Bulgaria – The Treasure Trove of the Balkans
Welcome to Bulgaria
The Treasure Trove of the Balkans
Bulgaria is a truly wondrous country that has been on the map since the year 681. It is a country full of history. A country that portrays a rich tapestry of joy, suffering, pride, fierce patriotism, and a lust for freedom. And it is precisely our turbulent past that has made us the people we are today and which has brought the land to its current state – one full of secrets and beauty, waiting for you to explore and enjoy.
Are you an adventurer or someone looking for a beach with fine golden sand to relax on by the water? Do you enjoy water sports? Bulgaria is covered with lakes, caves, rivers, waterfalls, springs, and whatever else your heart desires. Do you enjoy skiing or snowboarding? Winter in Bulgaria is what you need. If you prefer a calmer exploring experience, Bulgaria is also a treasure trove of cultural sites.
Visit Plovdiv – the European Capital of Culture 2019
Let's start with Plovdiv – a major Bulgarian city that was voted European capital of culture in 2019. The city is over 8000 years old, and it's full of archeological digs and discoveries of old. In recent years, it has become a magnet for tourists as it offers all sorts of historical and cultural places to visit.
In the Old Town of Plovdiv you can find the Ancient Theater of Philippopolis. It's one of the best-preserved ancient theaters in the world, and it's still in use. It's open for tourists to explore and take pictures of and, during the summer months, it's a place for concerts and performances of every type from ballets and operas to comedy shows. It's an amazing place with a great ambiance and it offers a unique experience.
But that's not the only treasure hidden in the Old Town. Walk its cobblestone streets and lose yourself among artisanal stores, cute cafes, pubs, restaurants, and houses that speak of a different time.
One of the pubs located in the Old Town is quite the hub for locals, not only due to the affordable prices of french fries and beer (which are a must-have in the summer) but also for its location. It has quite a few perks that make it stand out from its competitors. It has a gorgeous view of the city during both the daytime and nighttime. It's outside, but offers shade, so you don't crisp up when the sun is out.
And, while there, odds are you'll get a visit from a famous Plovdiv resident - Stefcho the Autograph. It's a nickname he's earned, and you'll see why. He's a middle-aged man with long gray hair, almost always tied in a low ponytail, and he sports a scruffy gray beard. He always carries a pen and a notebook and goes around the tables asking for peoples' autographs. And whether you give him one or not, you’ll be rewarded with a smile. He's a polite warm man, and he's become a part of the Old Town pub experience. The little pub I'm talking about is one he's almost always frequenting. Try and find it for yourself, and maybe you'll get to meet him. You'll know that you have succeeded when you are approached by a kind man holding a pen and notebook. So, wander and discover.
Look upon The Eyes of God and let them look upon you.
One of the best-known natural occurrences in Bulgaria is the rock formation known as 'The Eyes of God.' It has long captivated natives and tourists alike, and it's truly a gift of nature. The phenomenon is located in a famous and well-visited cave, called Prohodna Cave. The Eyes of God represent two holes in the ceiling of the cave that let you peek at the sky. If you go there at the right time of day, you can see the sun shining its light through the 'eyes.' And, when it rains, you can see them 'cry.' What is astounding is the eerie symmetry of the holes and their overall eye-like shape. It's a subterranean image to behold. Believer or non-believer, it's truly a sight to appreciate.
Are you brave enough to walk on the Devil's Bridge?
Another sight to behold is one that captivates not by image alone, but by the story that goes with it. There's a bridge over the river Arda, in Ardino County. Legend has it that many builders tried to craft a bridge there but they all failed until, one day, someone succeeded. And, the bridge he built stands there until this very day. The story surrounding the bridge is what fascinates people. It's rumored that the Devil himself spoke to this man and told him the secret to making the bridge last. The Devil told the builder that if he succeeded in making the bridge, he would share a great secret with him as a reward. Of course, the Devil had conditions, and he requested that the builder finish the structure in 40 days and incorporate the Devil's face into it. The face needed to be both material and immaterial, visible and invisible, touchable and untouchable. Failing to fulfill these conditions meant the builder would lose his soul to the Devil. The legend continues that the builder succeeded in this task by using the mirror image of the bridge on the river waters, and the Devil was very impressed with his work. So impressed that, a few days after completing the sturdy bridge, its builder passed away. The myth surrounding the structure has earned it the name 'Devil's Bridge.'
Roses, roses, and more roses!
Let's turn our attention to more colorful and cheerful places now. Did you know that Bulgaria is among the largest producers of rose oil in the world? We supply 80-90% of the product, and we're very proud of our roses. We conduct an annual Rose Festival in several major Bulgarian towns, like Karlovo and Kazanlak, to name just two. The festival is a tradition that has been around for a while. This year, 2020, marks the celebration of 117 years of the Rose Festival at Kazanlak. Kazanlak is the birthplace of the Rose Festival as the first one occurred there in 1903. It's a parade of cheerfulness, laughter, beauty, and joy. The entire town gets adorned with roses – petals and wreaths alike. Youngsters walk the streets with baskets of roses, giving them out to bystanders. There's dancing and singing, usually of the traditional Bulgarian folklore kind. There's also a ceremony to pick the Rose Queen, a young woman with a radiant smile, who gets crowned with a head of roses. That ceremony has been around since 1990. It's a happy event that occurs late spring and early summer and lifts spirits with brightness and color.
Apart from the Rose Festival, Kazanlak also offers a museum dedicated to the rose, and a park called Rosarium, where you can go and enjoy roses and other vegetation. Funnily enough, the museum is located inside the park. And, it's filled with documents and all sorts of memorabilia dedicated to over 300 years of Bulgarian rose oil production. If you're at all interested in rose oil production and different types of roses, you’re bound to enjoy it there. If you're not, you can skip the museum, and stroll around the park and enjoy the 'free-range' roses that surround you. The park is excellent for enjoying the sun, reading a book, or chatting to friends, while surrounded by beauty and fragrance. You're sure to appreciate it.
Bulgaria has so much to offer. It's a truly magnificent place with wondrous nature. We are blessed with much and are willing to share it with curious travelers. You're welcome to visit our beautiful country and see it for yourself.
Written by Simona from Bulgaria