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15 Day Tour of Bulgaria: Art and Culture

Tour cost: 2021

Group size:
Minimum number of guests: 2 guests
Per person in double/twin standard room sharing € 2 990.00

The price includes:
1. Accommodation 14 nights at centrally located 3-star hotels (taxes included)
2. Meals: all breakfasts at hotels.
3. Transportation by private A/C car/van.
4. Bilingual private local English speaking tour guide-driver throughout. The guide will drive.
5. Entrance fees to museums and sites as per itinerary
6. Comprehensive information package about Bulgarian history, culture and language

 

 

Bulgaria is an unspoiled pearl in the Balkan mountains of Eastern Europe. Blessed with a lush countryside and nature, with world’s most exquisite roses Bulgaria has 8 000 years of history. With breathtaking and majestic Thracian, Byzantium, Roman, Jewish, Ottoman and Slav culture blended with European and Asian influence Bulgaria is Europe’s most ancient civilization. Bulgaria is lying across the border between Europe and Asia. It is the melting pot of people and cultures; it is the cross-point where the political layers of north, east, south and west meet. The Balkan landscape ranges from the loess plains of the Danube River to the rugged Balkans and Rhodope Mountain, the homeland of Orpheus.
In our journey we visit the Valley of Roses that is the home of the exquisite / and rare / Bulgarian rose oil, also known as “attar of roses”, a well renowned world center for rose oil production and the source of many of the world’s finest perfumes. May and June are the most majestic months in the Rose Valley, as the rose fields are blossoming and the entire valley is enveloped with their fragrance. It is unique chance to spend a night or two at Kazanlak in May and June and to breath, to immerse in the rose fragrance .We talk about roses and nature as a resource for healing, creativity, balance, peace and beauty.

The Varna Gold /4600- 4200 BC/

 

The Varna Gold is the oldest gold in the world and Europe’s most ancient civilization. The Varna civilization is even earlier than the Mesopotamian and the Egypt civilization.

Community during the Neolithic period had undergone social stratification, which inevitably leads to a class society. The special features of Varna Gold are the fine work of the gold objects employing hammering, piercing and cutting; suggest high level of technology, well developed social and cultural process and spiritual culture.

 

 

 

 

Rogozen Treasure

The Rogozen Treasure, 5th – 4th century BC

 

It consists of 165 silver vessels, weighting 20 kg. The great historical value is the unique decoration. One of the most interesting scenes is when Heracles meets Avge – the priestess of the goddess Pallas Athena.

 

 

 

Ryton

 

Rhyton from Panagyurishte golden treasure, 4th-3rd c BC.

 

The world famous Panagyurishte Treasure is an unbelievably beautiful set of ceremonial or religious type. It is made of high quality gold and its weight is 6 kg and 164 g. It consists of 9 vessels of specific form and original ornaments. Each of the rhytons is decorated with an exquisite head of an animal – a deer or a he-goat.

The Panagyurishte treasure has tremendous artistic value. It reveals the diverse cultural and historical processes of influence between Thracians and the rest of the world, with Hellenic culture in first place. For that reason it has long acquired world recognition as one of the most magnificent monuments in the world treasury of artistic values.

 

Sofia
Founded more than 7 000 years ago, Bulgaria’s capital has long been an important crossroads between Asia Minor and Europe. Sofia’s monuments attest to the many religions, cultures and civilizations that flourished here. You will be introduced to Bulgarian spiritual history and arts.
We’ll visit the National Museum of History where the magnificent Thracian golden treasures are on display; will walk along ancient Serdica Fortification (3rd-5th centuries); will visit the 4th century St. George’s Rotunda famous for its unique frescoes and original architecture that illustrate the development of Christian painting over several centuries.
The 13th century Boyana Church, is a remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Site. The murals of this famous church reflect both Byzantine and local traditions of the preceding two centuries. One of the portraits in the church is unanimously considered a genuine masterpiece of 13th century painting, created 200 year before the European renaissance.


Boyana Church, Bulgaria

The Portrait of Dessislava, Boyana Church, 1259, UNESCO world Heritage Site

This genuine masterpiece of 13th century painting created 200 years before the European Renaissance mark a remarkable peak in Eastern Christian Art.


