Well, Bulgariaphiles, time flies when you're having fun planning travels. Dobar Den! I am in my first airport, waiting for my first delayed flight, and if all the connections still work, I should arrive in Sofia early tomorrow evening, first leg of a lengthy trip. Thank you for your various tips and recommendations. I did reach out to some of the guides some of you recommended, and heard back from a few. Stefan of Lyuba Tours, who will be the guide for my RS Bulgaria Tour, was especially friendly and helpful. By the way, if any of you have had contact with Lyuba herself (I had only listened to her interview with RS, I was surprised and saddened to learn that she had passed away several months ago. In contacting guides and tour companies, I have found that "small group tours" that one can join are relatively scarce, and even then, it appears that there are generally no "small groups", at least not in advance. I have no sense of the numbers of visitors In places like Sofia and Plovdiv, I guess I will find that out soon, as I hit the streets of beautiful downtown Sofia. My tentative plans for my days based in Sofia remain as most recently planned, dependent on transport schedules and the weather. Aug 30 arrive for 5 nights based at the Casa Ferrari B & B in Sofia. Aug 31 exploring Sofia, including Boyana; Sept 1 day trip to Koprivshtitsa; I am hoping to find a Koprivshtitsa ball cap, to be able to wear with my Schenectady sweatshirt, boggling minds of those who notice. I am a native Schenectadian. Sept 2 overnight to Plovdiv, hopefully an afternoon bus to Bachkovo Monastery, where Stefan has hooked me up with the multi-lingual curator. I have a reservation at the Old Plovdiv Guest House right in the middle of things, someone here recommended that. Sept 3 early train to Septemvri, then connecting to the very scenic narrow gauge train ride to Bansko, also recommended here, with about 3 hours in Bansko before the bus back to Sofia, lots of transport and scenery that day. Sept 4 more exploring of Sofia before moving to the RS tour hotel and beginning the tour, Sept 4 to 15. Somewhere in there I hope to join the free 2-hour Balkan Bites food tour in Sofia. Then on to Istanbul and beyond. As I travel, I am certainly open to any of your specific tips about restaurants, foods, shops, and hidden treasures not to miss along the way. I figure the RS Tour will include the biggies. Thanks again!
I have only met Stefan here in the office, not toured with him, but I can't imagine a better person to carry on Lyuba's legacy.
Please report back on your travels, and have a wonderful time visiting both Bulgaria and Turkey!
I have heard nothing but the most enthusiastic superlatives regarding Lyuba. She seemed to exude incredible kindness, warmth and knowledge about her country. If you read the old Bulgaria reviews on the tour site as I did (those reviews are gone now but one could see them back in the day when she led the tours), everyone loved her and it is apparent that she really made her tours come alive. I looked forward to meeting her one day and was really sad to read of her passing. I hope that her small company continues to thrive and keeps introducing new visitors to Bulgaria.
Larry, I'm already anticipating your trip report after you return! You're going to so many places I missed last year; I need another trip, soon.
I did a lot of shopping in Veliko Trnovo and Plovdiv, as I probably mentioned in your earlier thread. Especially ceramics and jewelry in VT and art in Plovdiv. There are many opportunities to pick up nice but inexpensive items in the historic districts. Just keep your eyes open. The shops keep long hours, seemingly because that's what you have to do to survive in Bulgaria, and I felt I was helping folks who needed a hand.
Lyuba was our guide on the Best of Bulgaria tour last year. An exceptional person with great insights, energy and an incredible number of persons throughout the country she could call on to make the tour special. An excellent tour. Sad to learn she passed away. I have talked with Stefan on the telephone and he is very impressive.