"Bulgaria: Europe's best kept secret" Top 5 Page for this destination Bulgaria by ger4444
Bulgaria Travel Guide: 6,160 reviews and 17,956 photos
In the summer of 2003 I have travelled around for 3 weeks in, what you could call, “the jewel of the Balkan,” that is Bulgaria. Me and a friend had planned to travel around this country for three weeks, but since my friend could only get one week vacation from his work, I travelled the other 2 weeks on my own, which provided a good opportunity to learn to know the Bulgarian people even better. Most of the people here in the Netherlands that I told I was going to travel in Bulgaria reacted a bit surprised: “what the hell are looking for in Bulgaria?” That is, most people don’t have a clear idea about the country, for – in general - not so much is known about Bulgaria here. Thanks to my fellow VT-ers how ever, I knew that Bulgaria was going to be exciting. For me personally it was a graet experiene since I had learned a great deal about Bulgarian culture and history in the past, and I was eager to see things for real. I can however recommend everyone who is going to visit Bulgaria, to learn some Bulgarian language, because, especially in the countryside, you might otherwise find yourself confronted with some communication difficulties. I met a lot of Bulgarians while I was travelling around, and I found them especially friendly, helpful and hospitable. Times and again I had the pleasure of being invited to have a meal, or a couple of Kamenitsa and even accomodation. The country itself is very diverse: there’s something for everyone there: you can hike your way through the several mountains. Such as the Pirin or Rila mountains, you can hang around in one of the bigger cities like Sofia and wander around the numerous monuments and museums, you can explore old medieavel villages and admire the so called “national revival” architecture, or just lay down at the beach at the Black sea coast. It’s up to you! But you can also decide to do it all: and that’s why you should at least take 3 weeks for your visit to this country.
What makes Bulgaria so special? First of all, the country has a great deal on history to discover. From the earliest settlements, the Thracians, upto the Greeks, Romans and Byzantians, the traces they left are still visible. Plovdiv for instance, has one of the best preserved amphietheaters in Europe. (Its funny, though, to see how some old remnants are juxtaposed with modern buildings, f.e. in Plovdiv, you find a mall “build around” a Roman Stadium!) Since the Bulgarians have been occupied by the Ottomans for considerable time, the Bulgarian culture – as develloped since the 5 th. Century – was about to fade away, because the foreign rulers did everything to oppress the Bulgarian cultural identity. So, if there had not been monks and other intellectuals, who managed to protect the Bulgarian cultural heritage, by saving all the jewels of Bulgarian culture within the monastriewalls, one can wonder wether Bulgaria had survived as a nation. Among the monastries that played such an important role in preserving the Bulgarian culture – which of course was then strongly interlinked with the Orthodox Church – is the Rila Monastrie. But these monks did more than preserving the Bulgarian culture; they also managed to make the Bulgarians aware of their identity, by f.e. teaching the illiterate people about the glorious – almost forgotten – Bulgarian history, so that – eventually – they would feel the urge for an uprisal against the Ottomans. In this period – called the National Revival Period – Bulgarian art, music and literature started to flourish and in this way, culture left the monastries to get into the Bulgarian’s hearts and minds. The traces from this particular period are visible in many towns, but especially in Koprivshtitsa and Melnik. There you find some of the best examples of this National Revival period: archticture, handcrafts and so on. But Bulgaria is more than history and Culture. The countryside, little village and mountains are also appealing. For example: the Pirin mountains in the West of Bulgaria, are situated in a national parc, which offers various well signposted tracks and up to ten mountainhuts, called hizha. OK, staying in a hizha with twenty snorking men wont give you a good nightrest, but it is at least very cheap! The countryside also gives you an opportunity to taste some of the Bulgarian local specialties, such as the Melnik whines or the Shopska salads. Most of the small villages I have visited didn’t occur to provide the visitor with some great nightlife however. In some of the small towns, after 12 o’clock it was over, and if you had no travelfellows in your hostal with some good Bulgarian wodka, -- I was lucky – you might find yourself asleep at 12 o’clock already. For Sofia, Plovdiv and Veliko Târnova, nightlife is just as it should be: bars, pubs and clubs everywhere and you can party on all night long. So, this is in a nutshell what Bulgaria is about; I surely have not mentioned all of it; for that, read the tips on this general page about Bulgaria and the info’s in the sectors dealing with the particular towns and villages in my related travelpages of Bulgaria. Have fun!
Let’s say you don’t want - or can – travel around the country for a period of 3 weeks; what are the possibilies then? I would like to offer you some alternatives, according to the time you have available. If you only have one week, and you are interested in culture and history, you should see the museums and monuments in Sofia and the Rila monstry (2 days); then go to Plovdiv (2 days), Koprivshtista, (1 day) and Veliko Târnovo. (2 days). I can assure you, that you can safely say to yourself that you have seen the cultural highlights of Bulgaria then. I cant account for the fact, however, that you would be strongly over-killed by culture by then…If you mainly want to enjoy sand and see ( and don’t have problems with yellyfish) go to Varna – you can eventually pick up some culture there too, for there are many monuments and museums there) and after that head for Burgas or the more mondaine Zlatni Pyasâtsi (dresscode: German Soccer-T-Shirt, golden bracelets or earrings; completed by drunken screaming or vomiting on the streets. That is; avoid this place; unless you are interested in underaged prostitutes…) A good side kick could be the peninsula of Nesebâr. If you have 2 weeks; you could basicly do the same things but with some additional visits. People who like beaches could go to Albena or Balchik (I met some guys who thought Balchic to be the most appealing place at the Black sea resort) People attrackted to culture (and nature) should add the following towns on their list: Melnik (1 day), Bansko, (1 day) Belogradchik (1 day) Arbanasi (near Veliko Tarnovo) (1 day) And then, take some days to explore the Pirin mountains (you can add this to your visit in Bansko) or the Rodopi-Mountains (I myself prefer the Pirin’s since their altitude is higher and therefore also a bit more challenging) Be carefull: these recommendations seem as if it is easy to get from one place to another. Keep in mind that, when you for example want to go from Melnik to Koprivshitsa, it can cost you a whole day travelling.
Arriving at the airpot and taking a cab into town. There is a counter in the airport where you can make a reservation... more travel advice
To plan your trip around the country, it can be helpfull to have a clear image of the location of all the places... more travel advice
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