Bulgaria is edgy. I say that with pun intended, of course.
The Corner of Europe
Geographically, Bulgaria is literally at the edge and corner of Europe. Metaphorically, it is edgy in which it is at the forefront of mixing traditional, modern, and avant-garde. The Black Sea, the warm weather (but also snowy winters!), and as the world’s largest producer of roses, the nation is undoubtedly different than its neighbours.
Bulgaria is pretty much straight forward as long as you come in prepared with the place’s characteristics and quirks. They are a member of the EU, but do not use Euros. They can understand English but will only speak to you in Bulgarian. You are also expected to know the alphabet, but they are lenient to tourists. They have boiling summers and freezing winters. They shake their head for “yes” and nod for “no”. Feeling the culture shock, yet?
A Holiday Dream
This Balkan nation is, without a doubt, one of the more engrossing countries in the Balkans. Doused with picturesque towns, snow-capped mountain peaks that offer endless ski trips for both tourists and locals, and the most lovely heat during the summers, you really can get it all at this holiday dream of a country. My visit encompassed a peak into its rich history, clear waters, ancient villages, and picturesque streets.
From the busy city to the peaceful mountaintops, there is something for everyone.
Lively Cities and Peaceful Mountain Scenery
For instance, the capital, Sofia, boasts a lively city centre with cafés for days, traditional and modern restaurants, local indie shops, and Instagrammable spots. Meanwhile, a more serene and peaceful option are the mountains. A guaranteed place to escape the crowd and city noise that is fit for everyone who wishes to steer clear of the daily metropolitan pollution. It was here where I truly took in the beauty of Bulgaria. Whenever I hear Bulgaria, I immediately think of the Black Sea where many sandy beaches and historic port towns can be found.
The City of Tsars
But visiting the country surprised me and my family, so much so that instead of doing this, we drove up to the mountains and adored the country from the top. We visited the City of the Tsars, locally known as Veliko Tarnovo. It rises above the city and the Ottoman Empire is apparent and striking. The remains of the olden times are visible but the demeanour of the locals scream 21st Century – it was fascinating.
There was so much to see, and we could spend hours, if not days, exploring the site. The people are fond of traditions and respect this wholeheartedly. It was quaint and relaxing. The historical churches and monuments made the mixture of Balkan, Roman, and Ottoman architecture really crystal clear. It was nothing like I’ve seen before.
The Rose Business
Another factor that contributes to the beauty of the country are the roses. Bulgaria is one of, if not the biggest rose oil producers in the world. Not to mention, the best rose oil comes from here as well. Did you know that it takes 3.5 tons of rose petals to make 1 KG of rose oil? And you wonder why it has the price of gold! The Rose Valley is the place where the biggest rose plantations are located. The have a month-long Rose Festival which is perfect for nature and culture fanatics.
Unlike its bigger European comrades, it’s the smaller towns that seem to attract more tourists. Although, I am not surprised given the fact that they are relatively untouched by the mainstream trends that envelope the other capitals. It appears that the smaller the town, the bigger the spirit of old-style culture, unique art galleries, tiny museums, and the most beautiful houses there are. I could write so much about the greatness of this nation but this is one of those where “you have to see it, to know it” kind of situations.
An Eye-opening Visit
Visiting Bulgaria was certainly eye-opening. I had a preconceived idea but ended up changing course and letting it all free-flow, following the local’s suggestions, feeling the cold breeze on my face, watching the wind move its abundant greeneries, seeing the Martenitsa bracelets tied around the branches of the trees – it was different, and it was exhilarating.
Bulgaria is Great in Any Season
Bulgaria offers a lot in terms of natural beauty. Whether you like it cold or hot, it’s one place where you can experience both. Stepping foot, it almost made me feel like I wanted to keep this country a secret. I didn’t want it spoiled by overcrowded tourism. But the whole world deserves to experience this place. And Bulgaria deserves to be recognised and seen. There is so much to see and so much to do. It is a place where you can leave your hesitations behind and fully commit to the experience and pleasure it brings. It’s hard to imagine a better place to spend the holidays again soon. And I, for one, can’t wait to come back.
Rachel is an intrepid world traveller, lifestyle connoisseuse, and Girls Who Travel’s resident beauty advisor. She is a lover of the ocean, flowers, movies, journalism, and has a penchant for medium-sized tattoos. When she is not busy with life, she writes stories of her globetrots as well as tips & tricks on how to make the best out of travelling.