Bulgaria & Romania

Bulgaria (Info about Sofia and Plovdiv) – Romania (Info about Bucharest, Constanta and Brasov)

vv 047Sofia, the bulgarian capital city has a unique combination of European, Communist-style architecture and many beautiful orthodox churches. It claims to be one of the few European capitals with a very close and developed ski-resort (Vitosha mountain). Sofia is one of the oldest cities in Europe with ruins spread across the city center. It was founded because of the quality of its mineral waters. In the city alone there are 7 independent mineral water springs. One of the springs is in the central area of the city and is accessible for everybody, nearby the intersection of Iskar and Ekzarh Yosif streets

Budget Tips

There are only 2 companies that are allowed to service at the airport :”OK Taxi and “91280”. The fare to the city center should be about 10-12 leva. To avoid scam follow this ‘instruction’: ‘When you exit the customs/declarations door, turn to your right. You will see an office for OK Taxis in front of you. They speak English so the best thing is to give the person your destination. They will check it and then print out a slip with your taxi number on it. This saves having to explain to the taxi driver!’

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Enjoy the free walking tour! Starting point – the corner of the Palace of Justice. You will be driven through 6000 years of history

Where to sleep? Hostel Mostel is my favorite option, friendly staff, international environment, nice and tidy rooms, breakfast and dinner included in the price, good location

Nightlife and fun? Defenetly you should visit the university district in the evening, Students’ town (Studentski grad) is in the southern part of the city and can be reached by buses #94 (from Sofia university and Culture palace), #280 (from Sofia University, Orlov most) and #102. The last bus to Studentski grad departs from the city center at about 11.30 PM (from Sofia University and Culture Palace). If you want to stay in the city, check the National theater garden, this is where many young locals gather in the evening.

foodEat on budget? You can get tasty traditional Bulgarian food in bakeries, offering banitsa and other kinds of pastry. This food is often consumed with ayran or boza, drinks that contain yogurt. Another possibility is to get a katma, which is a big pancake filled with cheese, ham, jelly or chocolate. Salads are also wonderful and rich of ingredients. Join the Balkan Bites Food Tours, a free food taste tour in tree restaurants. The tour is 100% vegetarian!

What to visit? Ivan Vazov National Theatre; St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral; Orthodox churches; down town. You can visit the city and do things like a local would do, thanks to this project.

Fancy football? If you are lucky to be in town when Levsky Sofia and CSKA Sofia are playing the city derby is a chance to not miss for the warm atmosphere at the stadium

Festivals and Events

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Sofia Film Festival (March); Sofia Design Week (in June) A to JazZ Festival open air festival held annually in Doktorska garden, 6 Shipka Str. It is open air and free (at the end of June)Water Tower Art Fest – festival for contemporary arts and culture in Bulgaria (in June); International Folklore Festival – local and foreign dance folklore ensembles (in July); ON! Fest is gathering the most interesting from the modern urban art, entertainment, sport and lifestyle: music, dances, graffiti, parkour, technology, games, japanese culture, urban and extreme sports and parites (in September); Da Fest – an international digital art festival, organized by the National Academy of Art, Sofia including exhibition, performances, film screenings, workshops, and lectures. (in September); Sofia Dance Week – international festival for contemporary dance. The program consists of performances from Europe, Asia and America representative for different trends in the contemporary dance scene. The parallel program consists of workshops, ateliers, open air events, lectures, projections and discussions, as well as a special kids module with performances and workshops. (in October); Sofia Contemporary – Sofia Contemporary presents diverse artistic means, traditional and new media, urban and interior spaces for and with art. The festival discusses various attitudes to the problems of our time, territory, gender, social and political frustrations as well as affiliations. Challenges Days – three day festival dedicated to the extreme sports and adventures.It is organized by a large community of mountaineering, speleology, biking sport clubs and outdoor shops and travel professionals and photographers. (in November); Sofia Architecture Week – international festival for architecture, a week-long meeting and idea exchange platform for architecture, interior design, landscape and urban environment. Many exhibition open to the general public and with free entrance, presentations, workshops, screenings and urban interventions. Every year Sofia Architecture Week focuses on a specific topic. (last week of November and beginning of December)

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plovdivromantheatrePlovdiv is the second-largest city in Bulgaria, and one of the oldest cities in Europe, with a history traced back to more than 8000 years. It was formerly known as Philipopolis, from Philip, father of Alexander the Great. Originally it had seven tall hills. Plovdiv is located in the large plain between the Rhodope Mountains in the south of Bulgaria and the Balkan Range, or Old Mountains (Stara Planina) that runs through the center of Bulgaria. Both ranges are visible on clear days. The Maritsa River flows through the city.

