Bulgaria & Macedonia - June 2008
BULGARIA & MACEDONIA

Bulgaria

Sofia

Sofia is one of the oldest capital cities in Europe, with the history
of Sofia dating as far back as the 8th century BC, when
Thracians established a settlement here. The backdrop for Sofia
is stunning; sitting in Sofia Valley at the foot of the Vitosha
Mountain. The town centre is dominated by drab neo-classical
Stalinist architecture, which belies the vibrancy of the modern-
day Sofia. However, take a short walk to the old commercial area
and you will find the real heart of Sofia, with tree-lined
boulevards, elaborate 19th-century buildings and neo-Byzantine
Orthodox churches.

Rila Monastery

Rila Monastery, the largest and most famous monastery in
Bulgaria. The monks of this monastery were instrumental in
preserving traditional Bulgarian culture when this area was under
Ottoman rule. Now, you can marvel at its sheer size, with 300
rooms and a magnificent, three-domed church.

Veliko Tarnovo

Veliko Tarnovo, is one of the most ancient Bulgarian towns and
the sight of the town’s houses, stacked seemingly precariously
one above the other on the hillsides is striking. Within the town
itself there are a wealth of palaces, towers, ancient columns,
monasteries and museums to explore. This abundance of
architecture and culture sees thousands of tourists from Bulgaria,
and abroad, visiting the town every year; placing it as one of the
top ten most visited tourist destinations in Eastern Europe.

Koprivshtitsa

Popular with Bulgarian travellers seeking peace and quiet,
historical Koprivshtitsa offers a glimpse of 19th-Century life with
its 400 lovely revival-era buildings where you can sleep, eat and
get drunk! A babbling creek runs through the centre of town, with
green hills and trails surrounding it. Six traditional homes are now
house museums and are well worth a visit.

Bansko

Far more than the ski town it’s known to be, friendly Bansko – at
the base of Mt Vihren (2914m) and the Pirin mountains –
probably has the country’s best mekhanas (festive tavern
restaurants), with rollicking folk bands playing many nights all
year. Take the minibus to Vihren hut for access to some fantastic
mountain trails.

MACEDONIA

Skopje

Skopje is the capital and the largest city of the Republic of
Macedonia. Located on a major north south Balkan route
between Belgrade and Athens, Skopje has had a tumultuous
past; with the Roman’s, Serbs and Ottoman Turks all occupying
the city before it became part of Yugoslavia in 1918. A
devastating earthquake then struck Skopje in 1963 when more
then 1000 people died and a huge proportion of the city’s
buildings were lost, as a result much of Skopje's architecture
dates from the 1960s and 1970s. Fortunately Skopje’s entire
heritage was not lost, as much of the northern half of the city
escaped untouched, leaving many architectural reminders of the
city’s past as an important trading town of the Ottoman Empire.
As a monument to the loss the earthquake caused the clock at
the Old Train Station, is forever stopped at the moment the
earthquake struck.

Lake Ohrid

This beautiful lake was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in
1979, and is probably the oldest lake in Europe and one of the
oldest lakes in the world, as it was formed tectonically between 4
and 10 million years ago. Water is supplied by the unusual
means of spring water from numerous surface and underwater
springs and the lake is home to a unique aquatic ecosystem with
more than 200 endemic species that are of worldwide importance.

Known for its beauty, excellent fishing and its several beaches it’
s located on the border between Macedonia and the Republic of
Albania. The Macedonian section of the lake is beautiful, set
amid mountains with stunning views of the water from the beach
and hills.

The town of Ohrid itself is one of Macedonia’s most popular
tourist destinations; with plenty of cultural monuments to keep
you occupied, especially in the old town where amongst other
highlights you can see part of a Roman amphitheatre.
Trip Highlights: