This has become the time of the year when my mind turns to the Carpathian house. Most of the last 7 winters have been spent here in Sofia (with forays to the small Bucharest flat and some sad weeks in a Belgrade winter) and I have been particularly happy with the latest attic flat (right in the old quarter, off Patriarch Eftemi Boulevard) with the 1927 date carved in the stone entrance.
It has the sort of stairhead I imagine Ilyia Beshkov using for one of his wry sketches….. and my small flat (which I;ve been renting for 16 months) has all the original wooden features and stained glass as well as a nice veranda onto a set of leafy courtyards. I thought I would have to give it up but my landlord has changed his mind and offered me an extended lease – which I am happy to take. Despite its centrality, there is no noise – except that of the bells of the old nearby Church on Ignatiev St
I will miss (for the next few months) my home-made walnut, sesame and sunflower seed bread which I buy from the corner vegetarian restauarant – with superb fragrances wafting across just before I hit the shop itself.
I will also miss the Bulgarian Rakia and its incredible range of white wines - although I have been changing my allegiances in the lists of the last two.
Rakia is rather tasteless – compared to Romanian Tuica let alone Scottish or Irish whisky. But it is the spirit I have grown to prefer – although still insisting on the wine rather than plum or pear variety For the past year or so, under the influence of my arty Bulgarian friends, my preferred “poison” has been Yambolski ( a town in east-central Bulgaria). Half a litre for 4.5 euros! But I have now been introduced to Kailashka Rakia from Pleven, north central of the country. It has very good marketing – with a label reminding us of a Kentucky Bourbon and a 1922 date.
So I’m in mellow mood – having had a delightful afternoon cycling and picnicking with 2 young friends in the famous South Park with the quiet retro music one finds in Sofia’s parks – generally guitar or jazz.
I used to be a fan of reasonably-priced St Ilyia white wines in central Bulgaria (Stara Zagora area) – part of the Edward Miroglio group - but have now gravitated to the Black Sea Gold winery of Pomorie (Burgas) whose Soroko (Chardonnay) has the sort of “tickle” I love. And the nearby Ethno winery offers amazing tastes and prices.
And restaurants I will miss?
- For sheer value for money and atmosphere, the atmospheric house nearby - at the corner of 6th September and Khan Krum Streets - is the greatest. Divaka is actually a chain of three with the more central (and cavernous) being just off Vitosha Bvd and Solunska St.
- The Club of the Architect is the classiest restaurant.
- The Rocket offers a great experience (with a retro decor and rakias a speciality) in the gardens at Bvd Dondukov right next door to the Vaska Emanouliva Art Gallery
- Grape Central Tsar Samuel 45 is a new addition to a small street which offers great art experiences. Nice brick décor and a fantastic selection of Bulgarian wines, grouped by Region – with modest eating to match the wine.
- Made in Home (Angel Knchev ul. 30A) is a small local restaurant (house wine only) with the best atmosphere (for me). Its just off Vitosha.
Beshkov drawings illustrate the text