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Spring in the Park-Museum Vrana palace

Reading time: 4 minutes

What is the best way to explore a destination? Of course to see the both – the nature and the history.

It was one of the first sunny and warm spring days when we decided to go there. Vrana Palace is a marvelous combination of history and nature. Though the days of Bulgarian kingdom are gone it is now open for visitors. Back to the 20th century it used to be the main private residence of the royal family of Bulgaria. It was build between 1890 and 1940 by Kind Ferdinand. The complex consists of several buildings and large botanical garden.

It is located just in 11 km from the center of the city.

Sequoias

Amazing sequoias

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Belogradchik and Magura Cave

Reading time: 5 minutes

Due to its remoteness and somewhat not-so-good-reputation the northwestern part of Bulgaria usually wasn’t included into my plans for travelling. This time, however, I have more than 2 days off and the weather forecasts wasn’t appropriate for mountains so I decided to go to explore that yet not so well known part of Bulgaria. We decided to head to the north and to make the itinerary on the way. Eventually with almost no plan we packed our luggage and headed towards a few days adventure.

Belogradchik – the city of the bizzare rocks

The first point of our route was Belogradchik. Belogradchik is a small town, known for its weird rock formations – the Belogradchik Rocks. The city is located on the eastern edge of the Balkan mountains. One of the main attractions of the city is the Belogradchik fortress, built by the Romans in the rocks. The fortress is located just in few minutes walking from the center of the city and provides amazing panorama over the rocks.

Belogradchik town itself is small and picturesque town with a population of about 5000 people. If you missed the fortress then don’t worry – the mountain landscape and bizarre shapes are visible from different points of the city.  Some of those unusual rock formations have their own names like “ the teacher” and The Ape.

Apart from the rocks Belogradchik also offers variety of options for ecotourism, such as visiting caves (Veneta and Magura Cave), recreation near the Rabisha Lake and several cycling routes.

Accommodation in Belogradchik

Usually before going somewhere I would check on airbnb for accomodation. This time the options were limited – only two to be exact. Arriving there we found out that there are many guest houses, but none of them have listings on accomodation websites. I guess that out of the busy season (July and August) it won’t be hard to find a place for overnight even on spot.

Belogradchik Fortress

Belogradchik Fortress is one of the places that attracted tourists in the area. Two of the walls are artifically built from stones and the other two are just natural rocks. There is a small entrance fee if you want to go inside the fortress.

As we arrived late, we decided to try only the path that passed close to the observatory and see the view from there. And it was amaizing.

Astronomical Observatory of Belogradchik

The Astronomical Observatory in Belogradchik is in close proximity (about 100m) from the Belogradchik fortress.

The Observatory has three telescopes which can be used by visitors during their visits. During the day you can go there to see the equipment. The observatory also provides nights visits (after dusk) when you can use the equipment to observe the Moon, Saturn’s ring, Jupiter’s satelites, Venus and stars. There is also one famous event once per year – the Annual international astronomy school. All night visits should be requested in advance (3-7 days) in order to provide an astronomer on spot. Here is the official FB page of the Observatory of Belogradchik.

Magura Cave

Our airbnb hostess was so kind and gave us many recommendations what to do in the area. We marked several places but due to the lack of time next day we had to choose only few.

Venetsa cave was one of the options we don’t have time for. It has a coral-like sea bottom and bizzare shaes and is also very well maintained. I’ve heard many positive reviews about it, so don’t doubting if you have the chance. Price per person: 8 bgn

Instead of Venetsa we went to Magura Cave. It is located 17 km from Belogradchik and is famous for its prehistoric paintings.

You will need at least 3 hours for that cave together with the travelling from Belogradchik. The cave is long (around 2 km) an the tour guide won’t miss any detail from the history. So be prepared for long history walk through the centuries. The cost per person is 10 bgn.

Cave

The entrance of the cave

The cave has 3 separate halls, some of them full of drawings from the Neolithic to the Roman era, while in another one is located 3 large outbreaks that were used by the ancient people. Most of the paintings are showing scenes of fertility, hunting and the relationship between its ancient inhabitants. They are supposed to be made with stools from bats, which are living in the cave even nowadays.

paintings

Anchient paintings

Interesting part of the walk is also the interpretation of the tour guide. He is a quite detailed and good storyteller. You will understand what I’m talking about if you meet him, but I’m doubting he is speaking English unfortunatelly..

Likewise the other caves, this one also has many rock formations, such as stalagmites, stalactites and stalagmites, but the drawings that can carry you millions of years back are the ‘super star’ of that cave.

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Thermal water close to Sofia

Reading time: 4 minutes

It is said that most of the cities in Bulgaria back in the first millennium BC had arisen close to the thermal water. It is believed that the Tracian tribes settled around and formed the first villages attracted by the rich with mineral water land.

Bulgaria has more than 500 hot springs and all around Sofia there are mineral water and spa’s. Even in the city close to the regional museum of Sofia you will see a big square with many locals charging their bottles with mineral water free of charge. The water is hot and it is famous with its mineral composition and abilities to heal several diases.

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Weird things you may encounter in Bulgaria

Reading time: 2 minutes

The good thing about Bulgaria is that the more you explore the more surprised you are. I can assure that Bulgaria is much more interesting place than you probably expect. There are many strange things that may shock the visitor at first time, but don’t worry the locals are used to live with them and everything is just fine. Even for me sometimes is funny to explore the next quirk of Bulgarian genius mind.

Nodding for no and shaking heads for yes in Bulgaria

Yes. It even happens to me – to wonder whether someone is saying NO or YES. It even can be more confusing when someone is trying to use the international way of dis(agreeing). Be sure that you have understand what have been told to you by using a gestures or double check. It’s funny.

Stray dogs hanging around

The stray dogs in Bulgaria are something like a no man’s pets on the street. They used to collaborate with people and most of the time they just want to play or beg for food. Don’t afraid of them – they are not dangerous. Most people are feeding them and all they need is love.

Huge beer and drinking beer just on the go

Good surprise for beer lovers – Bulgaria is one of the little places in Europe (to be honest I can’t recall another one apart from Russia) where you can buy a big plastic bottle of beer. There is also a kind of city culture to drink beer outside in the parks when the weather allows. You may also see some young guys walking around and drinking beer – it is popular.

Signs translated directly from Cyrilic to latin

Well this is not understandable even for me. I cannot describe it apart from poor language knowledge of the government bodies. Sometimes you will meet some strange signs like these below that you probably won’t understand anything. The way to find the directions is to use offline google maps. Be sure that you have downloaded it when travel to Bulgaria. Asking some young people on the street is also an options, as most of them speak Emglish.

Meandering bicycle lines

This is another ‘miracle’ invented by some “excellent” Bulgarian “architect”. You can see them quite often in the big cities. In general, there is a bicycle culture or at least the citizens are trying to introduce some, but most of the elder people just can get it. You can also ride your bicycle on the sidewalk where there isn’t bicycle lines. Just watch out for pedestrians and parked cars.

Car horns in the cities

Bulgarian are used to use their cars even when going to the shop. According to some statistics in Sofia there are 3 cars per capita. This of course is the reason of many traffic jams in the big cities. Usually the drivers are in a rush (as well as pedestrians) and you will hear a “horning” all around.

“Klek” shops

Klek shops are shops situated underground. You will see many of those in Sofia. Most of them are selling almost everything you may need while you walking through the city – water, café, some snacks and sometimes even sandwiches.