Literary City Guide | SOFIA, BULGARIA
Tour Guide: TYLER DAVIS
Tyler is a writer and an English teacher from Minnesota who has been teaching internationally since the Bush II era. His six books, pictures, and blog are available at yourtyler.squarespace.com.
Relationship to Sofia: I recently finished my first year of teaching high school English at the American College of Sofia. I went from not being able to point out Bulgaria on a map to feeling like I'm coming home every time the plane hits the tarmac.
Writer you'd like to invite to dinner: Haruki Murakami. Mostly because he does so few interviews, but also getting the chance to discuss his taste in music and odd fascination with talking cats.
Chef you'd like to prepare the meal: Jason Smith, head chef at Manny's Steakhouse in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Writing soundtrack: Either instrumental music (Ratatat or The Bad Plus) or Thunderspace, an app that does exactly what you think it does.
Pen or Pencil: Pen, even with the crossword.
Coffee or Tea: Coffee nine times out of ten.
Paperback or Hardback: Paperback, preferably with a boarding pass for a bookmark and favorite passages underlined by a previous owner.
Elephant. My favorite store in town. Stacked to the ceiling with new and used books and loaded with literary knick-knacks, posters, and birthday cards. This is the best spot for a book lover.
Slaveykov Square. An outdoor book market in downtown Sofia, where rows and rows of stalls sell used books.
Orange. Besides a decent English section, this store also sells stationary, board games, and art supplies.
St. St. Cyril and Methodius Library. The national library of Bulgaria.
Sofia University Library. Come here to enjoy the stunning architecture, lively parks, and if you're here after dark you can even stop by the nightclub located at one of the side entrances.
Sofia City Library. Mostly catering to local rather than international patrons, this library hosts many authors and art exhibits.
READINGS & CONFERENCES
Greenwich Book Center. A weekly book club with four different choices, readings, and children's puppet shows are just a few of the events at this bookstore.
Sofia Poetics. Poets from all over Europe gather in Sofia in June for the annual Poetics festival.
Free Sofia Walking Tour. Take this tour for a crash course history lesson on the wonders of the city and the story of how Cyril and Methodius invented the Cyrillic alphabet.
Bar Me. I know it even says bar in the name, but this gem serves up great espresso in one of the coziest locations in town. Each room is decorated differently, with one room in this Victorian building completely covered in avian illustrations.
Chucky's Coffee House. The place I go most often to just read, write, or relax while somebody else provides the caffeine.
Da Da Cultural Bar. Mostly a music venue by night, but it's a great space to grab a coffee and read during the daylight hours.
A PROPER MEAL
Lavanda. Set inside the second floor of an old house, this restaurant's shifting menu always serves up the best meals using the local ingredients. Before or after dinner, be sure to stop by One More Bar on the first floor with its large selection of cocktails and good scotch.
Bistro Pesto. This little bistro, owned by a Genoese man with an unbelievable mustache, is the best place for good Italian. Diners have the choice of panini or pasta for mains, along with a great wine list and unique salads.
Annette. Whether sitting on pillows inside or enjoying the patio in the back, Annette has the best Moroccan eats in Sofia.
Edo Sushi. The biggest surprise in Sofia is good sushi. Both of Edo's locations downtown prepare Japanese cuisine that just barely falls short of Japan. For the adventurous with a sweet tooth, try the foie gras sushi.
Hancheto Pub. The quintessential Bulgarian cuisine is shopska salad, grilled meat, cheap beer, and a slice of biscuit cake for dessert. This tiny wooden restaurant hidden away in Mladost is usually packed with locals.
Co-Co Sweet and More. A white-chaired dessert oasis also serving coffee and wine. Take your pick from slices of chocolaty cakes to gooey pies to everything in between.
Confetti. The best gelato in town. Also has a restaurant inside, but your best bet is getting two scoops of any of the dozens of selections and eating it at one of the standing tables outside.
Hle Bar. A bakery where you can choose either savory or sweet banitsas. If you go in the fall, you might be lucky enough to get a pumpkin one, but have no fear, in summer you can order the apple and get the taste of warm, cinnamon apple pie inside layers of crispy filo.
TYLER's 5 Favorites
1. Favorite view: Alexander Nevski Cathedral at night
2. Favorite place to write: Sitting at my kitchen table, with a cup of coffee within reach.
3. Favorite Museum: Museum of Socialist Art
4. Favorite Coffee Shop: Bar Me
5. Favorite thing about Sofia: The parks, especially City Garden. Besides a great view of the National Theater it is always packed with old people playing chess, parents playing with children, and young people drinking two liters of Bulgarian beer. You can also perch up inside the two-story glass reading room on the north side of the park.