The restored Sephardic Synagogue in Sofia is one of the largest Sephardic Synagogues in Europe and the largest one on the Balkans. It was built during the period of 1905-1909 following the design of the Austrian architect Friedrich Griunanger. The architecture of the building involves Spanish Moresque and Byzantine Style, preserving precisely the rules of Jewish Monotheistic Religion. Adjacent to the Synagogue is a unique museum collection, telling about the truly amazing story about the saving of the entire Jewish population in Bulgaria, amounting to 50 000 people, during the World War II. The Bulgarian people lead by their Orthodox Church Metropolitans Kiril and Stefan stood in the way of the Nazy machine that was firmly resolved to implement the “final solution” of the Jewish question. The “solution” was never realized in Bulgaria. Ultimately, not a single Bulgarian Jews was deported to Nazi’s death camps. Anti-Semitism never had roots in Bulgaria. Jews were integral part of the Bulgarian society.
Close to the Synagogue in Sofia is situated the beautiful Banya Bashi Mosque built in 1566 by the great Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. The mosque takes its name by the neighboring Central baths (in the Turkish language ‘banya bashi’ means ‘a lot of baths’).
The magnificent splendidly decorated Alexander Nevski Memorial Church was built in the period 1904–1912 to the designs of the Russian architect Pomerantsev. The underground crypt is a renowned Orthodox Icons Museum, which houses impressive collection of icons from 9th to 18th centuries, some of them match the best works of Constantinople studios.

 

Veliko Turnovo
Perched on steep hills overlooking the Yantra River, Veliko Turnovo’s narrow, lantern-lit streets wind past ancient ruins and unique architecture. During the period 1185-1396 Veliko Turnovo became the capital city of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom, where workshops in the city and in remote monasteries created starkly images.
Religious culture, arts and spiritual life flourished particularly during the reign of Tsar Ivan Alexander (1331-1371). A number of monasteries were founded close to the capital city of Veliko Turnovo and throughout the country, where schools of literature, calligraphy and miniature painting were founded. Remarkable masterpieces were created such as the Chronicle of Manasius, which is now kept in the Vatican Library. Most impressive are the images from the Tetraevangelia of Tsar Ivan Alexander, which is the most richly decorated Bulgarian manuscript with 366 miniatures, nowadays on display in the British Museum in London.

Madara Horseman

Madara Horseman , 8th century, UNESCO World Heritage Site

Madara is the only rock relief in Europe. It depicts a triumphant ruler in a symbolic hunting scene. The horseman has spread a lion / a powerful enemy/ with his lance. He is being followed by a dog / his loyal people/, and led by a bird. The figures are almost of life-size and the scene covers some 40 sq meters.

 

Varna
Bulgaria’s third largest city and most important port on the Black Sea Coast is dotted with ancient ruins, fishing villages, resorts and sandy beaches. A busy trading and cultural center starting with the Greeks in 600 BCE, Varna became a major port under the Romans and Slavs, trading with Constantinople, Venice and Dubrovnik. Town’s landmarks and sites range from 2nd century Roman ruins to dignified 20th century buildings.
The fabulous Archaeological Museum treasures the amazing collection of the ‘Oldest Gold’ in the world. These remarkable artefacts (unearthed in 1972 in necropolis) date from 4600-4200 BC . The necropolis contained more than three thousand golden objects together weighting 6 kg (13.2 lb) Two large ceramic plates are also beyond our knowledge of this age- they are decorated with stylized geometrical pattern executed in golden paint. The archeologists point out that the find of Varna Copper Age necropolis was as important as the discovery of Heinrich Schliemann at ancient Troy and that Varna necropolis is at least 1500 years older than Troy. Varna civilization was a highly developed civilization, the most ancient civilization of Europe. This mysterious highly developed civilization was even older than the Mesopotamian and the Egypt civilizations. The Varna civilization steel keeps its secrets and sacred knowledge.
We’ll also visit the renowned archaeological site of the Roman thermae (baths), 2nd century CE, which was the largest of that kind in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire.

The Aladzha rock-cell monastery, carved out in a mountainside, was inhabited by monks-hermits in the 13th century.

Kazanlak
The town of Kazanlak is the regional center of an area, traditionally known as the Valley of Roses, as here country’s major rose fields are located . The Valley of Roses is the home of the exquisite / and rare / Bulgarian rose oil, also known as “attar of roses”, a well renowned world center for rose oil production and the source of many of the world’s finest perfumes. May and June are the most majestic months in the Rose Valley, as the rose fields are blossoming and the entire valley is enveloped with their fragrance. It is unique experience to spend a night or two at Kazanlak in May and June and to breath, to immerse in the rose fragrance .We talk about roses and nature as a resource for healing, creativity, balance, peace and beauty.
Here is a quote by Doreen Virtue: "Mother Mary is often called “Our Lady of the Roses” because these beautiful flowers are one of her symbols. When we’re in her sacred presence, we may smell the fragrance of roses without having any physical flowers nearby. In fact, the name Rosary means “a garland of roses.” Roses are considered the queen of flowers, and white ones symbolize Mother Mary. Red blooms are said to have blushed when she kissed them in heaven. In the Middle Ages, roses were used in purification ceremonies, and Mother Mary is the ultimate symbol of purity. White roses are associated with Mary’s joys, red with her suffering, and yellow with her glory."
However, this area achieved another important recognition as the Valley of the Thracian Kings, due to the numerous amazing archaeological excavations of the Thracian epoch.

