I’m saying “Hi” to Kris one of the founders of Free Sofia Tour and the New Sofia Pub Crawl (https://www.thenewsofiapubcrawl.com/). He has been a model for me to follow with his talent and energy to commence start-ups with social orientation.
What is the main goal behind The New Sofia Pub Crawl Project?
We are simply connecting the guests of Sofia. Every person that would like to meet and interact with other people that are currently in Sofia is welcome to join us. It is not about the drinking and about getting wasted, but more about being part of a group of people that would like to have a fun nightlife experience in Sofia, while visiting some unique venues and meeting people from all over the world as well as our great local guides.
Which of the faces of cosmopolitan Sofia would you be presenting to your tourists?
There are a few types of pub crawls depending on the day of the week and the season. Usually during the week, from Sunday to Thursday, we go to the hidden small bars that have a story behind them and we tell this story to our guests. The evenings are full of chatting between the participants and the guides. On the opposite side, during the weekend on Friday and Saturday, more people join us and there is a more party vibe as we visit some of the party destinations in Sofia where the guests can relax and dance the night away. Even though Chalga clubs in Student’s town are a big part of the nightlife in Sofia, they are not part of the pub crawl and our philosophy. Same counts for the strip clubs and others related to that 🙂
I know that you include intricate facts about Sofia and the Bulgarian mentality.
How was this project started and when? It is not that “New” anymore, right?
We started The New Sofia Pub Crawl on the 26th of October 2011 🙂 it is also by accident St. Dimitar’s Day in Bulgaria. In the beginning, we could do a pub crawl every single night. When guests would ask me why did you start the pub crawl, my joke answer would be “I was tired of paying to drink and I decided to get paid to drink”. Or another one was: “I quit my job from 9 (AM) to 5 (PM) and started my new job from 9 (PM) till 5 (AM)”. Well back then there were not so many tourists in Sofia and we did not have that many pub crawls as now. Currently, we have amazing 15 guides that actually are one of the top ingredients that make the pub crawl what it is. Even nowadays we are still organizing the only daily pub crawl in Sofia – every night from 9 PM any guests of Sofia, that would like to meet other people and have a drink, is welcome to join us. The only time that we do not have a pub crawl is on the 24th and 25th of December because my Mom said I have to stay home 🙂
What kind of drinks are tasted during the pub crawl?
As I mentioned earlier, our intent is not to get everyone wasted as soon as they enter the first place, but rather get relaxed so the communication between the guests goes smoothless. There is something that our guests receive in every place we visit. For example, we offer beer or wine in the first place. By the way, our first place, even nowadays, is still Bar Bar on the corner of Crystal Park. This is a great way to introduce our guests to the parklife in Sofia. This is the place to have a beer and meet everyone in the group in a quiet and peaceful atmosphere 🙂 After that in the next 4 locations, there is one more beer and 3 different shots. Here it is quite important to mention the difference in the understanding of preparing shots in Bulgaria and abroad. Many of our guests when they taste the shots prepared here, say that there is no alcohol in them. The other side is, of course, bar managers that are on the opinion that the best shots are those where you cannot feel the alcohol, but at the same time are strong. So there is a fine balance between what the expectations of the guests are and the expert opinion.
Do you taste beers? Which Bulgarian brands?
Yes, we do taste beer. Usually, in the first location, there is Kamenitza for everyone. In the next places, we taste some other lager beers as Pirinsko, Burgasko and others. At the of the places we visit there is also a good choice of Bulgarian Craft beers.
How many places are visited during the pub crawl?
We go to 4 locations. During the week it is 5 bars and during the weekend it is 4 bars and a club at the end. The places that we work vary, but there are about 10-15 places that we work on a regular basis.
Have you experienced tough issues with drunk clients? How do you usually deal with such cases?
When alcohol is involved in any form there is always a chance that something like that happens. In the almost 8 years since we have been operating, we have had 2 or 3 major incidents. We have a couple of ways to reduce the chance of “tough issues”: at the starting point, if someone is already tipsy, we kindly ask him/her/them not to participate, as this will be a problem mostly for our other guests as well as the guides and we would like to have a good atmosphere, where everyone enjoys their time. The other very important “tactic” is to get to know everyone in the group. In this way when something happens you are already a friend with the guests and they see you as their guide and follow your instructions.
Does the Private Pub Crawl follow the route of the shared tour or it depends on the clients’ wishes?
In a private pub crawl, we can adjust the route according to the music preferences of the guests. We can also start at a different time and pick them up from a location they prefer.
Is there any age limit for the participants? Who was the oldest person who has taken part in it?
Yes, there is a legal age limit and in Bulgaria, it is 18 years old. We ask for the IDs of all our guests before we start the tour. And our oldest guests was 90 years old 🙂
Can you share an interesting story from some of your tours?
Once, when I and Dany were waiting for the guests on the pub crawl, we welcomed only 3 girls – 2 from Brazil and one from Spain. After talking for a while, they confessed that they were coming to Sofia for the birthday of one of the girls. So Dany and I wanted to do something to make this birthday night a little bit more special. Our plan was that one of us is going to get roses for the birthday girl and surprise her. We did that at the Apartment and she really liked it 🙂 After the Apartment, we visited Hambara. As soon as we entered we saw that there was live music there and the girls suddenly recognized that this is Brazilian life music. Dany and I were sure that this cannot be true, but wanted to be polite and went to ask the live performers. It turned out that the two boys playing the instruments were from Brazil and they were playing Brazilian song. They came to us and met the 3 girls and we let them know where we were going after that. In the next place, the Brazilian guys came to join us and this turned out to be a great birthday evening for all of us.
Six months later, on the pub crawl, we have 5 Austrian girls as guests. When we ask them what brings you to Sofia, they answered: “One of us has a birthday tonight and 3 Brazilian girlfriends told us they had a great time in Sofia for their birthday, so we decided to do the same”. What a surprise 🙂 But wait a minute. In the first bar, as soon as we enter there is a sign saying “Happy Birthday” and the girls go crazy. OK, this sign was from somebody else’s birthday party last night, but it helped us have some great time and a surprise once again.