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Time flies when you're enjoying Bulgaria!

As I prepare to leave Bulgaria in the morning, I just wanted to check in with you on this forum, many who have encouraged and advised me in my planning of this trip. No time now for many details, but I must say that I began, like most Americans I suppose, with almost no knowledge about Bulgaria and what to expect. I leave really loving the country, its incredibly deep and diverse history; its beautiful mountains, forests, countryside and coastline; its wonderful and again diverse architecture and other art forms; often its cuisine; and most of all its very, very friendly people. I must say I really loved Sofia, a busy but very mellow city, and the Crystal Palace Hotel is superb, with huge and highly comfortable rooms, a great breakfast buffet, and terrific location. The 11-night Rick Steves Best of Bulgaria Tour has been beyond excellent, and Stefan an incredibly knowledgeable, passionate and caring guide, a perfect person to introduce his country, its culture, and its principal faith. The tour's various stops were all interesting and compelling and were very different. I especially appreciated the various visits and lengthy discussions Stefan scheduled for us with people who rarely interact with foreign visitors, and vice versa, including leaders and educators in the Roma and Muslim communities, political thinkers and local leaders, a winemaker, along with various artisans. This really added to the visit and the learning. I also spent an initial five days based in Sofia on my own, with no trouble getting around various towns by public buses and trains, although some times slowly. In addition to Sofia, I enjoyed Koprivshtitsa, and had a wonderful visit to Bachkovo Monastery, accompanied for three hours by its museum director, a special opportunity to explore the monastery, meet several of the monks, and photograph everywhere, including places usually off-limits for photography. I also took the Septemvri to Bansko narrow-gauge railway trip, and must say I was disappointed with that. The scenery was very nice but neither spectacular nor unique, and while I saw various small cities and big towns, I never saw anything approaching what I would call a village, or any rustic rural folk. All in all that was a very long day spent on trains, then buses, and the experience packed no bang for the investment of time. Well, I better get back to packing for my short flight on to Istanbul in the morning.

Posted by
6746 posts

Sounds like a fantastic trip! Wait till you land in Istanbul - that will be a jarring experience after a mellow time in Bulgaria. If you do nothing else, take a ferry on the Bosphorus or the Golden Horn (a local ferry is fine) and spend at least a half day at Topkapi Palace. And of course take in all the sensory overload you can handle. You will not be disappointed.

Posted by
865 posts

So glad you enjoyed the tour, Larry. Isn't Stefan the best?!