Bulgaria – Enina, Veliko Tarnovo, Koprivshtitsa, Belogradchik & Sofia

As we were leaving Varna, we stopped by to visit the Monument of Bulgarian-Soviet Friendship which was built on Crane Hill in the  northernmost part of Varna. At a height of 23 meters and a width of more than double that, it dominated the skyline. From Varna, we drove to the Wonderful Rocks (Chudnite Skali), a series of 10 limestone rock needles protruding from the Tsonevo Reservoir, before visiting the Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak and the open air ethnographic village of Etar. The Buzludzha Monument at the top of Buzludzha Mountain had beckoned us because we had seen photos of the massive Communist UFO structure but sadly, it was closed to all visitors for interior renovations. We later learned that dozens of tourists attempt to break into the complex at odd hours, forcing the locals to install a guard shack and security cameras on the property as well as welding the doors shut. From here, we drove to Dryanovo Monastery, the Roman ruins of Nicopolis ad Istrum, the village of Arbanasi, and the hilly town of Veliko Tarnovo. Veliko Tarnovo’s picturesque cobbled streets, traditional houses and rich history were well worth a visit and this ended up being one of our favorite stops in Bulgaria. The Tsarevets Fortress, a medieval stronghold on a hill with the same name dominates the entire city of Veliko Tarnovo and the views from it are unmissable. After leaving Veliko Tarnovo, we drove to the gorgeous turquoise hued Krushuna Waterfalls and the jaw dropping Devetashka Cave, which is home to over 30,000 bats. Then we had a brief stop in Karlovo before making our way to the charming traditional village of Koprivshtitsa. Often considered Bulgaria’s prettiest town, Koprivshtitsa lived up to the hype with its magnificent traditional architecture. We took advantage of a 6 house combo ticket and spent half a day admiring the best house museums in the village. Then it was a long drive to reach Belogradchik, which is reputed to be one of Bulgaria’s top natural wonders. Indeed, the rock formations took our breath away as we neared this remote village. Very few tourists make the journey to Belogradchik and that is a shame because the rock bound fortress is not to be missed and definitely one of the country’s highlights. After leaving Belogradchik, we attempted to hike the Seven Rila Lakes but the weather didn’t cooperate and it rained heavily on both days we had set aside to hike with limited views on the top of Rila Mountain so we reluctantly gave it a miss. Instead, we finished our time in Bulgaria in the capital city of Sofia. Despite dodging rain for a few days, we really enjoyed our time here overindulging on good food, watching the latest movies, and visiting the city’s highlights. Bulgaria certainly impressed and we wouldn’t hesitate to return for another future visit.

