Sofia city guide
|Europe property market - Bulgaria|
Sofia is Bulgaria's largest city as well as its capital. Sofia is one of the oldest cities in Bulgaria with a history dating back to the 8th century BC when a Thracian settlement was established on its soil. The subsequent development and success of Sofia lay in the city’s strategic placement in the central part of the Balkans.
Located in the western part of the Sofia Valley, Sofia was originally a Thracian settlement called Serdica. It was conquered by the Romans in AD 29 and became the administrative centre during Emperor Trajan’s rule in AD 98.
The first part of the Bulgarian Empire’s rule over the city began in AD 809 during the reign of Khan Krum. The city then became a thriving centre of trade and crafts. Back then the city was called Sredets but was later renamed Sofia in 1376 after the Church of St-Sofia.
In 1382 Bulgaria was conquered by the Ottomans and so began four centuries of oppressive Turkish rule. During the Ottoman occupation of Sofia, the city’s landscape changed to an eastern one with minarets and turrets dotting the skyline. The country and the city were liberated in 1878.
Since then Sofia has slowly been taking its place as one of the most beautiful capital cities in the world. It has a mix of distinctly European and eastern sensibilities that make it very attractive. The central part of the old city is unfortunately ringed by years of rapid urban development that has seen several high rise projects spring up to blot some of the city’s majesty. Fortunately the government has recognized Sofia’s remarkable architecture and has taken measures to ensure that future development does not encroach or ruin the city’s beauty.
Recently Sofia has become an attractive place for forward thinking foreign businesses that have established bases in the city. These businesses have also attracted a significant expatriate community of mostly British and German citizens.
One of the city's biggest attractions is the low cost of living that Sofia offers. Housing is also very affordable. Although the city, along with the rest of the country, has been seeing tremendous growth in the real estate markets, buying or renting property in Sofia remains a very affordable option.
However, among the many positives that moving to Sofia might offer a foreign national, it is good to remember that the city is still rife with poverty and that life in Sofia is far more relaxed and laid-back than that to which most Europeans or North Americans are accustomed. In fact, technology has yet to catch up with many sectors including banking and government institutions, which means that getting quick service is not in the cards – you must be prepared to wait for what you want.
Finding a job in Sofia is getting easier to do as more large international companies are setting up shop in the city. However, although parents may have an easier time of finding employment, people with children might want to seriously consider their educational options. The Bulgarian educational system is currently undergoing a huge reform in order to move away from the Communist rhetoric of the past, but it is still not quite up to European or North American standards. So, those with children considering a new life in Sofia should definitely consider sending their children to one of the many international, private schools found in the city – even though it might cost a lot more.
Sofia is quickly rediscovering its past glory as a modern metropolis and holds tremendous appeal as a viable place to relocate.
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