Discovering Sofia, Bulgaria
Sofia has been conquered repeatedly throughout its history and has been part of the Roman, Macedonian, and Byzantine Empires, and in the Twentieth Century, became part of the Soviet Bloc. This turbulent history left Sofia with traces of all of the exotic cultures that have annexed it and it is a true melting pot of the peoples of different continents. Although Sophia was ruled by several different Empires, it always served a leading role in them and often served as the capital.
The History of Sofia dates to 500 BC when it was known as Serdica by the original Thracian settlers, and the city was later ruled by Philip of Macedon and his son, Alexander the Great. The named changed in 29 AD, after the Roman conquered it, to Ulpia Serdica. The city grew until it was over-run and destroyed in 449 AD by the Huns. The rebuilt city was called Triaditsa, and it became an intergrel part of the First Bulgarian Empire in 809 AD, gaining the Slavic name of Sredets. Sredets had several brushes with the Byzantine Empire which annexed it at least twice, but after finally rejoining the Bulgarian Empire, it grew in importance and wealth, due to trade and skilled craftsmen.
The modern name of Sophia (Greek for Wisdom) was taken in 1376 and remained the city’s name until the 16th century. During this time, Sofia was annexed by the Ottoman Empire and it served as the capital until it was liberated by the Russian victors of the Russo-Turkish War. Sofia then became the capital in 1908 of the newly formed Kingdom of Bulgaria.The Bulgarian government sided with the fascists in WWII, although many Bulgarian sheltered or refused to deport Jews. Sofia experienced significant Allied bombing, resulting in the loss of a large number of the city’s historical buildings. These were replaced by Neo Stalinist style utilitarian looking factories and apartment housing constructed of grey cement slabs, since post war Bulgarian fell under Russian, and later, Soviet rule. In 1989, the Soviet Union government was in upheaval and its rule over many countries, including Bulgaria, ended; Bulgaria, especially Sophia, was now free to begin its journey toward Europe, democracy and modernization. Today, Sophia is a complex city, still overshadowed by grim post war architecture, but with many modern glass and steel buildings and many fine historic buildings that belie the Byzantine heritage. Politically, it now looks to the West and is trying to attract European trade and tourism, and has applied for consideration to join the European Union.
Things about Sofia you may be interested in
Read about Sofia in our travel-guide
Great clubs and the best parties in Sofia
Recommended Sofia Guide
Sofia is a unique, and sometimes jarring blend of architectural styles and historic flourishes. Recently, the European Union's 'Beautiful Bulgaria project'. has lent a hand and funding to restore damaged and neglected historic buildings. The visitor cannot ignore the many grim post war Soviet buildings but by sticking to the central neighborhoods and the many lovely tree-lined boulevards, the European and Byzantine heritage of Sophia can be maximized. Nearly everyone goes to the Alexander Nevski Church, a Neo-Byzantine marvel that does not disappoint. It was built to memorialize 200,000 Russian soldiers who died fighting to help... Read more »
Recent reviews for Sofia
Great clubs and the best parties in Sofia - Aug 15, 2008, by vcppow
Sofia, Bulgaria is a city filled with people who enjoy a good party, so it is easy to find bars and cafes open around the clock and filled. Licensing laws do not exist here, so a drink is on hand at any time. The area surrounding the... Read more »
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