Click for more information about Bulgaria
2013 Jun by Franklin Murillo
We had departed from Bucharest Romania by train to Varna. The train ride took 8 hours, but no water or food is offered on the train. It was the worst train ride in my experiences as the train had no air conditioning either. The various train station stops did not have water or food sold by vendors either. Finally after that very hot train ride we arrived in Varna. I stayed at my coworkers flat in Varna for three nights which is located next to Primorski Park and the beach. While in Varna we visited the Roman Thermae bath ruins, Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin, and St Nikolai church. The Varna tourist office offers free walking tours of the city, which I took advantage of and its well worth it. We also went on a day trip by bus to visit nearby UNESCO Nesebar. The bus takes about two hours and its well worth the time to get there. We departed Varna on a comfortable overnight bus to Istanbul Turkey. |
2013 Jun by Leslie Rutledge
I visited Bulgaria on a recent European car tour. We entered Bulgaria via Macedonia on the road from Skopje to Sofia and made a small detour to what is known as Bulgarias top tourist attraction the national park and monastery of Rila. Leaving the main road we had to drive around 25 miles deep into the countryside and up into the mountains before coming upon this little treasure. From the outside Rila monastery looks more like an ancient fortress than a place of prayer with high solid rock walls. It can be entered from either of the two gates Samakov at the front or Dupnitsa at the rear. Entry to the complex is free but a small fee is charged if entering the church. The main church lies in the centre of the inner courtyard and close by is a tower called Hrelja, which was the first building built at Rila in about 1320 and was originally used as a fortification. The magnificent church is the youngest structure in the complex being only some 150 years old. It is painted in a very stunning red and white stripe effect. The outer corridors of the church are covered from top to bottom with beautiful brightly coloured frescos which are in an extremely good condition. The inside of the church contains many famous icons. The main building surrounding the church has four storeys and has very impressive arched corridors with pillars and railings up to the roof. There are several rooms that can be visited and the complex also has its own museum. On leaving Rila we headed for Sofia, we had not planned to stop here as we were on a tight schedule. Originally we had planned to drive around Sofia but due to bad signposting plus the fact that all the signs were in the local lingo we ended up driving straight thought the centre of Sofia, interesting but time consuming. Then we headed for the Romanian capital of Bucharest via Plaven and Rousse. Just before Rousse we stopped off at the national park of Ivanovo to have a look at the rock hewn churches of Ivanovo, a world heritage site. Here around 40 Churches and 300 other structures are hewn out of solid rock in the mountainside, most of it is not open to the general public for fear of damaging these historical treasures. We were allowed to visit one example, which was in a poor state of repair with large cracks in the floor and ceiling. The whole inside of the cavern was painted with faded frescos, many parts of the wall had caved in and had not been restored. Filming and photography is absolutely forbidden but its amazing how you can change someones mind with 5 Euros. Outside from our high vantage point we had a birds eye view over the whole of the national park of Ivanova, which has a thriving wild life. From here we drove the short distance to the Romania Border and on to Bucharest. |
2010 Jun by Carl Smart
Had 1 week in bulgaria on holiday stopped in Sunny Beach. Went on day trips Pomorie and Nessebar. Nessebar is a very nice old town well worth a visit. |
2007 Aug by Leo Koolhoven
During my Europa-trip in 2007 I also visited Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Bulgaria was a part of the Ottoman Empire till 1878 when Bulgaria get independent with the help of Russia. Because of that Bulgaria is one of the few countries where they really like Russia and even the most important (Alexander Nevsky) Cathedral is named after a Russian warlord. |
2004 Jul by Michael Novins
July 2004 -- I visited Sofia, where I stayed at the Sheraton Sofia Hotel Balkan, the city's most historic and architecturally distinct hotel (http://www.starwoodhotels.com/luxury/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=186). I also made a day trip to Rila Monastery, the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria and a UNESCO World Heritage Site (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/216). |
1999 Jun by Veikko Huhtala*
I was first time in Bulgaria in the year 1978. At that time I was travelling around Europe by train. I was taken train Thessaloniki to Istanbul. There I saw that one bus was going to Sofia and there was a seat available for me. 30 years ago Bulgaria was one of the most terrific countries in Europe. There was a lot of policenen everywhere looking after tourists. They came also into my hotel where I stayed one night, and asked what I am doing there and what is reason of my visit. It was clear that they did not like me very much. But twenty years later, when Oili and me visited there last time, it was not so bad anymore. Then we stayed one week in the small tourist village on the Black Sea. |
1996 Feb by Jorge Sanchez
