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It was the surprise, the revelation. It is a little known destination but it is well worth trying. You can relate to it, it makes a lasting impression on you, and leaves you with an unforgettable memory. That is how we felt during a memorable journey in 2008 in that country out of the ordinary. Its tourist identity is not really defined, and beaten tracks are rather rare, which makes its charm. On the other hand, except major roads, roads are not in very good condition. Beware potholes!
Bulgaria is still Europe, but a distant Europe, which offers its part of exoticism and adventure. It is the most oriental of Slavic countries. It has varied and beautiful landscapes, sometimes exotic, cradled with a pleasant climate. Its myriad of Orthodox monasteries, its stunning rural architecture and its elegant metropolis erected under Russian and Austrian influence make its singularity. Still wild, it is made of mysteries, adventures, and diversity due to the relics of a mix of various civilizations: Thracian, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans... It blossoms in a multitude of colorful traditions and a street culture bathed in music that recall Turkey.
The seafront there is highlighted in original and unexpected ways: marine gardens as in Varna, botanical gardens and a Summer Palace as in Balchik, and especially the sunflower fields above Zlatni Piassatsi in the direction of Cape Kaliakra.
Finally, be aware gentlemen that women in Bulgaria are gorgeous!!!
The Varna region
The coast of the Black Sea, which owes its name to its anthracite reflections interspersed in the infinite blue, includes a few small ports with a Byzantine air.
Varna, airy and vibrant cosmopolitan city, is the capital of that region. Once you crossed the usual bar of gray buildings built during the Communist era, you quickly forget that sad picture entering a lively city center including cafés and restaurants, and promenades at the edge of the sea. You can stroll in the many pedestrian streets and the vast and beautiful Sea Garden where it is good to live. Cultural life is not forgotten. The «Varna Summers» includes the International Festival of Music.
Zlatni Piassatsi, known as «Les Sables d'Or» is the resort that has the largest area of north shore beach. The abundant and varied vegetation of the forest overlooking it offers a rich and refreshing blend of different green shades. Added to the limestone soil, it forms a surprising natural landscape as soon as you leave paved roads and massive tourist buildings.
Towards the North, in the direction of Balchik and beyond Cape Kaliakra, you will be amazed by the vast fields of sunflowers on the coast, slightly raised by the cliffs with the Black Sea in the background (photo). The game of colors between the blue of the water and the golden yellow of the large vibrant flowers is striking. That is part of the images we kept. How to explain it? Perhaps because of that almost insolent ease in how to show something yet so unusual.
Late afternoon, the Zlatni Piassatsi beach is much less crowded than in middle of the day. The atmosphere is pleasant and soothing.
In the evening, the walk is lively. It is full of cafés, restaurants, nightclubs and various attractions, perhaps to excess. There you will even find a miniature replica of the Eiffel Tower.
The Petrified Forest, a few kilometers from Varna in the land, is a surreal natural site, which is the result of a very rare geological phenomenon dating from about 50 million years ago. It is composed of fossilized stones, strange standing stones with incongruous shapes. Some are between five and seven meters high with a diameter approaching three meters.
Balchik & Cape Kaliakra
Balchik, «the White City», is down in a scrubland and spread out on hills that juts into the sea. Built on several levels as a Mediterranean village, it exudes charm and authenticity - witness its small port which preserved its Greek character.
The must-visit Summer Palace and its Botanical Garden (photo) were built in the 1930’s for Queen Marie of Romania. Slightly raised, it overlooks the sea, which seems at hand. Complex of villas, churches, rivers, bridges and gardens, the place tempts to peace and sweetness of life. The beautiful architecture, including the Neo-Classical facades, the elegant walkways from the 19th century dotted with trees, the rose garden, the unexpected presence of cactus, waterfalls and pedestrian areas make it an unforgettable place. It is made up of terraces stage overlooking the sea, leading to the Palace which includes an exterior minaret.
Cape Kaliakra is a superb site that offers stunning views of a significant part of the Bulgarian coast. Promontory hoisted on cliffs that jut into the sea, it is one of the most remarkable places on the coast. The ruins of Roman fortifications dating from the 4th century, traces of drawings on rock walls, a small museum nestled in a cave alongside Thracian remains, and a tiny chapel give the place a strong historical value. With a little bit of luck, you can see with enchantment dolphins jumping out of the water, especially in the morning.
Nessebar & Sozopol
Nessebar (photo), «the city with forty churches», UNESCO world heritage site, is a must-visit. Connected to the mainland by a narrow 400 meters long isthmus, it stands on a rock peninsula jutting into the sea. Skated serpentine alleys with a secret charm, courtyards with fig trees and houses with wooden galleries make it a unique place. The ruins of Byzantine churches, a colorful port and a beautiful wooden mill put the finishing touches. Each view is breathtaking wherever you are, and the visit is constantly with the squeals of many seagulls.
Sozopol, located a few tens of kilometers from Turkey, is surrounded by beautiful beaches. Built on a rocky peninsula during the Thracian era, it blossoms into a maze of winding and cobbled streets. Each typical fisherman wooden house appears to be unique. Do not hesitate to pace every corner to admire its harmonious silhouette with its cliffs set high up on the sea.
Madara is known for its famous horseman carved on limestone on the side of the cliffs in the 8th century. UNESCO world heritage site, it is a fascinating beauty. It is located in a natural park which includes a monastery carved in rock, a fortress, a tomb and caves. The low relief is dizzying and offers a wide open view to the city of Shoumen and its surroundings.
Published on December 1st 2012