19-20 May 2019
At the entrance to Strada Lipscani in Old Town is the mandatory Roman Statue recognized throughout the world. Rome’s she wolf nurtures Romulus and Remus. The Italians gave it to Romania in 1906 but it does look sort of out of place. But, it is a good entry point to Old Town. One can stroll these streets for hours enjoying the mix of architecture (much of it influenced by classical and French influences, Greco-Roman, neoclassical, and baroque; a little Art Deco here and a little communist efficiency there. Read more…
18 May 2019
“What are you all going to do for excitement without me around here? It’s going to be as boring as Bucharest on a Monday night.” – Count Dracula
My cousin Pam and I arrive at our hotel in Old Town Bucharest and are eager to see if old Drac was correct. Though I am meeting a tour in a few days, there are things I want to see and enjoy on my own. Tours do not cater to the individual but to the masses. There are churches, architecture, fountains, museums, and cafes along cobbled stone streets of historic Lipscani to explore.
Though the communist tried to suppress the practice of religion and destroyed many churches, there remains a neighborhood church around every corner. Romanians, long denied religious freedoms, practice their faith and churches are busy with weddings, christenings, and services. Some churches are beautifully restored while others still reflect the neglect of the communist era. All Orthodox churches are worth a few minutes stop to admire their frescoes.
I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite but if I had to choose it would be a church dedicated to St. Nicholas or St. Nicolae. There are at least four in Bucharest. Read more…
“Europe’s new funky-town”
16-17 May 2019
Varna drapes around Bulgaria’s Black Sea Coast and the lovely Gulf of Varna. Originally called Odessos and an important Thracian seaside port, Varna has been a major economic and cultural center for over 3000 years. Lots of history, mild temperatures, ancient Roman ruins, turquoise seas, and the oldest gold treasure in the world – the walled city of Varna sounds like my kind of destination.
Pam and I take the train from Stara Zagora to Varna. The countryside is mostly flat and agricultural. The train is mostly dirty and slow. However, by afternoon we are dipping our toes into the Black Sea.
What is special about Varna? For one, it’s ancient history. Read more…
Стара Загора, България
14-15 May 2019
Stara Zagora, meaning the old region beyond the Balkan mountains, was settled by Thracians sometime between the 5-4th century BC. The city itself was founded by Phillip II of Macedon in 342 BC. The city grew to its largest radius under Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180) and became the second most important city in the Roman province with such auspicious visitors and Caracalla, Septimius Severus and Diocletian. As a result of the Gothic War 376-382, the city was destroyed but rebuilt by Justinian. In 1208 the Bulgarians defeated the Latin Empire, kicked their Roman butts out and established their own homeland. Read more…
13 May 2019
I am being fed, pampered, clothed, fed, entertained, and fed with real Bulgarian hospitality. Mila, Vladimir and daughter Pam are spoiling me to the max. Today, they guide me to several fascinating sites of very early Bulgarian history. Americans learn next to nothing about this region of the world. We are missing out on the fascinating early beginnings of Man and his evolution and survival. Read more…
12 May 2019
Driving in, around, over and through the striking landscape of steep cliffs and very green Balkan Mountains, I am surrounded by the lush flora and fauna of the Balgarka Nature Park. The mountain range forms the watershed between the Black and Aegean seas. Shipka Pass, at 3820 ft., marks the border between Stara Zagora and Gabrovo province. During the Russo-Turkish War in 1877-1878, the pass was the locale for a series of historic battles fought between the Russians, aided by Bulgarian volunteers, and the Ottoman Empire. With Russian assistance, these battles led to the independence of Bulgaria, an event Bulgarians have never forgotten. Today, my cousins will share this part of their history with me. Read more…
History and DNA Cousins
9-11 May 2019
One should question who we are even if we think we know the answer. We soon become part of the globe and its history. Unraveling a shared past brings us closer together.
I last visited Bulgaria in September of 2016. I fell in love with Sofia and Plovdiv, all of Bulgaria for that matter. I did not know at the time that one of my closest DNA cousins is Bulgarian. Primal Instinct, subconscious reaction? It is exciting to be revisiting Bulgaria and meeting my cousins. Read more…