Bulgaria is a relatively small country; approximately has the size and population of Portugal. But there are lots of interesting places to discover by the good traveller.I have been twice in Bulgaria. The first time during the communist regime with a group of Spanish tourists with the Bulgarian company Balkantourist (similar to Intourist in the old Soviet Union), because travelling on your own was not possible at that time. We had a local guide, Sasha, speaking Spanish, who showed us all the tourists’ attractions. And the second, just two years ago (in 2003), I went alone crossing the Danube from Romania.The place that I liked most in Bulgaria was the Monastery of Rila (Rilski Manastir), founded in the IX century, which looks like a fortress and is surrounded by the Rila River and the Rila Mountains, with its highest peak Musala (2925 metres). This monastery is very dear to the Bulgarians because during the Turkish occupation it preserved the arts and culture of Bulgaria. It is considered the cradle of Bulgarian nationalism. Today is declared a World Patrimony by UNESCO.One excursion that we made with Sasha was to Burgas, a pleasant small town and tourist resort in the Black Sea. From there we took a boat to the lovely medieval village of Nessebar (another UNESCO World Heritage), in a peninsula. In the way back to Sofia we passed through the Balkan Mountains stopping in Veliko Tarnovo, the old Bulgarian capital, and in the evening we had dinner in nearby Gabrovo, village famous for its jokes.In Sofia, the present capital, the number one visit is the Cathedral Alexander Nevsky. It contains a gallery and a museum commemorating the 200.000 Russians who lost their lives in 1877-78 while expelling the Turks from Bulgaria.Other places that I visited in this small but beautiful country during my second trip were: the Rock-hewn churches of Ivanovo, and the Boyana church, near Sofia, with its fantastic frescoes. (Rock-hewn churches and Boyana church are two more UNESCO World Patrimony). Plovdiv town, with its Roman Amphitheatre and the magical fountains, reminded me the ones that we have in Barcelona, Spain.One of the characteristics of the Bulgarian people is the way that they say yes and no nodding the head, like in Greece; on the contrary than in the rest of the world, what is somewhat confusing until you get used.In the communist times, when making friends, I was always given gifts consisting in a small wooden tube with a glass bottle of perfume inside (Bulgarians love roses very much and they even have a yearly rose festival in Kazanlak). But presently, Bulgarian friends prefer to offer you a bottle of excellent Bulgarian wine.Food in Bulgaria is delicious and some of its dishes are related with the Greek and the Turkish ones. For instance, Bulgarians drink strong coffee like them, and some typical dishes are moussaka, like in Greece, and a sweet dessert called baklava, like in Turkey and in the Middle East. They eat a lot of yogurt, every day, which is why they live many many years.
In the year 2014 I went back to Bulgaria, and this is what I wrote about my visit: I spent a very pleasant half a day visit in Sofia, a city where I had been 35 years earlier, in the times of the Socialism regime. I travelled there with a group of Spanish tourists and we had a local guide speaking Spanish. Travelling individually was forbidden in those times.
I did not remember much of my first visit, only the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, which was my first visit.
In my way to Boyana Church I also visited some other remarkable places, being the most interesting the Church devoted to Saint George, built by the Romans during the IV century, and located between buildings, hard to find, but somebody had suggested me to ask to the people for the Sheraton Hotel, and indeed, it was situated next door to that hotel. It real name, written in its walls, was Sveti Giorgi (Rotonda). There was no entry fee to visit it, but in compensation I bought a small souvenir to the stall inside.
Then I headed by bus and walking to the skirts of Sofia, to visit the National Museum Boyana Church.
I paid the entry fee and walked across a garden with stalls selling souvenirs to the X century church. The church was devoted to St. Nikola and St. Panteleimon
I noticed that Eleonora, the queen of Bulgaria, was buried in 1917 in a small cemetery next to the church.
The entrance to the church accepted only 8 persons at a time during a maximum of 10 minutes.
The guide, a lady, could speak Bulgarian and English. I was with only 3 Bulgarians visitors inside the church, so I could follow the explanations in Bulgarian language since it is very close related to the Russian.
At the entrance the guide make us pay attention to a painting showing Virgin Mary. She said that it represented that the Virgin is telling us that we are going to enter a very holy place, the altar with the most interesting and beautiful murals.
The murals inside, dated from the XIII century, were stunning, predecessors of the European Renaissance.
The guide explained that the present murals were superposed over some much ancient ones, after a Christian Council.
I liked specially the frescoes representing San George and Saint Lawrence.
I experienced a very warm feeling inside the church; it looked to me a legacy of our ancestors, one of those masterpieces of art that transmit knowledge about the meaning of the Creation.
I left Boyana Church grateful and with very high spirits. I walked down the street, took a bus to the railway station and travelled to the south, near Plovdiv, to the Monastery of Bachkovo, where I would spend the night inside its premises.
I travelled by train from Sofia to Plovdiv, later by bus to Asenovgrad and finally to Bachkovo Monastery. Then I walked about 300 meters up, across many cafeterias and stalls selling souvenirs, honey, yogurts and earthenware. Then I entered the Monastery through its gate. It looked like a fortress.
