Monday, 31 August 2015

A Saturday To Savour

The weekend just gone is one which I always look forward to. The leaves on the trees are just starting to change colour, from their summer greens to their autumn tones. The evenings might be cooling, but the days are still hot, and often there are no clouds in the sky. Although these are good enough reasons in their own right, neither of them are the reason why I hold this weekend in such anticipation. The main reason being, that this weekend was the Rock Fest over in Mindya, and this year we had arranged to go with a couple of others from the village. Despite being eagerly anticipated, Sod's Law dictates that something along the way will try to throw a spanner in the works. This time it was Net waking up with a raging toothache.

So time was spent rummaging through the medicine cupboard looking for painkillers, and hoping that I still had antibiotics left over from having root canal treatment done. Painkillers were easy to find, but my antibiotics seemed to have disappeared off of the face of the earth. So it was a day on the couch down in the cellar for Net, even with painkillers if a drink was too hot it all flared up again, the same happened if the drink was cold. Tepid tea is not highly recommended, but it seemed to work. By the afternoon if Net jumped up and down I am sure that she would rattle. The good news is that by mid-afternoon things had started to ease, but perhaps the Rock Fest would be a bit much if things flared up again. I was told that I could still go, which meant that I didn't have to phone people up and cancel at short notice, so that was a bonus.

Another added bonus to this weekend was the football on the television, for once Crystal Palace were being shown live. Possibly because we were facing the defending champions. Even though Chelsea have not had the best of starts this season, all of the pundits were predicting that Palace would face the backlash as Chelsea tried to get their season back on track. I watched the first half, and it was highly entertaining, and ended up as 0-0. At that point I started to believe that we could come away from their ground with a point, as they were not getting things all of their own way. I couldn't watch all of the 2nd half due to being picked up for Mindya. So after a final check up on Net, and a final check on the scoreline, we headed off for Mindya.

This year was the 7th Rock Fest to be held at Mindya, and after this weekend I have been to 5 of them. The 1st one we were not even in the country, and one of the others times we had to take some people back to the airport in Sofia, so our attendance isn't too bad. Each year there are more and more people attending. It says something that a Bulgarian village can constantly hold a music festival year after year, and in all of my visits there I have never seen any trouble. I can safely say that Mindya makes the bands and the attendees feel most welcome. There has to be an awful lot of organisation which goes on behind the scenes, possibly as one festival finishes preparations are starting to be made for the following year. Most surprisingly it is all still free to attend, how long that will last is difficult to say. If you are in the area next year, and have never been before, I can highly recommend it. I knew that it was going to be busy on Saturday as soon as we arrived in Mindya, as we had to park a lot further away.

It was still light when we arrived, and the first group were already on stage. We found somewhere where we could all find each other should we go off for a wander, especially for doing those important beer or food runs. The bands might not be household names to you or I, but they love what they do and do it with enthusiasm. It might not be Rock'n'Roll but there was even a chap playing the Gaida, that would be the Bulgarian version of the Bagpipes. Very haunting music as the moon rose higher up into the sky, even if it did seem oddly out of place.

Many might wonder what I considered to be the highlight of the evening. There was a good cover version of Led Zeppelin's 'Whole Lotta Love', but for me the highlight had to be a group called 'Tortilla Flat'. They were enthusiastic, they played well, and they interacted well with the crowd. So much so that one young lady, who might have had too much fizzy pop (or sun), joined them on the stage until security managed to usher her off.

Two minutes later she was back in front of the stage with beer in hand. So no-one wanted to spoil anyone's enjoyment of the evening. We didn't have as much trouble with mosquitoes as we have in previous years, maybe the smoke from a nearby food stall helped. Perhaps that was why the bands periodically disappeared behind a cloud erupting from the smoke generator on stage. Soon it came time for us to wend our way home, unfortunately we did suffer a collision with a bat as we got to the other side of Gorna. It can't have had its radar switched on, or it was too busy chasing insects attracted by the headlights. I am already looking forward to this time next year, and hopefully toothache will not spoil things.

