Cyrillic alphabet, beautiful endless rose valleys, soul-stirring mountains, hidden wild beaches, the oldest city in Europe, the world’s largest gold treasure and the best yogurt one could ever eat: what all of these things have in common is their home – Bulgaria.
A small country created in 681 AD and dominated by most of the Balkans for a long time until its territories fell under the Ottoman rule for over 5 centuries is Bulgaria. Cyrillic alphabet, beautiful endless rose valleys, soul-stirring mountains, hidden wild beaches, the oldest city in Europe, the world’s largest gold treasure and the best yoghurt one could ever eat: what all of these things have in common is their home – Bulgaria.
Whispers of history give you goosebumps while you explore ruins and fortresses showcasing the great and not so great times that the country has had. At the same time the Southeastern European country is part of the European Union and home to many headquarters and successful start-ups, which, together with its stunning nature, make it a mixture of old and new, historic and modern, spiritual and secular, mystic and stereotypical, shocking and breath-taking, a beautiful paradox that must be experienced by anyone seeking adventure.
So, here are a few places that give you a feel of what Bulgaria is like. First stop, Buzludzha Peak, where one can find the Memorial House of the Ex-Communist Party, a tribute to the socialist ideology, which used to rule the country up until the recent 90s. After few decades of democracy, during which the building has been abandoned, only around 50% of the mosaics depicting important moments for the party survived, put these together with the motto stated in the centre of the dome quoting the Communist Manifesto: “Proletarians from all countries, unite!”, make it worth the visit.
But the political past of Bulgaria is not nearly about it. Beautiful mystic nature lurks at every corner, waiting to be discovered. One of these spots is the next one on the list known by locals as “Bozhite ochi”, which stands for “God’s Eyes”. Only 120 km from the capital, it is located in “Prohodna cave”, which has easy access and is naturally lit by its huge entrances and natural openings in the ceiling. Exactly these openings, which some also call “windows” have perfectly symmetrical almond-shaped holes, which people called “The Eyes of God”.
On the topic of nature, I’d like to share my experience with Belogradchik. It is a town in the very west-north part of Bulgaria. Literally translated the name of the town means ‘small white town’. The main activity there is hiking at the Belogradchik Rocks and the Belogradchik Fortress. The latter is one of the best-preserved strongholds in Bulgaria and a cultural monument of national importance. There you will be able to enjoy the incredible beauty and mysticism of the rocks. They are a group of sandstone and conglomerate formations with strange shapes, which have been forming for over a million years. They vary in colour and size, as some of them reach up to 200m.
There is a lot of historical value and legends, which the native people will be more than happy to share with you. Most of the hotels in the city have a very nice spa area, which you can enjoy after a nice day spent hiking.
If you get to visit Bulgaria during summer, I’d definitely recommend having a true bohemian experience at the wild beaches of the Black Sea. The locals themselves are very protective of the coast, fighting and protesting against all plans of the government to put the area into construction. Beach fires, guitars, long walk, friendly faces and hippy spirit in the air together with no electricity, no luxury and probably not even a proper shower for a weekend make it a true getaway from the dynamics of everyday city life. Some of the places I would recommend are Irakli and Karadere.
While you’re exploring the country, I would suggest checking if there is a “subor” happening near where you are staying. Explaining what a subor is, is a rather difficult task. If you would try and get a literal translation of it, it would mean “gathering”, but what it actually is is a showcase of the culture, tradition, national heritage and sense of national belonging wrapped up in a few days festival filled with national dances, food and even rituals performed in order to get rid of bad spirits in the case of the “Kukeri” events.
Some of the biggest events of this type are in the traditional Bulgarian cities such as Koprivshtitsa and Rojen. If you are interested in diving deep in the cultural richness of Bulgaria, this is definitely a great way to do so.
Last, but not least, the Eastern European country is home to many music festivals themed with the idea of breaking free. One that people call “a modern-day utopia” is “Meadows in the Mountains” located in the heart of Rhodope Mountains. It has been gaining popularity worldwide as it focuses on inclusion and diversity, embracing self-expression to its fullest.
These are just a couple of the reasons why I love the small paradise that this country is. However, what I believe is the strongest motive why anyone would benefit from experiencing Bulgaria is that it has it all: regardless of whether you are looking for out-of-the-ordinary bohemian experience filled with festivals and wild nature or you want to dive deep in the cultural heritage of the country, or just want to have a cheap all-inclusive vacation with great service, you can find it in the warm welcoming arms of Bulgaria.
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