The signs in the monastery were in Bulgarian and English. I read in a plaque behind the gate (written in Bulgarian, Russian, German, French and English languages) that the monastery was founded in the year 1083 by two brothers from present Georgia and it served as a seminary to practice Georgian mysticism. It was destroyed by the Turks in the XV century and was restored in the XVII century.
The place was very touristic. I heard not only Bulgarian, but other European languages, even Spanish, among its daily visitors.
The first thing that I did was to ask for the monk in charge of the visitors and asked him in Russian language permission to spend the night there. He sent me to the first floor, where a man charged me 5 Leva (about 2.5 euro) per a single room with a bed and a lamp with the window facing the Cathedral. The bathrooms were in the corridor.
Bachkovo is considered the second most important monastery in Bulgaria (after Rila). It is registered in the UNESCO Tentative List.
The monastery mixes Bulgarian, Georgian and Byzantine cultures. Apart from its lovely architecture I liked the murals all over around, being the most famous the one called Panorama, over a wall in the patio, depicting the history of the monastery. Some of the icons sheltered were of special value and many pilgrims came to Bachkovo just to pay respect to them, especially to one considered miraculous, called Virgin Mary Eleusa, brought by Georgian travelers in the XIV century. I admired all the wonders of the monastery in an almost state of ecstasy, so beautiful was everything around, including the atmosphere of the place and the exuberant nature surrounding the monastery.
In the old Trapeza (refectory) I had to pay a ticket (about 4 euro). But it was worth. I could see inside some of the prettiest frescoes.
I assisted to the Mass Service, together with many pilgrims, and also in the morning, when I woke up by the bells, and descended to the Cathedral to participate in the Mass ceremony at 7 AM.
After the Mass service I had breakfast in one of the cafeterias outside and returned by bus to Asenovgrad to continue my journey. It had been an unforgettable day...............................................................................
IN SPANISH: IGLESIA DE BOYANA
UNESCO describe de la siguiente guisa este Patrimonio de la Humanidad: Emplazada en las afueras de Sofí¬a, la iglesia de Boyana comprende tres edificios. La iglesia de la parte oriental, fue construida en el siglo X. A mediados del siglo XIII, el Sebastocrator Kaloyan ordenó que se agrandara la iglesia primigenia y se construyese otra de dos plantas junto a ella. Los frescos de esta segunda iglesia, pintados en 1259, constituyen uno de los más valiosos conjuntos de la pintura medieval. A comienzos del siglo XIX se edificó una tercera iglesia, ultimándose así¬ la configuración definitiva del sitio, que es uno de los monumentos más completos y mejor conservados del arte medieval de Europa Oriental.
La mejor manera de conocer las ciudades es a pie. Desde la estación de tren me dirigí a la Iglesia de Boyana, en las afueras de Sofía. Me tomó algo más de una hora, y eso que camino rápido. Sólo me detuve en el centro, ante la iglesia del siglo IV dedicada a Sveti Giorgi, que no quedaba muy lejos de la catedral de Alejandro Nevski.
A la entrada a Boyana había una placa de UNESCO y explicaciones sobre la iglesia. Fue gracias a lo que leí en esa placa que supe que la fundación de la Iglesia de Boyana se inició a finales del siglo X y fue ampliada en los siglos XIII y XIX. La iglesia debe su fama a los frescos del año 1259, que están considerados precursores del Renacimiento Europeo.
Pagué el precio de entrada al recinto, que se llamaba Museo Nacional de la Iglesia de Boyana.
Al llegar a la entrada de la iglesia una guía me prohibió hacer fotos.
Otras condiciones eran que no podíamos estar dentro de la iglesia más de ocho personas, y un máximo de 10 minutos de tiempo.
Pero como no había más turistas, se dedicó sólo a mí y me iba explicando cada parte de esa iglesia, que exteriormente no impresiona, pero sus frescos, de autor anónimo, son exquisitos.
El primer fresco representaba a la Virgen María. La guía me interpretó que su presencia a la entrada de la iglesia significa que te avisa de que entras en un lugar sagrado, especialmente al altar, donde se hallan los frescos más bellos y mejor acabados. Otros frescos representan la vida de San Nicolás. También me mostró los frescos de San Jorge y de San Lorenzo.
Los murales que estaba viendo se superponían sobre otros más antiguos, cosa que se hizo en el siglo XIII, tras un concilio cristiano.
La iglesia estaba consagrada a San Nicolás y a San Panteleimón.
La guía me iba explicando que la reina de Bulgaria, Leonor Carolina Gasparina Luisa (nacida en Polonia), está enterrada junto a la iglesia, y me acompañó a través de un jardín hasta su tumba, la cual había sido profanada y destruida, pero tras la instauración de la democracia (en 1989), fue restaurada.
Una vez fuera de la iglesia sentí frío, pero no físico, sino en mi alma. Algo especial tenía esa iglesia; me hizo experimentar sentimientos tiernos.
El regreso lo hice en autobús, hasta la estación de tren, donde poco después abordé uno de ellos que se dirigía a Plovdiv. |