In August 2010, we spent 17 days in Bulgaria. Our main destinations were: Melnik & Rozhen, Rila Monastery, Plovdiv & Bachkovo Monestary, Veliko Tarnovo, Kazanlak & Tryavna, Belogradchik & Vidin, and last but not least Sofia. Our most sensible advice: if you can, visit Bulgaria in spring or fall. The temperatures in August were just too much. We NEVER had a day with less than 34 degrees Celsius, and it was no comfort that locals told us that these were unusually high temperatures. In Plovdiv, the mercury scale even reached 41 degrees (106 degrees Fahrenheit).
Two weeks is plenty of time to explore pretty much the entire country. We even had time to crash a few times in one place for a few days, especially when a hotel featured an inviting swimming pool.
Those impressions will always stay in our mind when thinking of Bulgaria:
- The huge difference between major cities, which are extremely modern and affluent, whereas the country side often feels like a time warp.
- “National Revival Architecture”… Many city centers were beautifully restored in the last years with colorful houses.
- Monasteries… You could spend a month only visiting monasteries.
- Very slim people, especially younger ones.
- No explanation in English but also often no explanation whatsoever in many of the tourist centers… And of course, it is impossible to find an English speaking guide! In so many countries, you cannot get rid of potential guides that speak almost all languages on this planet, but in Bulgaria, even if you are willing to get rid of some money, you won’t find one.
- The hotel and restaurant infrastructure is excellent, prices unbeatable, probably the cheapest within the European Union. Although all of Bulgaria seems to be travelling during the summer, it was never a problem to find a nice hotel. It seems that the supply widely exceeds the demand.
- Excellent, very healthy food, especially vegetables and fruits taste like homegrown, and yes, the wine.
- Portions in restaurants are gigantic, we never got used to it. We kept ordering appetizer AND main course, but most of the time the appetizers filled us up.
- A really friendly greeting and a warm smile is something you do no get too often in Bulgaria’s service industry. The younger the people the easier it comes, at least that is how we felt. The best service we got was from people who lived abroad. This was also probably linked to their language skills.
- “Art work” sold in the various tourist places is the same all over the country. We were actually quite disappointed to find so little choice.
The highlights of these two weeks in Bulgaria were:
- Belogradchik and especially the tour through the Rock formations with Angel, the owner of the Guesthouse Drakite
- Rozhen Monastery
- Rila Monastery at 09:00 pm, when almost all tourists are gone
- Strolling on the long tree-lined promenade along the Danube in Vidin on a warm summer evening
- Plovdiv, both the old city and the modern pedestrian zone
- Crashing at the pool at Hotel Rozhen & at the Wine Palace in Arbanassi
- Bulgarian tasty and healthy food together with a nice bottle of Bulgarian wine.
A few things we did not like?
- The heat!
- The Black Sea Coast north of Varna: too many people, too many resorts (the bit south of Varna, we don’t know)
- The lack of explanations at major touristic sites
- Did with mention the heat?
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