Thrace (Thracia in Latin) was part of the Aegean-Mediterranean world in the southern part of Eurasia, a contact zone between continents and people and a site of religious practices, artistic skills and experiences. The Thracians lived on Bulgarian lands during 2nd –1st millennium BCE. Thracians and Trojans both belonged to the ‘Old culture’ and fought together against the Greek tribes. In Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, the Thracian kings are described as semi-gods in the possession of magnificent gold and silver.
Orpheus, the most famous of all Thracian heroes, was most probably born in the Rhodope Mountains in nowadays Bulgarian lands, and one can feel his impact on spiritual practices, art and culture. It is estimated that he lived in the 13th century BCE at the end of the Bronze Age. Orpheus lived in the times of Moses and five centuries before Homer. Many explorers claim that Orpheus was a real historic figure who lived a generation before the Trojan War. According to Aristophanes Orpheus was famous for his initiation in the mysteries and his telling people to reject homicide. Orpheus was a preacher for brotherhood among people.
The Thracian religion was based on the balance of two elements: the solar and the chthonic. Hence its major figures – Orpheus and Dionysus, the great Mother Goddess and her dual son, constituted the usual images presented in the Thracian art. The numerous treasures founded in Bulgarian Thrace mark the cosmogony rites connected with the new birth of the king and his sacred marriage with the Goddess. The Thracians believed that the son of the Sun and the earth are immortals. The belief in immortality was reflected by images in tombs and sanctuaries, as well as decoration of vessels, ritual sets, weapons and warriors and horses armor. By means of images and symbols the Thracian artist conveyed in his creations the religious and universality of his religion and cult rituals of Thracian society.
During our stay we’ll visit the Historical Museum in Kazanluk, where the latest fabulous archaeological finds from the area are on display, as well as the breathtaking painted Thracian tomb of Kazanluk (4th century BC), another renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Plovdiv
Plovdiv is majestic! If you love art and history- this is a fantastic place!
Thracians founded Plovdiv during the Neolithic period in the 2nd millennium BC. Picturesquely situated in the Thracian lowlands, 100 miles east of Sofia, and built on seven hills, Plovdiv is one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in Europe. Bulgaria’s second biggest city has a history that goes back thousands of years, traces of which have survived to the present day. Plovdiv has had several names: Eumolpia of the Thracians (2nd millennium BC), Philipopolis of Philip II of Macedonia (342 BC), Trimontium, /i.e. on three hills/ was the major city of the Roman province of Thrace in the 1st – 3rd century CE.
Today the Roman constructions are well displayed. You can see street system with colonnades, an Odeon, the Staudium and the fabulous Roman theater. It was built in early AD 2nd c. under Emperor Trajan ( 98-117). The 28 carved stone rows with marble seats are arranged amphitheatrically and 20 of them are still intact, with capacity of more than 3500 spectators. The stage rises about 3.5 m above the ground and covers 400 sq.m..The archaeological research was carried out in 1968-1979.

This ancient city has astonishing historical and cultural heritage and an amazing Old Town, applying for UNESCO List of World Cultural Heritage. It was built in the 18th-19th centuries as the center of the Bulgarian National Revival architecture. Along steep cobblestone lanes, behind stone walls and iron-studded heavy oak gates, one glimpses at verdure and flowers, surrounding the typical Plovdiv symmetrical houses with their painted facades, oriels and jetties and grid windows. Every house here has its own atmosphere, its intimate world with carved ceiling and bright murals, window seats and fine furniture from Venice, Vienna and London.

Other landmarks of this area is the charming Ethnographical Museum; a number of art galleries, housing valuable pieces of modern Bulgarian painting; a beautifully painted church (1832 – 1836); a 15th century mosque, one of the oldest on the continent; the Zion Sephardic Synagogue (built in 1886-1887 and expanded in 1922). Close to the synagogue stands a modest Monument of Thanksgiving, commemorating the gratitude of the Jewish community to all citizenship of Plovdiv for their salvation from the Nazis in 1943.

