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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

ISPSO AM 2024 Conference

1 July - 7 July, 2024
Sofia, Bulgaria


A Walk in Downtown Sofia

We start at the Grand Hotel Millennium and pass by the National Palace of Culture, which is impressive for its size and its relative elegance given that it was built during the Communist era. Just after the National Palace, the park with the same name opens out with extensive green space and long water channels with fountains. It is a great place to sit in the shade and imagine the lives of the passers by. 

Still heading north, the long pedestrian mall of Vitosa Boulevard begins, with its plethora of shops, café’s and restaurants. The Boulevard has a wonderful ambience at night when even as late as 10 pm you will see families with small children. But night time has not reached us yet, so after a good coffee and chocolate croissant we continue past the imposing Stone edifice of the Palace of Justice.

If you started late, you could stop by for lunch at the fascinating Happy Restaurant that looks like just another chain restaurant but serves really great food – including some outstanding salads.

You will need to be well fed because there is a lot more to see. A little diversion to the left takes you to the Museum or Archaeology that whets you appetite for the next leg…so now try heading down the steps of the Serdica Metro, turn right and find yourself in a grand space of excavated Roman ruins. A really fascinating place that is well explained with signs also in English. In fact you are now in a precinct where cultures and religions meet in the present. All near at hand are the Church of St George Rotunda, the Church of Saint Pecta, the Banya Bashi Mosque, St Nedelya Church and the Sofia Synagogue.

Heading a few hundred meters east takes you into the City Garden, with a wonderful fountain, some delightful stone sculptures and a lovely rose garden.

Time to rest, because yes, there is more! For instance you could duck across the road and get lost in the National Art Gallery (closed on Mondays), emerge to admire the Church of St Nicholas the Miracle-Maker (image below) , step on a little to peruse the National Museum of Natural History and then head a short distance to the north to admire the very impressive Alexander Nevski Cathedral. 

Of course you are still full of beans, so save the last of your energy to immerse yourself in the “Square 500” National Gallery (Also closed on Mondays). This is a well-kept secret that houses one of the most impressive collections of art that I’ve seen anywhere. I found the whole experience of a visit to be very moving. It is immense and a real treasure trove. And the Sofia University metro is just nearby when you emerge saturated with stimulus and full up with appreciation of the beauty, elegance and symbolism that humanity can achieve in times of peace. If your relentless search for learning about the past still drives you, try a visit to the Sofia History Museum.

The dreaded metro to get you back to the National Palace of Culture Metro station.

But Metro! You say, surely it’s too complicated. If you’ve survived the metros of London, New York, Paris or many other large cities, the metro of Sofia is for beginners.

However, for most ticket machines you do need some Bulgarian coins or bank notes. So take a deep breath and approach the ticket machine (labelled in English). Push on the English flag and it will tell present you with the option of a paper ticket or a multi-trip magnetic card. Let’s say you’re only doing one trip, so you put in 1.6 Bulgarian Lev – or more because you will get change – and the ticket drops into the bin below. At the entry gate, scan the bar code on the ticket in front of the red light and you are on your way. You can travel anywhere -in one trip – to anywhere in Sofia with this ticket. Even the airport. By the way, 1.6 Lev is about 90c US!

This is just a snippet of the attractions that are within walking distance of central Sofia. Once you get into the smaller streets you can find the ancient Womens’ Market, colorful fabric shops, traditional fruit and vegetable stores and much more.

Enjoy Sofia!

More information at Click on the horizontal bars on the right hand side for tourist information. The left hand side menu bar gives information about travel, visas etc.

Written by Martin Ringer