Sep 27

SOFIA, THE CAPITAL OF BULGARIA AND ITS HIDDEN TREASURES

Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria. Distinguished by its special combination of classic European and Communist style architecture Sofia is home to many ornate Orthodox churches and Soviet looking stone civic buildings. The city boasts vast manicured parks and with such closes proximity to mighty Mt. Vitosh for skiing or a hike, it is easy to enjoy a break from the busy city streets. Some of the best things to see and experience in Sophia are The Nevski Church, the most beautiful park in Sophia, Park Borisova Gradina and Manastirska Manernitsa restaurant to sample delicious Bulgarian cuisine.

Sofia is one of Europe’s most ancient capitals. Originally established by the Thracians, it was later an important city of the Roman Empire; Emperor Constantine famously referred to it as “My Rome”.

A large part of Sofia’s ancient heritage is still preserved. The most prominent example is the red-bricked Hagia Sophia (Sveta Sofia) Church from the 6th century which gave its name to the city itself. Make sure you visit the church’s underground crypt to see Roman frescoes and artifacts.

Saint George’s Rotunda is even older than the Hagia Sophia Church and bears the title of the oldest extant building in Sofia. Dating to the 4th century, its unusual cylindrical structure is now curiously nested in the courtyard of the Sheraton Hotel, Ministry of Education and Presidency edifices.

Many locals still don’t know that Sofia has a partially preserved Roman amphitheater. It’s not easy to find though – its ruins are now mainly inside the Arena di Serdica hotel. Ask at the reception and they will be glad to let you in to see the amphitheater for free. Being on the underground level of a hotel and knowing that gladiators fought on this very spot is a surreal feeling.

Some twelve kilometers southeast of the city center, the former village of Pancharevo is a favorite weekend retreat for the citizens of Sofia. Pancharevo owes its attraction to its scenic location between the Vitosha and Lozen mountains and particularly to the artificial Lake Pancharevo, a preferred place for sunbathing, swimming, fishing and watersports. Because Sofia is relatively far from the sea, locals jokingly call Lake Pancharevo the “Sea of Sofia”.

Take buses 1 or 3 from Tsarigradsko Shose metro station and you’ll be enjoying the beaches of Lake Pancharevo in no time. There’s a trail with a panoramic view of the lake for you to hike. And if you feel like seeing some medieval ruins, you can visit the fortress of Urvich at the neighboring village of Kokalyane.

 Now go back to the cosmopolitan city center and feel the vibe of Vitosha Boulevard, which is Sofia’s main shopping street. A pedestrianized thoroughfare, its main part runs from the Saint Nedelya Church to the grand National Palace of Culture. Vitosha Boulevard is lined with comfortable cafés to sit in and engage in some people watching. If you’re hungry, you can have lunch or dinner at an Irish pub, an Italian restaurant or a Chinese fast food place.

Not far from Vitosha Boulevard, along Graf Ignatiev Street, is Slaveykov Square, well known for its open-air book market. Browse the dozens of stalls selling all kinds of literature in a multitude of languages, from romantic novels to political and scientific volumes.

Photo source:

Picture 1: airlines-airports.com; Picture 2: blog.radissonblu.com; Picture 3: en.wikipedia.org; Picture 4: pixhd.com; Picture 5: holeinthedonut.com; Picture 6: drawhome.com
Sep 27

THREE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CITIES IN ROMANIA

Romania is a wonderful country with friendly people and great cuisine, where tourism has encountered a setback in the past quarter of a century, but it’s catching up and it is ready to have you as a host.

Let us see three of the most important sites that you must not miss while traveling to Romania.

Suceava

Once the capital of Moldovia (an ancient European principality), Suceava is an intriguing place that’s undergone recent regeneration. It lies quite a way off the usual backpacking trail in Europe (as does much of Romania, beyond Bucharest and the Dracula tours) but it’s worth the trek for the seven painted churches of Northern Moldovia located nearby. These unique and beautifully preserved monasteries are adorned with frescoes and are masterpieces of Byzantine art.

To really see the city in full swing, you should time your trip to coincide with the lively Moldavian Furrier Fair in mid-August or for Suceava Days, a giant street party held in late June. The area will be difficult to explore during the hard winters, but it’s hard to pass up the opportunity of a sleigh ride eh?!

There are only a few hostels in Suceava and they’re a little way out, but for a good time, check them – they are a lively place with bars and nightclubs of their own, and it’s a not very pricey 15 minutes bus ride away from the center.