Itinerary: Sofia (4 nights)- Veliko Turnovo ( 3 nights) - Varna ( 3 nights)- Kazanluk (1 night) - Plovdiv ( 2 nights)- Sofia ( 1 night)


Day 1


Arrive at Sofia airport. Transfer to your hotel in central area and check-in for 4 nights.

Day 2


All day in Sofia. Morning: the National Museum of History; the Boyana Church, UNESCO World Heritage Site. Afternoon: walking guided tour of downtown area: Roman Serdica Fortifications /3rd – 5th centuries/; St. George Rotunda /4th century/; Alexander Nevski Memorial Church and the Icons Museum.

Day 3


All day in Sofia. Morning: the Sephardic Synagogue. Banya Bashi Mosque built in 1566 by the great Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. See the Museum of Socialist art in Sofia.
Afternoon: Drive to Vitosha mountain.

Day 4


All-day excursion: drive into the mountains to visit Rila Monastery, UNESCO World Heritage Site. Distance and driving time: 160 miles round trip, approximately 4-hr drive.

Day 5


All-day transfer. Morning depart Sofia for the city of Veliko Turnovo, the capital city of the Second Bulgarian State /12th – 14th century/. En route: Koprivshtitsa town-museum, an ethnographical and architectural reserve area; historical Shipka Pass in the Balkan Mountains. Distance and driving time for the day: 200 miles, approximately 6-hr drive. Arrive in Veliko Turnovo and check in at your hotel in central area for the next 3 nights.

Day 6


All day in Veliko Turnovo. A gentle day in town and in the nearby historical village of Arbanassi: the medieval Tsarevets Fortress; early monasteries and churches; Museum of the First Bulgarian Constitution (adopted in 1879); National Revival (19th century) houses. Free time to stroll around in a traditional artisan area of national arts and crafts..

Day 7


All-day excursion: drive to visit the city of Ruse on the Danube River. En route: the rock-hewn churches of Ivanovo (11th-14th centuries), UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sightseeing historical and architectural landmarks and free time in Ruse. Distance and driving time: 130 miles round trip, approximately 3-hr drive.

Day 8


All-day transfer. Morning depart Veliko Turnovo for the city of Varna, on the Black Sea coast. En route: the historical town of Shumen and Tombul mosque (18th century); the Madara Horseman rock-cut relief (8th century), UNESCO World Heritage Site. Distance and driving time for the day: 140 miles, approximately 3.5-hr drive. Arrive in Varna and check in at your hotel in central area for the next 3 nights.

Day 9


All day in Varna. A gentle day in town: the History and Archaeological Museum; the 2nd century Roman baths. Free time to stroll around and enjoy the nice Sea Garden.

Day 10


All-day excursion: drive north along the coast to visit the 13th century Aladzha rock-cell monastery and the coastal town of Balchick. Distance and driving time for the day: 100 miles round trip, approximately 2.5-hr drive.

Day 11


All-day transfer. Morning depart Varna for Kazanluk in the Valley of Roses / Valley of Thracian Kings. En route: visit Nessebur, ancient Mesambria, a charming seaside town-museum (60 miles south of Varna), and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Distance and driving time for the whole day: 200 miles, approximately 5-hr drive. Arrive in Kazanluk and check in the hotel for one night.

Day 12


Morning in Kazanluk and in the vicinity area: visit local Historical Museum and the replica of the 4th century BC Thracian Tomb, another UNESCO World Heritage Site.Visit a rose oil distillery in the Rose valley.

Afternoon transfer: depart Kazanluk for Plovdiv. Distance and driving time: 75 miles, approximately 1.5-hr drive. Arrive in Plovdiv and check in your hotel in central area for 2 nights.

Day 13


All day in Plovdiv. A gentle day in town: Roman Forum, Stadium, Amphitheater and Fortress (2nd - 3rd centuries); visit one house Museum. The Old Town of Plovdiv is known as Bulgaria's Montmartre for its dozens of art galleries and antique shops. Visit the Episcopal Basilica in Plovdiv.

Day 14


In the morning: drive to the old Bachkovo Monastery, which is the site of the graves of Metropolitans (and later Patriarchs) Stefan and Kiril of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, who were leaders of the demonstrations in defense of the Bulgarian Jews in 1943. Afternoon transfer to Sofia.

Day 15


Transfer from your hotel in Sofia to Sofia Airport. Distance and driving time: 100 miles, approximately 2-hr drive. Check–in for departure flights. End of Program.

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