Bulgaria

Introduction

My name is Patrick and I am a private independent guide based in Varna, Bulgaria. “The Miracle Country”, that’s how I call Bulgaria myself. I have been backpacking around the world for many years and I can’t say that I have not seen more beautiful place than Bulgaria, on the contrary I have! The Caribbean with its amazing beaches and underwater world, Spain with its exotic pulse and style of life, England with its cold aristocracy… So, why travel to Bulgaria then?

Reason 1. Compare with the rest of Europe, Bulgaria is still very cheap – here you can drink Vodka Coke for 0.80 Euros or have a beer for 0.60 Euros; here you can take your girlfriend for a nice dinner with only 10 euros in your pocket; here you can live like a King for a week with money you would spend for a day in any other EU member!

Reason 2. Bulgaria is a very hospitable country with beautiful nature, still outfield for the rest of the world – virgin forests and wild beaches unspoiled by civilization; hidden villages with always friendly people; original culture and traditions; mysterious history – believe me, is like travelling to another planet!

Reason 3. Bulgaria is the perfect departure position for travelling around the Balkans. By car or by bus it will take you just a couple of hours to go to Turkey (Istanbul), to Romania (Bucarest), to Macedonia, to Greece, to Serbia or to Ukraine (Odessa)! According to my customers these 3 reasons have been the main ones to make them travel to Bulgaria! If you want to discover the other thousand you should visit it:))

General info

The republic of Bulgaria is situated in the south-east part of Europe and more precisely in the eastern part of the Balkan peninsula. On the north it has a common boundary with Romania and on the west with Yugoslavia. On the south-west it is conterminous with Macedonia while on the south-east it is contiguous to Turkey. On the east the country is bounded by the Black Sea. Bulgaria’s climate is temperate continental with some Mediterranean influence. There are four distinct seasons easy to predict – long and hot summers, mild and cool autumns, cold and snowy winters (except on the sea coast, where the winter is more windy, than snowy and definitely warmer) and passionate and green springs… Larger cities are: Sofia (the capital), Plovdiv, Varna, Rousse. The official language is Bulgarian – the oldest written Slavonic language. English, German, French, Russian and some Spanish are wide spoken in the country’s resorts, hotels and restaurants. Visa and customs stuff – EU nationals as well as those of USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel and some other countries, can spend up to 30 days in Bulgaria, visa free on a valid international passport. You can freely import the following stuff when entering Bulgaria: 200 cigarettes, 1 liter of spirits or two 75l bottles of wine and up to 200 Euros of goods.

Places and things to see

Varna – There is a song and it describes it all: “Varna – the gorgeous sea and the blue waves, the wind breathing in your hair and the naked girls lying on the beach … In Varna the Life never stops, even when the midnight moon rises up on the endless sky …” Varna is Bulgaria’s third largest city. It was an inhabited place even before the Greeks established the colony of Odessos there about 580 B.C.

The city has a cosmopolitan atmosphere. Sailors on shore-leave in unfamiliar ceremonial uniforms, mingle with foreign tourists and locals as they promenade along shady boulevards, lined by dignified 19th and early 20th century buildings.

Nessebur – It is located on a small peninsula in the Black Sea wich is linked with the land only by a long and narrow isthmus. The old part of the town has regained its original romantic atmosphere: narrow cobblestone lanes, tiny squares, two-storied period houses with stone-built ground levels and wooden upper floors jutting above the streets and external staircases, gift shops, pubs, tavern and lovely flower gardens.

Sozopol – Somewhat quieter than Nessebur, Sozopol also provides the tourist with two fine, sandy beaches, set off nicely against the tranquil charm of fishing life. One lies within a sheltered bay with the second, larger beach extending southwards beyond the headland. Sozopol is traversed by beautiful narrow lanes, old houses and its romantic charm has attracted artists and writers throughout the centuries.

Madara Horseman – A relief portraying a life size horseman, followed by a dog is carved on a cliff, about 100 m high. The work displays early Bulgarian medieval art. It was included in the World Register of Historical Sites in 1979.

Kaliakra Cape – Archaeological historical and natural reserve. Its cultural and natural value can be found in the Mediaeval fortress remains, the caves, the rock niches, the diversity of the birds nesting there and the glorious view to the Black Sea.

Balchik – The harbour town of Balchik is located 31 km away from Varna. The town is famous for the largest and richest botanical garden on the Balkans and the palace of the Romanian queen Maria (1924). The palace complex consists of a central palace with a high tower, many buildings in a style typical for that time, a park with terraces, lanes and paths, stone alcoves with marvellous columns and sea view.

