Date(s) - October 05, 2018 - October 15, 2018
8:00 am - 10:00 am
BULGARIA, GREECE AND MACEDONIA – $2,230.00 per person, sharing double/twin room
I am super excited about this trip because Bulgaria is my home country! I can finally show it off to old and new friends! This is not going to be a strictly singles trip, but friends, couples, families, LGBT… Everybody is welcome 🙂 The Balkan Peninsula is a unique European destination, little known to the American traveler. This is a hidden gem – full of history (there are ruins and recently discovered Thracian Gold treasures dating back over 7000 years), beautiful nature and this is the last place in Europe where prices are extremely affordable. The tourism is well developed and the people are super friendly!
So this is a great opportunity to see this beautiful part of the world, while it is still affordable and not crowded with tourists. Best of all, when doing it through our Meetup, you will be accompanied by like-minded folks and make great new friends.
Sofia Arrival in Sofia. Transfer to your hotel. Afternoon walk around downtown Sofia ending with dinner at a traditional restaurant.
Oct 06: Sofia
A day to explore Sofia’s ancient and contemporary landmarks and the essence of its past and present life.
In the midst of tended parks, busy cafés and imposing buildings from the 19th and 20th centuries, visit still active churches from Roman and Byzantine time, erected on top of older Thracian sanctuaries. Among many sights, most of which situated along Sofia’s unique yellow-brick road, this morning walk will take you to St. George Rotunda (the oldest fully preserved building from the 4th century), the elegant St. Nikolay Church, the National Theatre and the Royal Palace, St. Nedelya Church and Banya Bashi Mosque. The last two and Sofia Synagogue stand very close together and are spoken of as “the triangle of tolerance” among faiths.
Sofia Synagogue is a wonderfully ornamented building – a combination of Moorish and Viennese Secession styles – and is the largest Sephardic temple in Europe. Its main prayer hall accommodates up to 1,170 people and is adorned by an exquisite 2,200 kilogram Vienna-manufactured chandelier.
Optional: In the morning we’ll attend Shacharit Shabbat. Then, after the sightseeing walk, including few stops at Jewish memorials, we’ll proceed to the Jewish community center where local Jews will welcome us with Ladino songs!
Rest of the day free for individual activities.
Oct 07: Sofia – Rila Monastery – Melnik
Late morning drive south to Rila Mountain (highest on the Balkans) to UNESCO listed 10th century Rila Monastery. It is one of the most famous on the continent with its size, abundance of frescoes and imposing architecture.
Some free time. Enjoy the mountain air and scenery, and use the chance to treat yourself a freshly-caught trout lunch in one of the homey restaurants by the river. (Lunch at your own expense)
Further south and a couple of hours later you will be walking in the quietude of the smallest Bulgarian town – Melnik – inhabited by only 230 permanent residents. Tucked beneath scenic sandstone cliffs, this quaint place is famous for its dark red wine, reportedly a favorite of Winston Churchill’s, and also for some of the best preserved revival architecture in the country.
A walking tour, including a visit to Kordopulov’s House (built in 1754 by rich wine producing family), will end with dinner at a typical local tavern.
Oct 08: Melnik – Thessaloniki (GREECE)
Soon after breakfast, we will cross the border and carry on straight to Thessaloniki (Salonika), the second largest city in Greece. After checking-in we’ll explore some of the major city sites.
We’ll ride through busy Salonika to the old Byzantine Walls and Trigonio Tower, from where the entire city “comes together” in a deep panorama with the sea and Mount Olympus in the background. Enjoy a walk around the diverse city squares and colorful food markets. See the Greek Agora/Roman Forum, the UNESCO listed churches of Agios Demetrius and Agias Sofia, the White Tower and more.
Late afternoon and evening at leisure. Take a walk along the seafront and savor a local dish in the famous Ladadika district, home to the best taverns and restaurants in Salonika(meal not included in tour price).