It was after 1 by the time I got back indoors, and curiosity did get the better of me. Had we managed to earn a point by keeping the match at 0-0? To my pleasure we had managed to win 1-2, little old unfashionable Crystal Palace had managed to spoil another celebration. Even though only 4 matches have been played so far that has put us into 2nd place, who would have thought that before the season began? Even though I was trying to be quiet, happy dogs have no such consideration, and a now awake Net told me that her toothache just disappeared 3 hours previously. That just capped off an wonderful Saturday. Good music, good company, an excellent football result and a pain free Net.

Of course music festivals attract all sorts of odd characters, some more photogenic than others. I'll let you guess which one is me.


Wednesday, 12 August 2015

100 Tourist Sites of Bulgaria (Part 2)

Now that my eyes have uncrossed I shall carry on with the next part of this tourist guide. I am hoping that some of the information will be useful, and maybe it will encourage at least someone to explore maybe a little bit more than their immediate area. All I have to do is remember where I got up to on the list, and then I can restart the second part. So if you are all sitting comfortably, then I shall begin.

District of Plovdiv
41. Plovdiv (Пловдив) - Roman Amphitheatre, Old Plovdiv architecture reserve, Ethnography Museum, Museum of History, St's Constantin & Helena Church
42. Perushtitsa (Перущица) - Museum of History
43. Sopot (Сопот) - The Nunnery, House of Ivan Vazov
44. Karlovo (Карлово) - Vasil Levski National Museum
45. Kalofer (Калофер) - Hristo Botev National Museum
46. Botev Peak (Връх Ботев)
47. Asenovgrad (Асеновград) - Bachkovo Monastery, Asen's Fortress

District of Razgrad
48. Razgrad (Разград) - Abrittus Archaeological Reserve
49. Isperih (Исперих) - Museum of History, Sboryanovo Museum of History and Archaeology, Thracian tomb of Sveshtari, Thracian town of Chelis, Demir Baba Tekke

District of Ruse
50. Ruse (Русе) - House of Zahari Stoyanov, Pantheon of National Revival Heroes

District of Silistra
51. Silistra (Силистра) - Museum of History, Medcidi Tabi Fortress
52. Srebarna Nature Reserve (Биосферен резерват Сребърна)
53. Tutrakan (Тутракан) - Military Tomb Memorial Complex, Museum of Danube Fishing and Boat-Making

District of Sliven
54. Sliven (Сливен) - House of Hadzhi Dimitar, National Textile Museum
55. Blue Stones Nature Park, Karandila Hut (Природен парк Сините камъни и хижа Карандила)
56. Kotel (Котел) - Georgi Sava Rakovski's Panteon and the Museum of Famous People of the Bulgarian Revival Age, Natural Sciences Museum
57. Zheravna village (Жеравна) - Architecture and Ethnography Reserve, House of Yordan Yovkov

City of Sofia District
58. Sofia (София) - The National Museum of History, Boyana Church National Museum
59. Sofia (София) - Alexander Nevski Cathedral
60. Sofia (София) - National Church Museum of History and Archaeology of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian orthodox Church
61. Sofia (София) - National Palace of Culture
62. Sofia (София) - National Art Gallery, Institute of Ethnography and Museum maintained by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
63. Etropole (Етрополе) -Museum of History, Clocktower, Monastery of the Holy Trinity
64. Sofia (София) - Earth and Man National Museum
65. Sofia (София) - National Museum of Natural Science maintained by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
66. Sofia (София) - Museum of the History of Sport
67. Hisarya (Хисаря) - Thracian Temple in Starosel village
68. Sofia (София) - Institute of Archaeology and Museum maintained by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Sofia Synagogue
69. Sofia (София) - Sofia Zoo
70. Bratsigovo (Брацигово) - Town Museum of History
71. Sofia (София) - St. Sophia Temple
72. Chirpan (Чирпан) - House Museum of Peyo Yavorov, Nikola Manev Art Gallery, St Athanasius Monastery in Zlata Livada village
73. Dimitrovgrad (Димитровград) - History Museum, House of Penyo Penev

