The national theatre in Sofia

Bulgaria Travel blog

Tsarevets for thetress in Veliko Târnovo. Photo courtesy Gary Arndt.Part of the draw is the beauty of this last stop of the former Soviet Bloc to the south. There, the Balkans Mountains — called Stara Planina (or Old Mountain, locally) — crash into the Black Sea, near gold-sand beaches. It’s surprisingly exotic, too. It’s the birthplace of the Cyrillic alphabet, some villages speak Turkish only, and many locals still shake their head “yes.”

Most fun is exploring mountain villages, to purchase 19th-century revival-era houses and old-fashioned kâshta taverns steeped in wood-engraved detail. Almost all of the taverns afin de you their very own homegrown wine. Plus all things are nonetheless much.

I’ve already been planning Bulgaria for previous dozen years, creating articles, making movies, and updating guidebooks. (My favourite trip, over the Ebony sea-coast, ended up being done in a classic ’72 sky-blue Moskvitch, which was one thing of this Soviet Cadillac.) And I’ve long felt Bulgaria’s time was overdue.

Here are eight reasons why it is not far off.

1. Veliko Târnovo

No-place in Bulgaria is much better to spend a few days in than Veliko Târnovo. And I’m not just saying that because we share a birthday (March 22). The main city of Bulgaria into the 12th to 14th hundreds of years — and another of the stops on G Adventures tour regarding the Balkans — sits atop a-sharp S-shaped ravine. Winding roads go revival-era houses, some doubling as guesthouses, and crafts stores perfect for souvenirs.

Plovdiv is a town made from seven hills.East of centre, the grand citadel — or Tsaravets Fortress — occupies a rocky top that is already been occupied since Thracian times (a lot of the present wall space and buildings date through the 5th to twelfth hundreds of years). Through the night, a “sound and light” show illuminates the scene.

In the hill above it, you can observe the walled structures of Arbanasi looking down. They're and you'll discover quick structures like the sixteenth century Nativity Church that blasts with colourful murals inside. That's where monks quietly held Bulgarian Orthodox traditions alive during Ottoman empire’s rigid run associated with area. For daytrips, simply take winding mountain roadways that go to wood-cutter villages (like Tryavna), Roman roads to walk on, and waterfall swimming holes.

2. Plovdiv

Bulgaria’s “second town” — plus the most-loved by Bulgarians — is made of seven hills, like Rome. Its hilltop Old Town has one of several best-preserved Roman amphitheatres (the 2000-year-old Theater of Ancient Philippopolis), where you could take a sandwich for a picnic view on the city toward the Rodopi Mountains. Behind it, on cobbled lanes, tend to be embellished 19th century domiciles — some you'll remain or eat in.

search for a colourful celebration scene among the grey communist-era buildings in Sofia. Photo courtesy Luca M.Below on the central roads, follow the action. There’s a lively restaurant built out-of a vintage bomb refuge, a 14th century mosque to peep into, or laneway kebabs for eating later through the night.

Plovdiv is a city manufactured from seven mountains.

3. Sofia

The administrative centre, Sofia, won't be recognised incorrectly as having Prague-like environment; it’s largely made of grey communist-era structures. On the other hand, Sofia’s setting is much better. Mt Vitosha — the town’s pet hill — features climbing and skiing trails, and certainly will be achieved by community bus. Out like that, in a formerly dreary institution, Studentski Grad has transformed the bottom flooring of several of their bleak socialist-era dorms to the city’s hottest clubs — a surreal spot to party (we blogged about this when it comes to New York Times).

In the city, Roman ruins tend to be every where, also. Go for a walk under a tunnel inside gold-brick lanes regarding the center — maybe not far from normal springs in which residents refill jugs — and pass Roman columns on screen.

Some of the best locations to shop in the united states would be the Ladies’ Market for produce or perhaps the daily flea market where the last is hawked on iconic Nevski Cathedral. I when discovered an excellent Soviet digital camera here for around USD $15.00.

4. Wine

Bulgaria’s wine history could be the world’s deepest. It’s said that Dionysus — the god of wine — came to be in Perperikon, today ruins you can travel to south of Plovdiv. Early Greeks later reported wine produced by its northerly neighbour had been also powerful, maybe not watered down. (Can you imagine?)

for the greatest wine, visit the city of Melnik. Picture courtesy Kleacheros K.Today, Bulgarian wine — a mixture of Western designs (the Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots) and regional grapes found no place else — on a regular basis delivers one of the better unexpected situations of browsing nation.

Numerous Bulgarian restaurants, particularly in villages, offer the household’s residence wine. Elsewhere, it's well worth in search of the local varieties.

My favourites are the dark red Mavrud (generally found in the Thracian simple outside Plovdiv) together with juicier Melnik. The latter, locals swear, is “hangover-free.” A good option to have it is in the town of Melnik, south of Sofia, where one six-fingered regional vintner provides tasting from a 250-year-old tasting “cave” atop a hill. I’ve tested the idea and am pleased to report no hangovers.

5. The "Lord associated with the Rings” fort

Northwest of Sofia, Belogradchik houses a fortress out-of Lord of Rings. The crenelated walls of Kaleto Fortress — first built up by Romans several millennia ago — ring towering, craggy peaks, with boulders jutting up so realistic they’re named for folks. At the rear of are hiking trails and enjoyable rock-climbing or scrambling tracks to take. Couple of go at all, whilst’s about four-hours from Sofia by train.

6. The UFO building

About 90 mins’ drive south of Veliko Târnovo is the former communist meeting hallway of Buzludzha, at Shipka Pass. The saucer-like grey building appears therefore futuristic it's known as the “UFO building.” Following the end of socialism, authorities sealed it up. But explorers have long crept into the conference hall — windows smashed, dignitary couches torn to shreds — to take the most unique declaration of communism you can imagine, and towering views of nearby Shipka Pass. It’s a historic testament for the Bulgarian energy at dispelling the Ottoman kingdom.

7. The heavy metal and rock coastline town

In the ’70s and ’80s, the Black Sea coastline served due to the fact “Red Riviera” to commies on a break. Now some beach cities like Sunny Beach are incredibly over-developed they’re hard to enjoy. Others are historical (enjoyable, cobblestoned Sozopol has Ancient Greek origins) or reasonably quiet (the gold sands of Sinomorets close to the Turkish edge).

The Kaleto Fortress in Belogradchik. Photo courtesy Gary Arndt. Get extraterrestrial in the one-time conference hallway of Buzludzha. Photo courtesy Athena L. Rocking out to Primal anxiety in Kavarna. Picture courtesy Sabin L. take to banitsa when and you will certainly be hooked. Photo courtesy Dock.

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