The Stone forest – Located 18 km westwards from Varna they are one of the most incredible natural phenomena in Bulgaria. The natural stone pillars – some reaching 6 metres high, some up to 12 metres across at their base are known as “the petrified forest”.

Veliko Turnovo – one of the most picturesque Bulgarian towns, preserved the atmosphere of the past century is standing in tiers above Yantra River which meanders through the elevations of Turnovo and the three hills – Tsarevets, Trapezitsa and Sveta Gora. The buildings, perching one above the other, overhang rocks and precipices and Yantra River below, standing close to one another along narrow winding streets. The antique part of the town has been declared an architectural and historical reserve.

Ivanovo Rock monasteries – Located on almost a cosmic landscape – rock massifs, enveloping the picturesque river valley 23 kilometres south-west of the city of Rousse. As if striving to be closer to God, hermit monks settled here between the third and the seventeenth centuris, digging cells, churches and chapels into the rocks. The walls of the larger chambers, often 6 to 10 meters high and their interconnecting tunnels and galleries, were covered with pictures depicting biblical scenes. Talented artists painted them with realistic frescos, exquisite in colour and composition, and turned them into a treasure trove of Bulgarian mediaeval painting.

Troyan Monastery – Troyan Monastery is located in the northern folds of the Troyan Balkan on the left shore of the Cherni Osum River and it is the third largest and most significant monastery in Bulgaria . It must have been in existence long before the l5th century, as legends suggest. It flourished again about the year 1600. A spot of great interest is the wonderful monastery main church which was painted by Zahari Zograph in 1847-1849. He is famous for his wonder-working icon “Three Handed Virgin Mary”. A well known centre of literature in the past, it still has a rich and valuable library. In the times of national struggle for liberty the Troyan monastery has been a real revolutionary centre.

Bozhentzi – Bozhentzi boasts superb examples of 19th century dwellings. During the latter part of that century it prospered thanks to its smiths. potters and weavers and the local merchants who traded as far as Russia and Hungary. Today it is better known among the artistic circles as a holiday retreat. The village now has well over 100 listed buildings., ranging from the grandeur of a wool merchant’s house to the humble dwelling of a rural peasant of that time. And also today’s artisan workshops.In this tranquil atmosphere it seems as if time has stood still these past two centuries, with nothing but fresh mountain air and quaint white-washed houses covered in seasonal flowers and roofed with heavy stone tiles.

The Thracian Tomb in Sveshtari – It dates back to the III c. BC and is included in the World Register of Historical Sites in 1985. It consists of three chambers – an entrance chamber and two antechambers. It is covered by a mound. The decoration of the burial chamber is exceptionally interesting, a unique blend of art and architecture. The tomb has a unique decor, with polychrome half-human, half-plant caryatids and painted murals. The 10 female figures carved in high relief on the walls of the central chamber and the decoration of the lunette in its vault are the only examples of this type found so far in the Thracian lands.The wall opposite the door is painted in navy blue crayon and depicts the eroticization of the deceased. Discovered in 1982 near the village of Sveshtari, this Thracian tomb reflects the fundamental structural principles of Thracian cult buildings. It is a remarkable reminder of the culture of the Getes, a Thracian people who were in contact with the Hellenistic and Hyperborean worlds, according to ancient geographers.

Plovdiv – The second largest city in Bulgaria, situated on the Maritsa River. Its unique location on these ancient crossroads has stimulated strong cultural and political influences from East and West civilizations, and yet maintained its unique cultural identity. Being older than most of the oldest towns like Rome, Athens, Carthage or Constantinople, an almost contemporary of Troy, Plovdiv is a town built upon layers of towns and a culture developed upon layers of cultures. Plovdiv is a picturesque town, with many parks and gardens, museums and archaeological monuments. Its old part, called the Old Town, with houses from the National Revival period (18-19th century), is an imposing open-air museum situated on the three hills of the ancient Trimontium. One of the most remarkable sights of the town, the Ancient Theatre (a well-preserved Roman theatre), is located there and is still used for open-air performances.

Useful info

  • Most of the taxi drivers will try to rip you off, so make sure you ask how much before you get in!
  • Always be aware of the gypsies – the only thing they want from you is your wallet!
  • Never change money on the street. Use always bank!
  • If your hotel/hostel room is on the first floor, always lock the windows!
  • Sofia is not recommended by me place to visit – is dirty, is crowded, is dangerous!
  • It’s cheaper to buy stuff on the market, than do shopping on the main street – same things, but lower prices!