It’s not only the center of Sofia that hides secrets from ancient times. Just at the foot of Vitosha mountain you can discover two unique sites that are full of history. One of them has been a Bulgarian symbol of Christianity for almost 10 centuries. Visiting the other one you will gain knowledge and see objects from the times when Thracians inhabited our lands till nowadays. You can enjoy a large collection of treasures and relics that remained from thousands of years ago.
Just a few kilometers away from the center of Sofia you can see a Medieval monument of culture – the Orthodox Boyana Church. We are very lucky that a landmark like this one remained from the times of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom and survived during the period of the Ottoman Invasion. However, only part of the construction that exists nowadays was built in this period.
Historians and archaeologists still try to figure out and confirm who exactly created the frescos inside the church. At the time of their painting the Orthodox canons did not allow the name of the author to be mentioned. It was believed that it is not a matter of talent but it is God’s power that moves the artist’s hand. That’s the reason why nowadays we call this person the “Boyana Master”, although his name and identity are still a mystery. Nevertheless, the numerous frescos are remarkable! And they are one of the reasons the Church has been part of the UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1979. Nowadays the custodians of the monument take great care for protection of the frescos. Only few people are allowed to enter the Church at a time and they cannot light candles inside which is usually being done according to Orthodox Christianity.
In the end of 19th and the beginning of 20th century the complex expanded with new buildings and a beautiful garden. Tsar Ferdinand (a Bulgarian King from 1887 till 1908) provided funds for restoration and invigoration of the church. It was one of his favorite sites around Sofia and he even decided to entomb his second wife there.
Because of the importance and the fame of Boyana Church it is being visited by many tourists nowadays. Usually, prominent and official guests of Bulgaria are being shown the complex with its architecture and the remains from the Middle Ages. In addition to visiting this great cultural monument you will have a nice view over the city from the foot of Vitosha Mountain. A few walking paths begin in the area of the complex and they can lead you higher in the mountain. One of them goes to Boyana Waterfalls which is a great natural landmark hidden in the forest.
The Boyana Church Complex is a subsidiary of the National History Museum. Tourists are being offered combined tickets with discounts for both the landmarks.
How to get there?
Take the Sofia Subway Line 2 (the Blue line) to its last stop – Vitosha Station. Then you have to find the bus stop and wait for a bus on line 64. One of the stops on its route is very close to the Boyana Church. Approximate time of the bus ride would be around 25-30 min.
National History Museum
This is one of my favorite museums in Bulgaria. It does not only have permanent exhibitions with numerous exhibits but it often hosts events and object-displays on different topics related to culture and history. In case you have a few hours’ spare time in Sofia, I suggest devoting it to a visit at the museum. You will gain a lot of knowledge about the history and development of Bulgaria and the ancient people that inhabited these lands before the establishment of our country. The museum is the National Treasure House of Bulgaria containing thousands of relics and monuments of culture.
The exhibition has not always been inside the building where it is today. Before 2000 some exhibits were displayed at the Courthouse in the center of Sofia. However, the new building with the remarkable park around, situated on the outskirts of the city, turned out to be the most suitable place for the large collection of treasures discovered along the lands of modern Bulgaria. Some of them belonged to Bulgarian rulers but some of them remained from centuries before Bulgaria’s appearance on the map of Europe.
Part of the exhibits you can see at the museum are famous worldwide. Many of them travel across borders and are being displayed in numerous galleries and museums every year. Are you interested to see the oldest golden treasure ever found in Europe? It dates back from around 5000 years BC. And it is not the only one you would like to take a look at. In addition, you will be able to see many more golden and silver treasure collections, precisely-made objects and ancient relics.
Of course, you will become aware of the history of Bulgaria from its establishment till modern times. The visitors will learn what was the contribution of the First and Second Bulgarian Kingdoms for the spiritual and enlightenment development of Europe. You will see how an ancient nation could keep its religion and culture during centuries of foreign domination and how it restores its identity and freedom. These are only few of the reasons that make me proud of being Bulgarian. I am sure you will find many more amazing facts and things that are worth-seeing at the museum. Moreover, once in a couple of years archeologists make a great discovery somewhere in our country. A new treasure collection or personal belongings of a great ruler are being found. It won’t be a surprise if the museum needs a bigger building in future.
The National History Museum is one of the biggest institutions of its type in Eastern Europe. I am sure those of you who would like to enrich their cultural knowledge about the region will take the time to visit it. Don’t forget that some of the oldest remains from human beings are found in this part of the world.
How to get there?
In case you want to find yourself in front of the entrance of the museum, you can only rely on taking a taxi. However, some routes from Sofia public transport have stops nearby. I suggest the following:
Take a subway train on Line 1 (the Red Line) to Mladost I station. Then you have to get a bus on line 111 to the stop called “National History Museum” (НИМ – in Bulgarian). The bus ride would be approximately 30 minutes.