman and medieval artefacts on display in a former mosque dating from 1496. Alternatively, there is the Museum of Socialist Art where you'll find many of the items removed from around the country when the Soviet era ended, such as unwanted statues of Lenin, the red star from Sofia's Party House and footage from old propaganda films. There are also the ancient ruins of Serdica, which were discovered during the building of a new metro station. Now partially excavated are a small section of eight streets, an early Christian church and a bathhouse from this old Roman city.
This evening you'll have your first chance to sample Bulgarian cuisine. Food in Bulgaria tends to be fresh, local produce, and dinner usually starts with a salad such as shopska salata consisting of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and white cheese. Other specialities include kebapche, small and spicy minced meat rolls, and surmi, stuffed cabbage or vine leafs. Both red and white wines are popular, as is the local brandy rakia and the aniseed spirit mastika.