Spring in Bulgaria 2013
Trip Recap May 25th – June 1st, 2013
Lonely Planet ranked this country as number 10 of top destinations to visit
in 2011. I didn’t know that before deciding to visit to see if it would be a
possible tour idea…I am glad I did! A country full of history, mystery and
warm people, add to that delicious food, fascinating architecture and lovely
green spaces and you have the recipe for a delightful time.
I did wonder whether I would get there though….
I arrived at LHR the morning of the 24th, this was the day after my
Paris/Chelsea tour ended, dropped off my big bag at Hilton Terminal 4 Hotel
(where I would overnight on the way back) had the taxi take me to Terminal
1, checked in at the Lufthansa desk, went through security and headed to the
lounge. I no sooner handed her my boarding card to check when she told me
that my flight was just cancelled. No reason given and I had to go to the
Lufthansa desk to get another flight booked. Easier said than done as I had
to go to an area miles away it seemed, go through immigration as if I had
just arrived and then find check in…wow, when I found it, it was packed with
people….hundreds it seemed in economy lines and just a bit less in
business….so glad I was in this line as I booked using my miles. After a
wait of almost three hours I got to the counter to find out that one of the
BA flights had engine problems and landed on our take off lane, thus
blocking it for over 200 flights that had to be canceled! Lufthansa could
not get me out that day so I had to overnight. To their credit they were
magnificent under this pressure. Room, lunch, dinner and cars to hotel and
back again were arranged for me so that I could take a non stop flight with
BA the next morning.
So, I got to stay in another hotel that night, had a lovely lunch and
dinner, and relax until my car got me the next morning at 6 a.m. The Novotel
London West was a really nice place to stay – see my review on TripAdvisor.
May 25th, up early to head to the airport Terminal 5 for my BA flight and
this time check in was done, through security and to the lounge. Not too
much was open at that time of the morning but I was surprised that the
lounge was. Big open space with lots of food and drink, papers to read,
internet…it had it all. Arrived into Sofia around 1 p.m. out to arrivals and
Ivelin, my ground handler and Elka my guide were there to greet me. Ivelin
had bought me flowers even…since I had missed a day I had some catchup to do
First stop was the Royal Botanic Garden of the Bulgarian Academy of
Sciences. It was started by King Ferdinand in 1882. The ‘gardens’ are really
just the glass houses, but they have about 6 small houses chock and block
full of wonderful plants, all healthy and happy and named. There were a few
that I did not recognize so was happy to wander around here for a bit. An
excellent place to visit – they exchange with other botanic gardens and have
amassed quite a wonderful collection from tropical through to succulents.
Next stop was to the Boyana Church….built in the 10th century for a wealthy
family. Inside (no photos allowed) you will find some of the most beautiful
art representing medieval Eastern Europe. It was probably saved because it
was hidden away on a grand estate. There is a painting in there done in 1259
– they believe it was done by Vasily but because it was not a good thing for
the painter to sign his works then – it was really the hand of God who
painted this, not the painter…Usually these works had one master, an
assistant and a couple of apprentices. This church is under UNESCO
protection. It was amazing to see just how perfect these frescoes were, like
they were just painted, so clear and crisp. Built in three stages, 11th,
13th and 19th centuries and each having its own layer of frescoes….imagine!
Then on to the National History Museum which was really quite remarkable.
This was once the home of the Bulgarian Communist President in the 60’s and
was huge. Inside it was filled with ancient treasures including a clay mask
with pieces of 23 karat gold on it – dating back 5,000 years! They say this
is the oldest gold in the world. The jewelry was astonishing including the
way it was found…a jeweler was traveling through the area and stopped to get
something to eat, where he found a woman there wearing this most magnificent
necklace – it turned out to be over 3,000 years old. (photo) Another time
farmers were out in the field feeding their pigs and found some of them
licking at something. They picked it up, cleaned it off and discovered that
it was gold. In all there was over 12.5 kgs of gold from the 15th century
that the pigs were using as a salt lick!
You just have to imagine that with all the history of this country that
there would be so much buried under the soil..it is just a matter of time
before it is discovered.
In the evening as we walked from our hotel to dinner we passed a car with
this lovely bouquet on it…we discovered that the couple were having their
wedding dinner at the same place we were eating…and what a perfect place to
enjoy it. As you can see by the food – it was delicious and just look at the
ambiance of the place!