dinsdag 6 november 2012

Bulgaria



Five centuries subjugated to Ottoman rule and, more recently, four decades locked very firmly behind the Iron Curtain turned Bulgaria into a distant, enigmatic country in the eyes of much of the rest of the world. Images of cheap wine downed at student house parties, budget ski holidays and umbrella-wielding Cold War assassins were once among the popular stereotypes, but Bulgaria today is a vastly different country from what it was even 10 years ago.

For most foreign holidaymakers, Bulgaria’s main lure is its long, sandy Black Sea Coast – which still boasts swaths of stunning beaches and picturesque bays despite the expansive construction work – but there is so much more to this country, and so much of it remains largely untouched and unvisited by overseas tourists. Networks of well-maintained hiking trails and horse-riding routes allow you to discover Bulgaria’s lush mountainous and forested landscapes, especially around the Rila and Pirin Mountains, inhabited by bears, lynx, rare birds and other kinds of wildlife now becoming scarce elsewhere in Europe. Getting around the country is easy, with cheap and efficient public transport to ferry you between the cities and into the remoter, rural corners, where the traditional, slow pace of life continues much as it has done for centuries. Here you’ll come across multicoloured monasteries, filled with fabulous icons and watched over by bushy-bearded priests, and impossibly pretty timber-framed villages with smoke curling lazily over the stone-tiled roofs and donkeys complaining in the distance, where headscarfed old ladies and their curious grandchildren still stare in wonderment at the arrival of outsiders. The cities, too, are often overlooked highlights, from dynamic, cosmopolitan Sofia with its lovely parks, sociable alfresco bars and fascinating museums, to the National Revival architectural treasures and Roman remains of Plovdiv, and the youthful maritime cockiness of Varna. [source: lonelyplanet]


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