Sibiu

Sibiu is a city in Transylvania, Romania that has a cultural magic all its own. It will have you instantly spellbound with its striking medieval charm, breathtaking views of surrounding landscapes and delicious food. Its historical center was built into two very pedestrian levels filled with most of Sibiu’s historical sites, colorful houses and cobble stone streets.

An artsy yet traditional vibe exists in the city that appealingly permeates the litany of cafes, festivals and exhibitions that thrive there. Some great things to experience in Sibiu are the Brukenthal Museum, and the Crama Sibiu Vechi restaurant, a great place to enjoy authentic Romanian fare and the view of the historical center from the top of the Council Tower.

Bucharest

We just could not leave the biggest and most important city aside! Bucharest, the capital of Romania is a dynamic modern city with a wildly sensational history. Nicknamed “little Paris” in the early 1900’s Bucharest really plays the part with hip cafes, impressive tree lined boulevards and dramatic modern and historic architecture. Home to many attractions, the most remarkable landmark in this vibrant city is the monstrous Parliament Palace. Being equally enormous and ostentatious, it is a mind-blowing architectural feat trumped only in size by the Pentagon.

Where there are many examples of Bucharest’s cultural and architectural splendor the highlights include the Romanian Athenaeum, an elaborately domed circular building that is the city’s main concert hall, Bucharest University and the National History Museum.

Photo source:

Picture 1: apartamentelavanzare.ro; Picture 2: mydracula.com; Picture 3: raredelights.com; Picture 4: рчц-дфо.рф; Picture 5: goista.com; Picture 6: en.wikipedia.org
Sep 27

TOP THREE CITIES TO BEGIN YOUR TOUR IN THE BALKANS WITH

Tourism in Eastern Europe is going through an era of development, which is great, because this region that has been long ignored it is not less important and has a lot of great things to offer to its visitors: from amazing architecture, to great food, fascinating history and a wonderful scenery. We shall begin our travel today with a top three of some of the most beautiful cities in the Balkans region, chosen randomly. And because there is a lot more to see, we promise to cover as many regions, countries and cities as possible.

Kotor in Montenegro

Montenegro is often sadly ignored by backpackers in Europe. But with such spectacular vistas in Europe’s deepest fjord, Kotor is not easily forgotten! The friendly people and cheap local wine, mean you really can’t go far wrong here so take a leap of faith and trust us on this one! The idyllic Bay of Kotor and its impressive ancient port town is Montenegro at its best. With its strong Venetian influences (the Republic conquered this area long ago) and unique river canyon from the Adriatic, it’s little wonder that Kotor has been named a cultural and natural World Heritage Centre. The summer carnival always proves to be a big draw, with thousands partying on the streets every year.

Zarad in Croatia

The city’s historic old town is the big draw with glowing white flagstones and the Riva – a picturesque waterfront promenade. In the evening, people gather at the promontory to watch the sunset – which Hitchcock famously claimed to be the most beautiful in the world. To add to the magic, Nikola Basic’s Sea Organ (click to listen!) provides a soundtrack to the setting of the sun. The art installation is operated by the tides which flow in and out of a series of tunnels underfoot to create an eclectic and poetic drone. You will catch people crouching with their ear to the ground in awe of the music.

Cocktails are best enjoyed at the Bedouin-style Garden Grow bar, opened by UB40 drummer James Brown. Once you’ve tasted the city’s heady nightlife, Zadar itself doesn’t need more than a few days. When you’ve had your fill, check out the popular Soundwave Festival or explore the northern Zadar archipelago for a spot of island hopping in Croatia to Pag, Ugljan or Dugi for idyllic beaches.

Belgrade in Serbia

his city is something of an up-and-coming destination, which today means you need to look beyond the city’s rather ugly housing blocks and cast your eyes to the heart of Belgrade – to the leafy squares and ancient churches – to see its true beauty. They are a reminder of this region’s diverse culture and religious history. There is, in fact, something of Paris’s Montmartre in Belgrade’s pretty Skadarska area too.

The real draw of Belgrade, however, is its hedonistic nightlife. During the summer, clubs open up along the Danube River on barges and some 3-storey boats. The city comes alive with the blast of techno rhythms and ravers waving glow sticks at open-air events, although most music tastes are catered for in some club or other, if that’s not your thing.

Photo source:

Picture 1: thetimes.co.uk; Picture 2: tripadvisor.com; Picture 3: zadar.hr; Picture 4: viator.com; Picture 5: resonate.io; Picture 6: bradtguides.com