Stay at Hostel Mostel, a tipical balkan house with friendly staff and good location. Breakfast and dinner are included in the price

Eat on budget? You can get tasty traditional Bulgarian food in bakeries, offering banitsa and other kinds of pastry. However local restaurants offer very good quality food at good value. Try bulgarian cheese, meat and vegetables.

oldplovdiv3Take a free walking tour to discover this nice city.

The old Plovdiv is compact and walkable, it was walled, and has a famous gateway entrance. Nearby Puldin Restaurant has subterranean rooms where the old wall and historic artifacts can be seen. 

 

The nearby Roman Amphitheater, discovered in the 1970’s during a construction project, is part of the pedestrian zone. Wander the cobblestone streets near the downtown to find the centuries old St. Marina church with a unique wooden tower, a mosque from the Ottoman Empire, and on the nearby hill the old town center

In the new center of the city, right before you go up into the old city, you will see the “Roman stadium”.

 

There is a good collection of Bulgarian revival buildings in use as museums, hotels, and restaurants etc. and is worth a visit if you have chance (pictures below).

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2013-04-21 12.22.02In summer take a sunny break and have fun, Varna is the biggest city on the Black sea coast, is an business and university centre. Best way to discover the city is to join the Free Varna Tour, every day at 11 in front of the Cathedral. Nearby Varna:

-Golden Sands Resort is 17 km north from downtown Varna.
-Sveti Konstantin and Helena is 10 km north from downtown Varna – it is a small, but peaceful and very green resort. Many nice hotels offer mineral water SPA services, due to the abundance of hot mineral springs all over the area.
-Albena, 30 km north from Varna. An old style resort, with an architecture from the Communist times. Peaceful area though.
– Pasha Dere, Shkorpilovtsi, Karadere, Irakli…wild beaches south of town
– Kavarna (Каварна) is 60 km away north. It holds the Kavarna Rock Fest in early July, the largest rock event in the Balkans and Black Sea region.
– Cape Kaliakra, the longest cape in Bulgaria. Stunning views to the sea and the red cliffs. A place with rich history and many legends. Worth visiting. 80 km away, north.
– Kamen Bryag (Камен бряг, literally: Rocky Coast) village has been popular among Bulgarian hippies; 82 km away (north)

Sozopol and Nesebar are beautiful and well organized seaside towns

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sunset

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2013-06-03 12.35.47 Bucharest (Bucuresti in romanian) is the capital city of Romania. 

Known in the past as “The Little Paris,” for its large ‘boulevard’ and huge buildings, it has changed a lot lately, becoming an interesting mix of old and new, orthodox old church, modern building and Communist-era apartment blocks might be found next to eachothers.

Bucharest is also a young and lively city, trendy and with an active and sparkling nightlife.

One of its symbol is the parliament palace, the world’s second largest building (after the US Pentagon), it was built in 1984 by Nicolae Ceauşescu and it was formerly named “Casa Poporului” (People’s House).

 

2013-06-07 12.55.31Best way to visit the city is by renting a bicycle (there are several spots, around 1€/hour) and by by the free walking tour, exploring the fascinating mixed architecture and hidden attractions while the guides fill you in with the tips and tricks of living and enjoying in Bucharest.

Bucharest is linked through direct daily trains to most neighboring countries’ capitals ( Budapest, Chişinău, Kiev, Sofia), as well as to Vienna, Venice, Thessaloniki, Istanbul, Moscow and of course to main cities in all of Romania’s 41 counties.