Oct 09: Thessaloniki & Veria
Morning drive to nearby Veria and its delightful neighborhood Barbouta. For centuries this was home to a flourishing Jewish community whose quaint houses (decorated with delicate drawings and Hebrew writings) and a small Synagogue have survived to this day.
We’ll first visit the Jewish History Museum, housed in one of the rare Jewish buildings that survived the fire of 1917, and then Salonika’s two Synagogues –Monasteries from 1920 and Yad Lazikaron from 1984. The latter is sheltered in the building of the Jewish community center where local members will receive us as well.
A short walk away is situated Eleftheria Square, where in 1943 the Jews of Thessaloniki were rounded up before their deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau. A Memorial Monument was erected here in 1997.
Rest of the day free for individual activities.
Oct 10: Thessaloniki – Stobi – Bitola – Ohrid (MACEDONIA)
In the morning we’ll cross into Macedonia and continue along the “burly” Vardar River to the ancient town of Stobi. It is considered the most important archaeological site in Macedonia, containing various public and private buildings, ornamented with frescoes and floor mosaics.
We’ll also stop in Bitola (Monastery). Beginning with a visit at the Museum of Bitola, we’ll then stroll along the beautiful pedestrian zone, dotted with cafés, colorful neo-classic buildings and other sites of general interest.
We’ll savor the local cuisine and continue to scenic Ohrid – a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Oct 11: Ohrid
Morning walking tour of Ohrid, the “City of Lights” or “Lychnidos” as it was known in ancient times. In the middle ages it was spoken of as the “Macedonian Jerusalem”, historically having 365 churches. Delight in the exceptional beauty of this place while taking in the story of its remarkably eventful past.
Among other sites your guide will take you to a 3rd c. BC Hellenistic Amphitheatre, to St. Sofia Church, to the site of the 1st Slavic University at Plaoshnik Monastery and to the liveliest part of Ohrid – the Old Bazaar.
In the afternoon enjoy a panoramic drive around the lake – one of the oldest, deepest and clearest lakes in the world. It is surrounded by high, snow-capped mountains and numerous churches and monasteries, neatly tucked into the rocky cliffs and adjacent woods. Traveling south you will visit the Bay of Bones Museum – a fine reconstruction of a Neolithic settlement from 1200 BC – and the famous St. Naum Monastery, charmingly inhabited by a flock of peacocks! …This is a tranquil place. Savor it slowly as the sun sets over the lake and return to Ohrid for a traditional dinner at a famous local restaurant.
Oct 12: Ohrid – Skopje – Kyustendil (BULGARIA)
Following breakfast and last glimpses over the spectacular lake, we’ll carry on to Skopje. A pleasant walk around the Old Town Bazaar, presenting a curiously accurate image of how everyday life and merchandise were in the 18th and 19th centuries. After touring the best of this place, including a beautiful Mosque, painted in blues & whites and an original Turkish bath (Amam) from 15th century, take an hour or two to explore the area further on your own. Try some freshly made traditional food, offered all around you, savor a cup of good Turkish coffee or hunt out a bargain at the markets.
Not far from the Bazaar is situated the historical Stone Bridge which will take you across the Vardar River to the modern part of the city. Here among a surreal ensemble of newly built monuments and fountains you will visit the Memorial Museum House of Mother Teresa, who was born in Skopje in 1910.
A couple of hours later, after passing through some gorgeous mountainous scenery, we’ll enter Bulgaria and soon after we’ll settle down in Strimon Spa Club in Kyustendil, voted best Spa hotel on the Balkans for 2012.
Oct 13: Kyustendil – Samokov – Plovdiv
Morning visit at the Museum House of Dimitar Peshev – a name that is emblematic of the nation-wide campaign for saving all 49,000 Bulgarian Jews during WWII. In the beginning of 1943 Kyustendil railway station was turned by the Nazis into an ominous terminal for dozens of death-train compositions, scheduled to Treblinka. After a month of fear, on March 9, 1943 Dimitar Peshev, Speaker of Parliament, managed to collect 43 MP’s signatures under the historical Declaration for Saving the Bulgaria Jews. This political act got such a massive public support that Hitler had to give up his deportation project. Peshev was declared Righteous among the Nations by Yad Vashem.
