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1. How much time in Sofia? 2. Other 1-2 stopover cities to include?

Hi all! I'm asking my 2 questions based on my interests - Eastern Europe and more importantly, the Holocaust and WW2:

  1. I'm headed on the 6/25/17 Best of Bulgaria-12 days (after Turkey was cancelled) tour and am trying to figure out how much time Sofia deserves. As an educational historian, my interests are in the 20th C, especially WW2 and the Communist era. I will spend my own time in Sofia Synagogue and at the museums/parks that have Stalinist/Communist relevance. Besides what's included with RS (yes, I know the Synagogue is included), are my 2 days ahead of our tour enough? What do YOU suggest I add to my pre-tour itin?

  2. Our tour "starts" Sunday dinner and I planned on arriving Friday afternoon. My return flight is mid-afternoon the day our tour ends. Last year, I did the best of Eastern Europe-16 days (I was out of the US almost 20 days), and I'm feeling that my 14 days away isn't enough, probably because we visited 6 countries in that tour. I'd love to revisit Budapest (more time in the Market and at the baths) and stay at our same hotel, but for me, this is feeling more like icing, rather than a cake that is close to being taken out of the oven.

That said, and this isn't going to sound right, I'm trying to conclude my intellectually, emotional journey with the Holocaust, after visiting numerous countries in E Europe (my dissertation covered clandestine education in the Warsaw ghetto) for a third consecutive year with both RS and another, even smaller tour.

Comments/suggestions? Thanks, Susie

Posted by
449 posts

Hi Susie.

We've haven't been to Bulgaria yet. It's still s couple years out for us, but I would be interested in the answers to your questions. Have you though about paying for the advice of an RS Travel Advisor?

Peter

Posted by
1540 posts

I was on a tour and we had 3 days in Sofia. A good orientation on my first day was : to do the The Sofia Sightseeing double-Decker bus tour is a hop-on, hop-off circular trip .
Then I also went on a walking tour around Sofia with our guide. I was on a Gate 1 tour. Be sure to take the Riga Monastery trip - it is a wonderful ride through the rural areas and the monastery is very interesting. (It is also a hotel for folks who want to stay there)
Since I was on an RS tour - we were staying in Sofia.

Posted by
2265 posts

Susan, I was on the early Sept 2016 RS Bulgarian Tour, and it was really wonderful. Various opportunities to get to know Bulgarian people who are not all involved in the tourist trade, and not very many tourists around anyway, except at the beaches on the Black Sea. I very much enjoyed Sofia, not everyone does. In Sofia, I enjoyed the Women's Market, the Archeology Museum, and the quite small Ethnographic Museum. On Sunday morning of the day the tour began, I happened by the Aleksander Nevski Cathedral at around 10:00 am, and found the major weekly mass going on, very moving with choir singing, priests chanting, heavy aroma of incense, etc. I was even able to get a photo pass and photograph throughout the service, a nice surprise. The architecture of that church is wonderful, it is illuminated at night, and it is one of those buildings I could photograph over and over, at different times, from different angles, etc. Admission to the church is free when it is open, although there is a modest fee to photograph inside. Under the church is an excellent Icon Museum, a very worthwhile hour or two, I thought. A ways in front, and to the side, of the church, there is an on-going antique and crafts market, you'll find some interesting items there. On my free afternoon in Sofia, Monday I guess, I took a free Sofia Food Tour which was very good, lots of good local snacks and some history along the way. If you are staying at the Crystal Palace Hotel, I thought the hotel, the rooms, the breakfast and the location were all really excellent. The tiny Boyana Church outside of Sofia is ancient and historic, but a little hard to get to. Once there, with a ticket you can only enter the church itself for 10 minutes with no photos allowed inside. Most of the old frescoes are very high up in the church, and the interior is so small that I had trouble looking at them, I could not bend my neck back enough. When I left, I bought a booklet about the church, which showed the frescoes, and I really wish I had bought it on the way in, so I could better understand what I was seeing. Given your short time in Sofia, I think the Boyana Church might not be a priority, or you might want to do it with some kind of tour. The nearby History Museum is probably also not a priority with limited time. I wanted to get to the Socialist Art museum or sculpture garden, but did not have time for that. Next visit to Sofia. And yes, Rila Monastery is wonderful, and is a basic overnight stop on the tour, unless they have changed the itinerary. Stefan is a wonderful and unique guide, you will have a great time and value him and his relationships around the country, I'm sure. During Stefan's walking tour of Sofia on Monday morning, we stopped at the monument celebrating the fact that during WWII, the government did not allow any Jews too be deported from Bulgaria, despite orders from Nazi Germany. As I remember, the monument was in Bulgarian, Hebrew and English.

Posted by
19172 posts

Since you have special interests and costs in Bulgaria are typically low, I'd give serious thought to hiring a local guide who can help you identify the most interesting places in Sofia not to be covered by your tour and get you to them efficiently.

Edited to add: I'm confused about your reference to other stopover cities. Is it that you haven't booked your flights and are considering spending additional time in Bulgaria?