74. Vitosha (Витоша) - Cherni Vrah

District of Sofia

75. Koprivshtitsa (Копривщица) - Archaeology and History Reserve
76. Sredna Gora (Средна Гора) - Bogdan Peak
77. Klisura (Клисура) - Museum of History
78. Osenvlag village (Осенвлаг) - Seven Altars Monastery
79. Samokov (Самоков) - Museum of History, the Nunnery
80. Rila (Рила) - Musala Peak
81. Botevgrad (Ботевград) - Clocktower
82. Skravena village (Скравена) - St Nikolas monastery, Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Ossuary of the members of Hristo Botev's detachment

District of Smolyan
83. Smolyan (Смолян) - Smolyan Planetarium, Museum of History
84. Pamporovo (Пампорово) - Snezhanka Peak, Uhlovitsa Cave
85. Golyam Perelik Peak (Връх Голям Перелик) - The Wonderful Bridges
86.Zlatograd (Златоград) - Ethnography Complex
87. Shiroka Laka village (Широка лъка)
88. Trigrad Gorge (Триградско ждрело) - Devil's Throat Cave
89. Buynovo Gorge (Буйндвско ждрело) - The Yagodina Cave

District of Stara Zagora
90. Stara Zagora (Стара Загора) - the Neolithic Houses, the Roman Forum of Augusta Traiana, the Stara Zagora Defenders Memorial Complex, Museum of History
91. Kazanlak (Казанлък) - Chudomir Art and Literature Museum, Thracian tomb of Kazanlak
92.Shipka Town (Шипка) - Shipka Memorial Church
93. Shipka Pass ( Национален парн-музей Шипка) - Shipka Memorial

District of Shumen
94. Shumen (Шумен) - Shumen Fortress Reserve of Architecture and History, Founders of the Bulgarian State Monument, Museum of History
95. Shumen (Шумен) - Tombul Mosque
96. Pliska (Плиска) - Archaeological Reserve
97. Madara (Мадара) - Archaeological Reserve
98 Velki Preslav (Велки Преслав) - National Reserve of History and Architecture

District of Yambol
99. Yambol (Ямбол) - the Ancient town of Kabile, Museum of History
100. Elhovo (Елхово) - Museum of Ethnography

There you have it ladies and gentlemen, that is the full list of 100 tourist sites as per the Bulgarian Tourist Union's booklet. I'm now off to give my eyes a rest, but I hope that something on here might pique your interest for the next time that you have visitors.  

100 Tourist Sites of Bulgaria (Part 1)

Bulgaria is a wonderful country, with so much to see and do. However, it does seem rather reluctant to promote itself. With many of us having friends and family visiting throughout the year, sometimes it is not an easy task to give them a lasting impression about why we enjoy living here. Yet did you know that since 1966, there has been a national movement to promote tourism amongst the many historic, cultural and natural landmarks. I certainly wasn't aware of it until I did a little digging. Initially this list of 100 sites did include various monuments to the communist regime, but the list has been brought up to date in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Although only available in Bulgarian, for 1.50 Leva, you can even get a  passport sized stamp booklet, issued by the Bulgarian Tourist Union (BTU). Each of the sites listed has its own unique stamp, which the tourist can get stamped into their book. The booklets themselves are available at any of the participating sites. Even though there are 100 sites on the list, some towns might include more than one tourist spot. It might seem slightly old fashioned, but to my mind it is quite endearing, and much nicer than pinning a flag on some social media programme. Not only that, but there are awards which can be attained, depending on how many stamps are collected. Bronze, Silver and Gold pins are awarded to those who collect 25, 50 or 100 stamps, think of it as the Olympic Games for tourists in Bulgaria. In addition to which pin winners from the previous year are entered into a prize draw each August, with the possibility of winning domestic or foreign trips, bikes, tents and other tourist related prizes. Luckily the booklet contains a separate map, which lists all 100 sites, and also gives their addresses and operating hours. So below you can find the list, separated into districts which will hopefully make things easier.

