Note from Guidora Team: This is a blogpost by passionate traveler, Ms Cynthia Chan.
Cynthia Chan: My Brief Bio : I am a young dentist who loves to travel solo and meet incredible people along my journey. I write on Quora occasionally as Cynth Chan to share my experiences, stories, views and opinions. One of my dreams is to make enough money and move to a place with the aurora borealis and live in a hut with my pets.
Feel free to check out my profile at https://www.quora.com/profile/Cynth-Chan
A Summer Vacation at Bulgaria
During the summer of 2015, I decided to travel to three countries for a span of 2 months as a female solo traveler. One of the countries I picked was Bulgaria. You might be wondering of all places, why Bulgaria? WHY!?!?! Well, the main reason for including Bulgaria as one of the three countries was to meet a German friend of mine who worked as a volunteer in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Alright, to be honest (and please excuse me for my ignorance), the only thing I knew before my trip to Bulgaria was… it’s one of the countries in Eastern Europe and one of its neighboring countries is Turkey. So what else? (brb, time to google)
Alright, a brief introduction to Bulgaria. Bulgaria is a country in southeastern Europe. It is Europe’s 16th largest country as of now, bordering on the north with Romania, FYROM-Macedonia and Serbia on the west, Turkey and Greece on the South and the Black Sea on the East.
Some of the memorable things I did during my 10 days trip in Bulgaria were:
The Sofia Free Walking Tour
YES, you see it right, it’s a free walking tour which means you don’t have to pay for the tour. I was told about it and had read about it on Trip Advisor before my arrival. I was a little skeptical about it but the tour group has really good ratings on Trip Advisor and it was highly recommended by most participants and also my German friend in Bulgaria.
The great things about the tour are :
- Of course, it’s free of charge.
- It’s conducted in English.
- Available twice a day (at 11am and 6pm) everyday despite the weather and no reservation required. All you need to do is just show up at the Palace of Justice on time.
- The tour guide was extremely friendly and helpful. He brought us to many main sight-seeing sites in Sofia.
The group photo of me and my tour mates.
Tips for the Sofia Free Walking Tour
- Wear decent shoes because you are expected to walk for 2hours under the sun.
- Sunscreen, sunglasses and a cap might be useful.
- You can always tip the tour guide after the tour if you find him or her has done a great job.
For more information about the tour, visit http://www.freesofiatour.com/
Sofia Free Food Tour – Balkan Bites.
Don’t believe in free lunches? Come to Bulgaria.
I joined the Sofia Free Walking Tour and Balkan Bites on the same day. The walking tour ended around 1pm and I made it just on time for the Balkan Bites tour which began at 2pm.
What to expect for the Balkan Bites free eating tour:
- Free food? Yes.
- We were brought to 4 different places for food tasting, it gives everyone a glimpse into the Bulgaria cuisine and traditional food serve in Bulgaria.
- We were brought to ：
– Supa Star (a soup bar ) to try Tarator, a type of cold soup or appetizer, popular on summer, mainly made of yogurt, cucumbers, ground walnuts, garlics and herbs.
– Sun Moon Bakery to try some homemade breads.
– A traditional restaurant called Hadjidraganovite Izbi, it’s actually a cellar decorated with hand-made wooden relief. The atmosphere of the restaurant is extremely relaxing and will make you feel like you have travelled back to an ancient Bulgarian setting.
– Farmer’s BG, a Bulgarian chain that produces handmade sandwiches, soups and juices.
Tips for the Balkan Bites tour
- Meeting point is at Park Crystal, the place with a big head statue of Stefan Stambolov.
- Again, wear good shoes, you are expected to walk from one restaurant to the next one. The tour will again take another 2hours.
- Only 15 members a day, so be sure to get there on time or earlier to earn yourself a seat. First come first serve basis.
For more information, visit http://www.balkanbites.bg/
Visiting the Buzludzha Monument, also known as the Bulgaria’s UFO, one of the must-visit top abandoned sites in the world.
Buzludzha, is a historical peak in the Central Balkan Mountains and is 1441 metres (4728 ft) high. It was the communist party headquater and after the fall of the government, the site was left abandoned and heavily vandalized. It is also sad to see that the current government has no interest in the maintenance of the monument and just leave like it is.
Photos: The saucer-shaped like monument
Photo: Posing in the dome of Buzludzha
Tips for visiting Buzludzha :
- I carpooled with 4 other friends whom I met a day before during the Sofia Free Walking Tour. We booked a car from the Sofia Airport and the journey took about 2.5 hours (with an interval to buy some food ) from the Shipka Pass.
- If you have motion sickness, have your pills ready because you might feel nauseous during the way up to the monument. The funny ( or let’s call it scary) part of the journey was we were driven by a friend who just got his driving license and he was the only person with an European driving license and we were left with no choice!
- Again, please wear decent shoes because to enter the monument, you have to climb through a small window, the entrance was locked.
- Flashlights or headlamps would be useful. It was really dark inside when I climbed the tower.
- Prepare some food or snacks and water. There are no stores nearby to purchase them.
For all sci-fi fans, the Buzludzha monument also resembles an UFO disc with its saucer shaped design. It is remarkably picturesque from the outside (well, in the dome too, of course ).
Experience the Chalga culture.
Chalga is a Bulgarian music genre, commonly referred to as pop-folk (popular folk). I was invited by a couple friends to join them in a Chalga Club. It was more or less a disco with Chalga pop-folk, the music was catchy and with the easy-to-dance beats. Some famous singers performed on the stage with girls dancing together. It was a fun and pleasurable experience nevertheless.
- Visiting the Plovdiv Roman Theatre
Plovdiv is the second largest city of Bulgaria. I spent 2 days in Plovdiv and one of the highlights of my trip in Plovdiv was visiting the Plovdiv Roman theatre, also one of the best preserved ancient theatres, constructed during Roman Emperor Trajan, which can accommodate about 6000-7000 audiences. It is now used to hold concerts and special events.
Here’s also something you should not forget to try before you leave Bulgaria.
- Tarator – A soup or appetizer commonly serve in Bulgarian cuisine. Usually consist of yogurt, cucumbers, walnuts, garlics and herbs. It is truly refreshing, especially on a hot summer day.
- Banitsa – A traditional Bulgarian pastry, usually serve for breakfast with fillings such as eggs, cheese, spinach, spices, rice, cabbage and spices.
- Lutenitsa – A kind of sauce or puree enjoyed by all the Bulgarians, easily prepared with eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, carrots. It is usually used as a spread on bread, toast or crackers.
- Shopska salad – A common salad serve in most restaurants, consists of chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, peppers and grated sirene cheese.