Buses are a good option to get to Bucharest if coming from Moldova, Turkey, Greece and to some extent Bulgaria, given the low frequency and speeds of trains between these countries and Romania. The city has several bus terminals: Băneasa (located in the northern part of town), Obor (east), Filaret (south), Rahova (south-west), Militari (west), Griviţa (north-west) as well as many other smaller stations.

Bucharest has one of the most extensive systems of public transport in Europe. The metro, which has four lines (M1, M2, M3, M4) and covers the city quite extensively, is usually a cheap (4 lei for 2 trips, 15 lei for 10 trips and 60 lei for a monthly pass) and easy way to get around

 

2013-06-07 12.44.49 Bucharest has large boulevards with big trees and several city parks help having a break from the busy capital life and pollution.

The nicest parks are Cişmigiu Garden (a lovely small park located in the very centre of Bucharest – it’s the oldest in the city with boat rental in summer, ice skating in winter time, a reasonable restaurant and several bars) and Herăstrău Park (the largest of several parks around man-made lakes on the Colentina River running through the city’s north and east side, with the Village Museum, an open-air theater, various sports grounds, something like an amusement park and numerous restaurants and clubs – Has boat rental and boat-trips in summer).

 

2013-06-03 15.49.50 The best hostel in the city is ‘doors hostel’, in a nice old house and friendly atmosphere, kind staff, a pleasent garden open as tea room with young local clients. Beer for hostel guest is 1€. Good location, near to Unirii sq.

Local cheap and tasty snacks and fast food can be found all around the city, in bakeries, try the local salty pasties with cheese and vegetables.

 

 

 

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Constanta is the second most important city in the country and, during summer, a beautiful touristic city.

Constanta was founded by the Greeks as a colony almost 2600 years ago, is the oldest attested city in Romania, the biggest port at the Black Sea (third largest in Europe). The city was renamed later after Constantina, niece of Constantine the Great.

One of its symbol is the old Casino, built in the Art Nouveau style and conceived by two architects, Petre Antonescu and Daniel Renard (of Swiss extraction but born in Romania). Despite being in a state of disrepair nowadays, it can be visited for free.

 

2013-06-08 15.48.35 During the good season the best thing to do is to sunbath or swim in the Black Sea and walk along the coast.

There is a large beach called Modern right in the middle of the city, which is favored by locals and is near the marina, however the most significant beaches are in the Mamaia resort which is in the north part of Constanta. It consists of about 6-7 kilometers of sandy beaches.

It’s also full of hotels, clubs and bars and extremely popular and fashionable in the summer.

Not far from Constanta there is a small village called Vama Veche, close to the Bulgarian border is a former hippie/bohemian beach village turned into a commercial venture over the years but still one of the few places on the Romanian coast where camping is still hip (although in recent years there have been agents patrolling the beaches asking for a 10 lei fee from people they find at the tent).

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2013-06-01 15.57.56 Brasov is a nice city located almost in the centre of Romania, in the region known as Transylvania, surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains. You can see the Old Town, the Black Church, Strada Sforii (Rope Street) one of the narrowest street in Europe and more.  Brasov is a good destination for nature and trekking lovers.

Around Brasov you can visit:

-Rasnov town and fortress, an old Saxon town, also home to an interesting citadel. There are good bus and train connections.
-Poiana Brasov, the most popular Romanian ski resort.
Bran Castle, also called Dracula’s Castle (entrance fee is around 25 lei – €5.5), at 20 km near Brasov. The best ways to get there are by bus. The bus for Bran leaves from the Autogara 2 (Bus terminal 2) about every half hour for the whole day. You have to buy the ticket on board and it costs 7 RON each way. You can arrive to the Autogara 2 from the centre if you take the bus number 12 from Livada Poştei or the Teatrul Dramatic stations (departs every half hour). 
-Villages Prejmer and Viscri with fortified churches, UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Sighisoara, medieval fortified city listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, 117 km away from Brașov, can be reached by train
-Sibiu, European Capital of Culture 2007, a medieval city with excellent views of the surrounding landscapes

 

 

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