Bulgaria - Plovdiv and Sunny Beach: History and nature
July 6, 2016
by Robert Dolmans
Bulgaria is a beautiful country which is not very high on (m)any bucket list(s). I visited this amazing country for 4 days this month, and want to take you on a journey why Bulgaria is a must see country in my opinion.
I went together with my girlfriend (Samia) who is a travel geek just like me. What was our plan? We would fly from Brussels – Charleroi airport to Sofia airport, rent a car, drive 4-5 hours from Sofia to the Black Sea (Sunny Beach) with a pitstop in Plovdiv, stay there two nights, drive back to Sofia towards our couchsurf host, see Sofia and Rila in the other two days. This article will go about our adventure in Plovdiv and Sunny Beach.
We had a flight early in the morning, meaning that around 10.00 AM we arrived in Sofia after a 2,5 hours during flight. After we went through border control and got to our rental car we drove to one of the many outlet centers in Sofia. If you rent a car, get one with AC because it is very hot in Bulgaria! After arriving at one of the outlet centers we bought a pre-paid SIM card so we could use internet and Google maps during our stay. We right away saw how cheap food, drinks and clothes are in Bulgaria. The local currency (Lev) can be divided by two if you count in Euros. After some small shopping we got in the car and started our journey to our first stop, Plovdiv.
After 1 hour and 40 minutes of driving through the highway of Bulgaria, which consists of mountains, sunflower fields and every now and then a gas station, we arrived in our first stop, Plovdiv.
Plovdiv has evidence of habitation dating all the way back to the 6th millenium BC. Plovdiv is the second largest city in the country, behind Sofia, and is known for being amongst the 6th oldest living cities in the world and the 1st in Europe (source: Daily Telegraph). Something you can see that when you arrive. If you come by car, just follow the signs that guide you to the parking in the old town. Once there just park anywhere,
since parking is free within the old town, and start your journey through the rocky roads which will take you to the beautiful old buildings and remains of ancient times. The old town is pedestrian-friendly, which makes it easy to find your way to the many highlights it holds.
The must see in Plovdiv is the Roman Theatre. This ancient theatre was built in the beginning of the 2nd millenium AD during the reign of the roman emperor Trajanus. An antique inscription on the theatre tells that the theatre has been build between the year 116 AD and 117 AD.
When it was still active it could host up to 7.000 visitors. During the 5th millenium AD Atilla the Hun destoyed the theatre during an attack of the city, which has been rediscovered in 1970 and restored since then. If you visit during the summer months you can see one of the theatrical or musical shows which are still performed on the site. We were lucky to witness a rehearsal by a Bulgarian choir.
Another good spot to visit is the Ancient Stadium of Philipopolis. Here you can see a combination between the old parts and the modern parts surrounding the ancient stadium. It is located right in the city centre.
After some refreshments we continued our remaining trip towards Sunny Beach.
Around 11.00 PM we arrived at the Burgas area where Sunny Beach is. We went to our hotel (Zaara Hotel, near the beach and beachclubs like Cacao Beach Club) to fresh up and check the area. We noticed that most of the visitors in the beachclubs were Bulgarians, not really the tourist clubbing area we expected. We went into some clubs around the area, but it is an overhyped area. Unless you like electro/dance music. So we decided not to stay long and get up early the next day. Good thing is the prices of alcohol and food, worth the trip. But, that is cheap throughout whole Bulgaria.
Next day we went to the beach early in the morning. If you want to eat, check out the
Sirena-Delfin Hotel which is located near the beach and has a great menu card (especially the lamb is amazing!). It is not possible to eat something on the beach since there are no venues to purchase food. The beachbars only serve drinks and fruits, and fruits do not fill enough for a whole day of defying waves and sunlight.
The beach it self is not anything special. I have been to prettier beaches. There are a lot of activities to do. When the ocean is calm you can take a water taxi from different locations on the beach, just ask one of the activity area’s where you can book a jetski ride, parasailing or waterskiing. Unfortunately the ocean was restless at the time we spent there.
In the afternoon we took a long walk alongside the beach towards the old town of Nessebar. This ancient town was 2 km walk away from our hotel (you can also take a taxi or the train ride which is a touristic vehicle driving from Nessebar towards Sunny Beach and back).
Nessebar is often reffered to as the ‘Pearl of the Black Sea’, Nessebar is a city with a rich history of more than three millenia of everchanging history. Nessebar is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983.
Settled by many different cultures throughout the ages, many of the different sightseeings could be seen on the site. There are a lot of different churches from different dates, from the 18th century and dating all the way back to the
5th century (the Saint Sofia Church which is an Eastern Orthodox church). Before you enter the town you will see the wooden windmill. Once you enter you see a map of the entire site. Just walk through the old streets of Nessebar and enjoy the different shops. One tip, do not try the Italian ice cream shops around because the ice cream is just awful. Tip: You can buy some cool Bulgarian spices for meats, if you want to try to make some Bulgarian dishes yourself at home ;-).
After we spent some time in the old town we took the train ride back to our hotel to get some well needed rest for our 4-5 hour long trip back to Sofia the next day.
How our further trip to Sofia and Rila was will be explained in my next blog! So stay tuned for my next blog about Bulgaria!