TennisTrip #1 – The Sofia Open Diaries (Part Two)

This morning too I wake up with Sofia completely whitewashed. After a relaxing shower I go down in the hotel breakfast room where I find this pretty sight.


The BW Hotel Expo’s breakfast is quite good with a wide selection of cakes, fresh and dried fruits, yogurts and jams, cheese, hams, sausages, eggs and everything thing you need for a continental breakfast. A machine provides hot drinks like coffee, hot milk, cappuccino ecc…In my opinion the bread is exquisite, fruit pretty good. Something more should be done for cakes; but I’m Italian and I’m fairly pretentious on sweet breakfast.

After some minutes I’m again around, this time to discover Vitosha Boulevard, the shopping and nightlife heart of Sofia. This long way rises in a wonderful position just between Sveta Nedelja Church and Vitosha Mountain. The street effectively is full of bar and restaurants or shops where you can buy shoes, sunglasses, shirts or usual souvenirs and gifts.  Just next to Vitosha street there is a fantastic hotel, Best Western Thracia Hotel which for me is a great accomodation solution if you decide to stay in city centre. It is very well rated on Booking and TripAdvisor and has a very high value for money too. 

I’ve decided to have lunch in a restaurant that at the moment is considered by TripAdvisor reviewers the best one in Sofia; I’m talking about Skaptobara. In the meantime I found the restaurant I’ve to possibility to see again Mosque, and to come into a very beautiful indoor market crowded of locals who are looking for something good to eat. Finally I arrive to Skaptobara; the place is very young and informal and definitely I like it. The selection of burgers a la carte looks to be great. I choose a Bourbon Burger with fries and a Chimay beer. I wait about 20 minutes for my burger and when it comes to me… What to say? Its “look” is great! But after there is something that doesn’t convince me too much. I wanted a medium cooking but the burger is very well, well cooked. But a part this, the burger is quite good…but however this won’t be a burger that I will remember for the rest of my life.


But now is time to return to tennis Arena after a quick stop in my hotel. To come back I got again metro in Serdica. About this metro station I’ve to say that this probabily one of the most beautiful metro station I see in my travels. It rises under Sofia statue, it enjoys a fantastic view on the Mosque, and it holds in it a lot of historical artifacts and a wonderful little church. 


With a five minutes taxi ride I’m again at Armeets Arena. The first match I see is the one between Jerzy Janowicz and Dudi Sela. I was very curious to see Jerzy against in action after about three years. I discovered him in Rome when he played an impressive match against Roger Federer in quarterfinals of Internazionali d’Italia. He lost that match but he played in a fantastic way. In that moment he was at the top of his career, it looked to be ready to enter in the tennis’ gotha, but some injuries have blocked, maybe temporarily, his rise. Today I see him to play really a great match with poor Dudi Sela. Seen from behind the powerful of Jerzy’s shots is really devastating as you can see from the attached video. After the match I attended to his press conference in which he explained how is difficult to come back and he shows that he’s a very clever and modest guy.


Next and last match I saw in this last day in Sofia is the one between Nr.2 of entry list David Goffin and qualified Radu Albot. Goffin wins in 3 hard sets. The match has been very intersting with some spectacular shots. But finally the greater strength and mental ability of Belgian player have prevailed.


A new taxi ride take me in the hotel in 10 minutes and 6 lev. My last act of this Bulgarian TennisTrip will be to taste the onsite restaurant Ego of the hotel. The ambient is relaxed at right point, the table service is fast and courteous. The price are higher than Sofia’s medium but…always lower than how much I used to pay. The veal fillet served on a super hot stone is delicious. 


Now it’s time to sleep. The alarm will wake up me at 4.00 AM. Have a good night!
It follows usual statement of costs incurred during this 2nd and last day in Sofia.

Two metro rides between Serdica and Expo 1,60€

Two taxi rides between Best Western Expo Hotel and Arena Armeets 5,5€

Lunch at Staptobara 12,5€

Dinner at Ego Restaurant 25€
Total: 44,60€

Not bad!!!!

 

TennisTrip #1 – The Sofia Open Diaries (Part One)

I leave Rome very soon this morning, when there is just a pale sun on the city. The flight to Sofia is quiet and short, and 100 minutes are enough to see this ancient town appears in a thick blanket of clouds. The airport is completely surrounded by snow, it’s raining and it will not be so easy for me to look at matches and contemporary visit the town. But we are TennisTravellers…..

I choosed my hotel in a strategic position between Armeets Arena and Sofia Airport; not far from city centre connected directly to Hotel by metro. The Best Western Hotel Expo surprises me with a a wide double room in place of a single room I booked some days ago. Included in the price, it offer free shuttle airport service, a powerful free wifi, breakfast, onsite restaurant and a little spa with free sauna. I will try, pheraps,  everything…but now is the moment to get my accreditation as reporter for Sofia Open.


Once withdrawn accreditation I try to understand where I can have access and where not. So for sure I can’t have access to VIP area and their privileges (ahahah!) but I can follow games directly behind tennis players in a prime location to breathe court’s emotions…and to be hitted by powerful aces of the players.


Today there aren’t great matches, but Gilles Muller vs Mathias Bourge and Mikhail Youzhny vs Marko Tepevac create very spectacular games. In particular I am very impressed by the strength and maturity of Müller, a player who seems to be planned for this hard surface and who wins 6-3 6-2 his match. In the following match is Youzhny to prevail for 7-6 6-4 but I’m very impressed from his 22 year’s old opponent Marko Tepevac, and this not only for his powerful style of play which suffers for a mental approach still immature and nervous, but especially because he is a character completely out of the box with his special look suspended between nerd and hipster. A partially insane tennis player who could do well at the entire tennis movement.


I give up momentarily to my role as reporter and come back to my role of traveller. I take a taxi and in five minutes I’m in Sofia city center under the majestic Cathedral of Aleksandr Nevskij. The cathedral is much more beautiful view from outside than from inside. The inside is fascinating especially for darkness illuminated just by candlelight. The entry is free…but there are fees to pay if you want to take some pictures (10 lev).


With a short walking from A.Nevskji is possible to visit all the historical buildings of Sofia which are concentrated in a little area around the Parliament. San Nicholas Church, National Assembly, St.George Rotunda Place, Saint Sofia Basilica, Sveta Nedelya Cathedral Church, Banya Bashi Mosque, Sinagogue and Statue of Sofia. You can’t finish to take a picture to a building that you need to begin sudden to take a new picture to another building. Really amazing! And I liked particularly St.George Rotunda Place and Statue of Sofia.


But now is time to have dinner after 14 hours of fasting. I’m exhausted but luckily right next to the Sveta Nedelya there is Happy Bar and Grill a restaurant which has great reviews on TripAdvisor and that above all it’s crowded. And this, as you know, is always a good sign. This American restaurant has surprised me either for the wide range of dishes or for the quality of the ingredients used. But the most amazing thing was…the bill. Really paltry!!!


After dinner for me is time to take metro and have some rest in my hotel room. Tomorrow it will be another long TennisTrip day!

It follows a statement of costs incurred during this 1st day in Sofia.

  • Taxi ride Best Western Expo Hotel – Arena Armeets 2,5€
  • Taxi ride Arena Armeets – A.Nevskji Cathedral 5€
  • Fee to take pictures inside Nevskji Cathedral 5€
  • Dinner at Happy Bar (Paradise Burger + 400 ml bottle beer + Cheesecake + tip) 12€
  • Metro ride from Serdica to Expo 0,80€

Total: 25,30€

Impressive!!!!