Around the Central Baths – Sofia, Bulgaria
Behind the TZUM shopping mall, at the start of Maria Luisa Boulevard is the Banya Bashi Mosque, one of the oldest mosques in Europe. It was built in 1576 by the same famous Turkish architect, Hadji Mimar Sonah, who built the Sultan Selim mosque in the town of Edrine in Turkey.
Banya Bashi Mosque was completed in 1576, during the reign of the Ottomans. The Mosque derives its name from the phrase Banya Bashi, which means many baths. The most unusual feature of the Mosque is that it was actually built over natural thermal spas and hence it seems that steam rises from the vents in the ground near the Mosque walls. Whilst we did not take time to check this out, we certainly caught whiffs of a strange smell, which must be the sulphur from the spring. The Mosque is famous for its large dome and the minaret rising upward to the sky.
The Banya Bashi Mosque is the only functioning mosque in Sofia. A remnant of the Ottoman rule of Bulgaria that lasted nearly five centuries, it is still in use by Sofia’s Muslim community.
At the far end of the Central Baths, there was a thriving honey market in action. There were numerous stalls selling all types of honey and honey products and the stallholders are keen for you to try their products, in the hope that you’ll buy some.
Apparently a key element for successful honey production is that the production area needs to have a variety of plants. Although small in size, Bulgaria is one of the most suitable places for apiculture due to its rich flora and temperate climate. I tasted the Acacia bee honey, but not being an aficionado, I couldn’t say that I could tell the difference between this and the sunflower bee and lime-tree honeys.