Then travel east to the town of Samokov, with municipal history closely connected with the Sephardic family Arieh, which built a minor empire of metallurgy, banking, real estate, tanning and textile as well as bridges and public fountains in and around Samokov. The family’s 19th century exquisite home is now a museum.
Early afternoon arrival in Plovdiv – one of the most historically diverse cities in Europe.
Check-in and savor some quiet time until about 5pm when your guide will invite you to a fine sightseeing walk around the Old part of town, often compared to Montmartre Hill in Paris. See masterpieces of 18-19th century Bulgarian city architecture, orthodox churches, a 15th c. Mosque, and its highlight – the 2nd c.Roman Amphitheater.
The numerous art galleries, antique and souvenir shops might be another attraction during the 2 hour walk, ending with dinner at a traditional restaurant.
Oct 14: Plovdiv – Bachkovo Monastery – Plovdiv
Optional: After breakfast enjoy a leisurely stroll along Plovdiv’s main pedestrian street, towards the Shalom Centre, where members of the local Jewish community will be waiting for you with home-made snacks and stories of their amazing life experiences. Some of them will probably come along with us to visit the Zion Synagogue and the Monument of Israeli State Gratitude. There’s also a Jewish school here in the Jewish neighborhood which in 1943 the local authorities turned into deportation depot, now marked with a memorial bas-relief.
Late morning departure to Bachkovo Monastery scenically situated about 30km south of Plovdiv in the skirts of the Rhodopes (home of Orpheus according Homer…). Originally erected in the 11th century this high-energy place is one of the oldest and largest Orthodox Monasteries in Europe.
Before we leave we’ll gather by the tombstones of Patriarch Cyril who in February 1943 openly opposed pro-Nazi government in the Royal Court, and the Archbishop of Plovdiv Stefan, who at the same time threatened King Boris III with the words: “I laid this crown on your head – I shall take it off if you dare let the Jews’ deportation…”
Then we’ll return to Plovdiv for a quiet afternoon and an evening free for individual activities. You choose how to spend your last hours in Bulgaria. Perhaps you would like to visit a concert or a play at the Roman Amphitheatre in the Old Town…
Oct 15: Plovdiv – Sofia Airport
This morning is the perfect time for some last minute shopping along the high street starting from the steps of your hotel. Then you will be transferred to Sofia Airport for your departure flight. Transfer time 1½ hours.
Cost:$2,230.00 per person, sharing dbl/twin room
$423.00 single supplement
* Accommodation (10 nights) in selected, centrally located hotels.
* Breakfast daily* 4 Dinners
* 3 courses, bread and mineral water
* 2 Lunches (L)
* 3 courses, bread and mineral water
* Entrance fees to museums and sites as per itinerary. On sites of more specific nature local expert guides may be used.
* Private air-conditioned car/van/mini bus throughout the tour
* Fuel, road tolls, border fees and parking charges
* Private English-speaking guide/driver throughout the tour for 1-5 travelers. When 6 or more people are travelling – both an English-speaking guide and a dedicated driver throughout the tour.
* Possible guest guides in Skopje and Thessaloniki
* Airport transfers upon arrival and departure* All hotel taxes
SERVICES NOT INCLUDED:
* International Airfare
* Optional day trips
* Porterage at airport and hotels
* Travel insurance
We can get a special discounted airfare for this trip, so when you RSVP let me know if you want to take advantage of this. There are no direct fights to Sofia. So you must make a transfer somewhere in Europe. And here is the extra bonus . . . you can make the transfer flight have an extra day (or longer), and you get one extra city to visit. You can make this another European city rich with history – Amsterdam, Paris, Munich, and Frankfurt all fit that bill.
So RSVP if you have interest and contact me, Anna at (310)[masked] or email: [masked]iCal |