District of Blagoevgrad
1. Bansko (Банско) - Velyanov House, Neofit Rilski Museum, Nikola Vaptsarov Museum, Art School of Bansko Icon Museum, Saint Trinity Church
2. Pirin (Пирин) - Vihren Peak
3. Dobarsko village (Добърско) - Theodore Tyro and Theodore Stratilates Church
4. Melnik (Мелник) - Historical Museum of Melnik, Kordopulov House, Rozhen Monastery
5. Petrich (Петрич) - Rupite, St. Petka Church, Samuil's Fortress

District of Burgas
6. Malko Tarnovo (Малко Търново) - Museum of History, Local Museum Petrova Niva
7. Nesebar (Несебър) - Architectural Reserve, Archaeological Museum
8. Sozopol (Созопол) - Archaeological Museum

District of Varna
9. Varna ( Варна) - Museum of History, Maritime Museum
10. Devnya (Девня) - Museum of Mosaics

District of Veliko Tarnovo
11. Veliko Tarnovo (Велико Търново) - Tsarevets architectural reserve, Museum of History, Arbanasi architectural reserve
12. Svishtov (Свищов) - Aleko Konstantinov's House

District of Vidin
13. Vidin (Видин) - Baba Vida Fortress
14. Rabisha (Рабиша) - Magura Cave
15. Belogradchik (Белоградчик) - Belogradchik Rocks and Fortress, Museum of History

District of Vratsa
16. Vratsa (Враца) - Ledenika Cave, Regional Museum of History
17. Okolchitsa (Околчица) -  the place of Hristo Botev's death
18. Kozlodoui (Козлодуй) - Radetzky steam-ship museum, Monument of Hristo Botev

District of Gabrovo
19. Gabrovo (Габрово) - Etar Architectural-Ethnographic Complex, Museum of Education
20.Bozhentsi (Боженци) - Architectural Reserve
21. Tryavna (Трявна) - Museum of Wood-Carving and Ethnographical Arts
22. Dryanovo (Дряново) - Dryanovo Monastery, Kolyo Ficheto Museum, Bacho Kiro Cave

District of Dobrich
23. Dobrich (Добрич) - House of Yordan Yovkov, Art Gallery
24. Balchik (Балчик) - The Palace Architectural Park, Cape Kaliakra

District of Kurdzhali
25. Kardzhali (Кърджали) - Perperikon, Regional Museum of History, Monastery of John the Precursor

District of Kyustendil
26. Kyustendil (Кюстендил) - Vladimir Dimitrov-Maistora Art Gallery, House of Dimitar Peshev
27. Ruen Peak (Връх Руен) - Osogovo Mountain
28. Rila Monastery (Рилски манастир)
29. Skakavitsa hut (Йижа Скакавица) - the Seven Rila Lakes

District of Lovech
30. Lovech (Ловеч) - Museum of Ethnography, Kakrina Inn, Vasil Levski Museum
31. Troyan, Cherni Osam (Троян, Черни Осъм) - Natural Science Museum, Troyan Monastery
32. Teteven (Тетевен) - Museum of History
33. Brestnitsa village (Брестница) - Saeva Dupka Cave

District of Montana
34. Berkovitsa (Берковица) - Kom Peak, Museum of Ethnography, Museum of History Varshets

District of Pazardzhik
35. Pazardzhik (Пазарджик) - Church of Virgin Mary, House of Stanislav Dospevski, Regional Museum of History
36. Panagyurishte (Панагюрище) - Oborishte local museum, House of Rayna Knyaginya
37. Peshtera (Пещера) - Snezhanka cave
38. Batak (Батак) - Museum of History

District of Pernik
39. Tran (Трън) - Gorge on the Erma River

District of Pleven
40. Pleven (Плевен) - Mausoleum and Chapel of St George the Conqueror, Pleven Panorama, Regional  Museum of History