Have Your Explored Bulgaria Yet?

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The Eastern European country of Bulgaria has a great deal to offer curious travelers; from dynamic capital city Sofia, pristine beaches offering a plethora of watersports and superb ski resort facilities in the mountains. Find out why Bulgaria has it all!

Discover the lively and dynamic city of Sofia

Sofia is one of the densest cities in Europe and the biggest city in Bulgaria. It is also Bulgaria’s most compact city and its key attractions are just within the city premises. This city is often bypassed by travelers, especially those who are heading to the coastal areas of Europe and some ski resorts.

The city of Sofia is one of Europe’s rising cosmopolitan cities, challenging the rest of European capitals. From the earliest times, thermal springs are the main attractions of Sofia. These are used today as a water source. The city became an important administrative center during Roman times as it has been a strategic location on trade and military routes. Sofia was the city where the old east meets the west; it is a place where the remains of the onion-like churches can be found. The city was then the battle field of Ottoman mosques and the Red Army of Soviet.

These days, Sofia has glitzy five star hotels and shopping malls, including their best clubs and bars that this city can offer to the tourists. Sofia is the only city in Europe without grand metropolis centers. Nevertheless, there are many cultures and attractions within the city. There are art galleries, Museums, fine restaurants, and theaters. Sofia is surprisingly one of the green cities in Europe, with parklands along the boundaries of the city.

Ski slopes are also present for tourists who love hiking. The city has developed so quickly over the years with the affluence brought by the international boutiques, hotels upmarket, and casinos. Locals hope that their city will soon be one of Europe’s largest and newest capitals. Sofia has Hram-pametnik Aleksander Nevski or the St Alexander Memorial Church as the most visited and photographed monument tourists. Alexander Nevski is Sofia’s neo-Byzantine cathedral topped with gold and copper domes and was constructed from 1882 to 1912. It is considered as the center of the city. The church was dedicated in honor of (Soviet) Russian soldiers, who died in liberating Bulgaria from the colony of the Ottoman in 1878. It was named after Alexander Yaroslavich Nevski, who led a group of soldiers and saved Russia from the troops coming from Sweden in 1240. Alexander was glorified (canonized) in 1547 by the Russian Orthodox Church and became the patron of the tsar family. In this cathedral, tourists can find in the center of its altar the prayer of canonization and dedication to Alexander Nevski. It has artistic murals made by 13 Bulgarians and 32 Russian artists in honour of Alexander. Sofia had placed the Icon (relic of the saint) in the crypt of the Museum, on the left side the Cathedral’s main entrance. There are about 300 other icons and frescoes placed in this crypt coming from the monasteries of Sofia.

Get off the beaten track in Varna

Varna is the biggest city and the seaside resort in Northern Bulgaria and in the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast. It is the third largest in the country. According to a recent theory, the city’s name originated from the Hindu god of water, Varuna. Geographically, the city is situated 292 miles north-east of Sofia. It covers a total area of 238 square kilometers or 91.9 square miles and is elevated at about 262 feet or 80 meters above sea level.

From the beginning, the city has been surrounded with a number of orchards, vineyards and forests. Today, it has improved well and has become one of the well-developed cities in the country. The major cities near Varna include Burgas (which is 125 kilometres to the south-west), Shumen (80 kilometres to the west), and Dobrich (45 kilometres to the north). The city has two bus terminals, with travels going to many Bulgarian and international cities. Train ferry and ro-ro services to Odessa, Ukraine, Port Kavkaz, Russia, Poti, and Batumi, Georgia, are also available. The city of Varna is commonly referred to as the summer capital of Bulgaria. It is Bulgaria’s primary university and business centre, seaport, and tourist destination. In addition, this city is also the home of the Bulgarian Navy, merchant marine, and the country’s North-Eastern planning region (NUTS II).

In April 2008, the city was assigned by the Council of Europe to be the seat of the Black Sea Euro-Region, which is a newly established organisation. History claims that Varna is one of the oldest cities in Europe. Evidences show that in 1200 BC, Thracians, an ancient group of Indo-European tribes, inhabited the place. The name Varna was first mentioned by Theophanes the Confessor with the Slavic conquest of the Balkans during the 6th to 7th century. However, some historians asserted that the name was much older that what Theophanes the Confessor thought.

One of the most significant events that took place in the city is the Battle of Varna on 10 November 1444, where the Turks led by Ladislaus III of Poland routed an army composed of 20,000 crusaders. The superior force of about 55,000 Ottomans, which was led by Sultan Murad II, attacked the Christian army that started the battle in the city. However, the battle led to the fall of Constantinople, having Varna to remain under the rule of the Ottomans. Today, a cenotaph of Ladislaus III can be seen in the city. One of the popular landmarks in Varna is the Sea Garden, the oldest and the biggest park in the city. It contains an open-air theatre, an aquarium, an alpineum, a terrarium, a dolphinarium, the Museum of Natural History, the Nicolaus Copernicus Observatory and Planetarium, an amusement park for children, an ice-skating rink, and other attractions. The city is also home to some of the oldest and finest museums and professional arts companies.

Photo credit: hich

I enjoy travelling through Europe to discover hidden gems and sharing my knowledge on Q&A community Blurtit, which connects likeminded travellers.

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