The 7 day circuit to Bulgaria - The afternoon of day 5 (cont.), Sofia - the 16th of June 2011
Whilst walking around the Alexander Battenberg Square we went by the former Tsar's Palace which now houses the National Art Gallery and the Ethnographic Museum. Having been built in 1873, it was the residence of the ruling governor during the Ottoman occupation but was refurbished in contemporary Viennese style after the liberation, and it clearly was one of the nicest buildings in the Square.
Almost opposite it stretched Sofia's City Garden, which looked quite charming with a pool with fountains and a bronze sculpture. Along it several Cafes and some chess players, who seemed to be regular garden visitors. On the other side of it the Iven Vazov National Theatre considered by many as the most beautiful of all theatres. Its facade was beyond any doubt worth looking at.
The National Art Gallery and the Ethnographic Museum (left) and Sofia's City Garden pool with the Iven Vasov Theatre in the background (right).
Chess players in Sofia's City Garden (right) and the Iven Vasov Theatre (left).
As we were walking by we couldn't help noticing a female street artist, which we decided to watch for a while before walking any further.
Walking eastward we came across the 1912 Russian Church with its five golden onion domes, known as St. Nicolai, "the miracle maker". We were told that until this day wishes are written on slips of paper and placed in a wooden box beside the sarcophagus of Bishop Serafim buried in its crypt, who not having been canonised is still considered by many as a saint.
The Russian Church
Alexander Nevsky Memorial Church doms could be sighted from where we were and the truth is ... we had been looking forward to visiting it since early afternoon. Considered a masterpiece of neo-Byzantine architecture, it was built to commemorate Russia's costly contribution to the liberation of Bulgaria.
Designed in the 1880s it was completed in 1924. Its interior is "generously" decorated with frescoes painted by some of the best artists of the time. Said to hold 7,000 people in its 76 metres length by 53 metres width it has five ailes and three altars. Sienna and Carrara marble in the entrance area ... stained glass windows ... Venetian mosaics ... dramatic mural paintings ... onyx and alabaster columns in the thrones ... and numerous candles flickering in the semi-darkness ... which all contributed to its majestic"scenario" we were once more not allowed to photograph ...
Alexander Nevski Memorial Church
Once our visit to the church was finished we still had some free time to walk around (in our case ... back to where we had started the guided tour), before we all gathered for a dinner out, just across the hotel.