Monument of the Bulgarian-Soviet Friendship; Varna Chudnite Skali (Wonderful Rocks) - a cluster of limestone rock pillars with caves and tunnels Tunnels through Chudnite Skali Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak Enina Tower Mosaic monument at the entrance to the Etar Ethnographic Museum Bulgarian valevitsa - a traditional, natural washing machine; Etar Village Clock tower in Etar Village Crossing a bridge to reach the Ethnographic Village of Etar There are over 50 traditionally built structures in the open air museum of Etar A potter designs a clay vase; Etar Ethno Village A view of the traditional Revival Houses in the open air museum of Etar Old saw mill used to saw planks; Etar Ethnographic Village Lady weaving on an old loom at Etar Village View over Etar Village from the second floor of a Revival House Stone roofs of Etar Village The Bulgarian Orthodox Shipka Memorial Church Buzludzha Monument - the abandoned Communist party headquarters at a UFO building in the heart of the Balkan Mountains The main building looks like a flying disc, hence the nickname "UFO". Sadly, this fascinating building was closed to visitors and could only be visited from the outside Torch Monument with the Buzludzha Monument in the background Staples of every meal - fries and shopska salad (cucumber, tomatoes, onion, red peppers and sirene/white brine cheese) Monument to the 1876 Uprising in Dryanovo Dryanovo Monastery Monument and Ossuary of the Heroes of the April Uprising; Dryanovo Monastery Ruins of Nicopolis ad Istrum, a Roman town that reached its zenith during the reigns of Hadrian, the Antonines and the Severan dynasty Odeon (building for musical activities) at Nicopolis ad Istrum Interior frescoes of the Church of Saints Archangels Michael and Gabriel (16th-18th century); Arbanasi The entire interior of the Church of Saints Archangels Michael and Gabriel is covered in frescoes; Arbanasi Arch fresco; Church of Saints Archangels Michael and Gabriel 18th century murals at the Church of Saints Archangels Michael and Gabriel Ceiling fresco at the Church of Saints Archangels Michael and Gabriel Stone walls at a traditional old house in Arbanasi View of the Holy Forty Martyrs Church and Tsarevets Fortress from the Yantra River Old town Samovodska Charshia market in Veliko Tarnovo Wall mural; Veliko Tarnovo Tsarevets is a medieval fortress in Veliko Tarnovo Robby next to a statue and wall mural in Veliko Tarnovo Becky on a giant chair with Tsarevets Fortress in the background One of three entrances to Tsarevets Fortress; Veliko Tarnovo View looking back to the pretty city of Veliko Tarnovo from the Tsarevets Fortress A Bulgarian flag inside the walls of Tsarevets Fortress Robby dressed as an executioner; Tsarevets Fortress Asen Dynasty Monument is an homage to the medieval rulers of Bulgaria, depicting the first four Asen rulers: Ivan, Peter, Kaloyan and Asen II Flower baskets hanging outside a restaurant in Veliko Tarnovo Krushuna Waterfall Turquoise water of Krushuna Waterfalls Devetashka Cave, a massive karst cave that is home to 30,000 bats There are 5 openings in the ceiling of Devetashka Cave Blue bell tower of an Eastern Orthodox Church in Karlovo Becky stands at the flower adorned gate of the Patev House; Karlovo Vasil Levski Monument; Karlovo (Vasil was a Bulgarian Revolutionary turned National Hero) The ancient Roman city walls of Hisarya Street art; Staro Zhelezare The walls of Staro Zhelezare have been transformed into a work of art Monument to the 1923 September Uprising Narrow alleyway; Koprivshtitsa Stone walls are a common sight in Koprivshtitsa The houses of Koprivshtitsa were built in the early to mid 19th century in a unique Bulgarian Revival style Cobblestone streets and half timbered houses are the norm in pretty Koprivshtitsa Only compact cars can drive through the old town section of Koprivshtitsa Hungry puppies; Koprivshtitsa Houses on the old town market square; Koprivshtitsa Living Museum; Koprivshtitsa Horse cart in Koprivshtitsa The Lyutov House, a mid-19th century house in Koprivshtitsa Interior of the Lyutov House Ceiling detail; Lyutov House Typical Koprivshtitsa felt rugs on display inside the Lyutov House Museum Cobblestone street in the picturesque village of Koprivshtitsa Traditional house; Koprivshtitsa Georgi Benkovski Museum House Georgi Benkovski Monument; Koprivshtitsa Unique architecture of an old house in Koprivshtitsa Luben Karavelov Museum House; Koprivshtitsa Oslekov's House was the prettiest house in Koprivshtitsa Arched portico; Oslekov House Church of Sveta Bogoroditsa; Koprivshtitsa Monument of Todor Kableshkov Todor Kableshkov Museum House; Koprivshtitsa A stone bridge in the pretty village of Koprivshtitsa Rock formations in Belogradchik Belogradchik Fortress is considered one of the best preserved strongholds in Bulgaria The rocks of Belogradchik The rock formations of Belogradchik formed a natural protection which was incorporated into the Belogradchik Fortress Becky at the entrance to Belogradchik Fortress Waterfall on Rila Mountain Make Bulgaria Great Again graffiti on Rila Mountain Wooden bear statue outside a restaurant UNESCO world heritage Boyana Church Boyana Church ceiling Sofia History Museum Pigeons in flight over Banski Square; Sofia Banya Bashi Mosque is the only functioning mosque in Sofia Looking up at the interior of the dome of Banya Bashi Mosque Ancient Serdica Complex, the ruins of an ancient Roman City; Sofia Church of St Petka of the Saddlers; Sofia Largo square and the National Assembly building in Sofia Church of Saint George Rotunda. It was originally built in the 4th Century as Roman Baths National Archaeological Museum 2nd Century Acroterion from a sanctuary of the Nymphs at Kasnakovo; National Archaeological Museum Relief of a lion on a slab from Stara Zagora; National Archaeological Museum Floor mosaic from the Church of St. Sophia, 4th century; National Archaeological Museum A monumental marble double-headed herm; National Archaeological Museum 4th Century relief plate poster invitation for circus games with animals in Serdica; National Archaeological Museum Marble sculptured grave stelae portraits from the Roman province of Macedonia, early 4th Century 1st Century A.D. bronze helmet from the Bourgas Region; National Archaeological Museum Tombstone of a horseman from Plovdiv Parade greave armor with silver gilding from Tomb II at Mogilanska Tumulus Silver parade greave from Romania; National Archaeological Museum Detail of a Chalcidian helmet Bronze Head from the Golyama Kosmatka Tumulus near Shipka; National Archaeological Museum in Sofia Saint Sofia Monument, erected in 2000, stands on the spot once occupied by a statue of Lenin The Socialist Art Museum covers the era of Communism in Bulgaria from 1944 until 1989. A collection of 77 statues can be seen in the park outside the museum Statue of Vladimir Lenin; Socialist Art Museum Lenin statue looking towards two female laborers; Socialist Art Museum Statue called "The Republic" by Lyubomir Dalchev; Museum of Socialist Art A huge bust of Lenin on display at the Socialist Art Museum in Sofia Monument to the Soviet Army portraying a soldier from the Soviet Army as a freedom fighter, surrounded by a Bulgarian woman holding her baby and a Bulgarian man; Knyazheska Garden Secondary sculpture near the Monument to the Soviet Army in Knyazheska Garden Alexander Nevsky Cathedral; Sofia Mosaic detail on Alexander Nevsky Cathedral Monument of Tsar Samuil Church of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Maker, a Russian Orthodox Church in Sofia Ivan Vazov National Theater; Sofia Street art in Sofia Sofia Synagogue Mural by Arsek & Erase; Sofia Hand painted glazed ceramics for sale at the Women's Market in Sofia video lightboxby VisualLightBox.com v6.1

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