Posts Tagged ‘bulgaria’

Pleven – Sit Back and Relax

June 19, 2010

In a world without boundaries we are tempted by distant exotic destinations. The further from home – the more exotic and desirable. Then, one day, we are surprised to discover our own home town. We  now see it with a different eye and enjoy the charms of this place the way we never have before.

I was born in a mid-size Bulgarian town. The moment I finished high school I moved to the capital of Bulgaria – Sofia and since then I’ve been everywhere else but my hometown Pleven.

Rainbow over Pleven

A Tiny Bit of History
As it turns out Pleven has ancient history. It was a Thracian settlement, a Roman province and a fortress. It is mostly known for being a major battle scene during the Russo-Turkish War, which you will be reminded of by every monument you see.

The town of Pleven in Bulgaria
At first Pleven looks like a typical post-communist mid-size Bulgarian town. You will see the usual large marble square, the monuments of the Russo –Turkish War and the concrete residential districts inherited from communist time.
However, Pleven is a very special town. It is quiet, laid back and green. It has the most beautiful fountain cascade and when the lights are on in the evening the square looks magical.

Pleven's Town Hall

If you wanna go for a super pleasant 30 minute relaxed walk start from “Pleven’s  Big Ben” (the town hall) – a big red building with a clock tower, where the offices of the municipality reside – and just walk down the square. You’ll pass the marble square with the fountains, continue along a street lined with cafes, pass the Drama Theatre and then reach the shady “Old Main Street’’.  I love its old houses and its cool shade in the summer. And the best thing  – nowhere you will see or hear or watch out for cars. It’s all pedestrian.

Must  see

Here is a short list of ‘must sees’ in Pleven, Bulgaria

Kaylaka Park Reserve in Pleven – a huge park – one day is not enough to explore. It is ideal for biking and walking.

Kaylaka Park Reserve

Kaylaka Park

Pleven Panorama – this is a kind of monument-museum , which depicts the Russo-Turkish War. I remember I was quite impressed as a kid by the reality of the set-scenes. Pleven Panorama is located in a beautiful area –  Skobelev Park close to the so-called Dead Valley Lake. The valley is “dead” because it was covered with the bones of soldiers.

Pleven Regional Historical Museum – one of the largest museums in Bulgaria.

The Chapel Mausoleum – you can’t miss it even if you wanted to. Its right in the centre of the square. There is the “eternal fire” burning in front and the bones of soldiers resting inside.

The Chapel Mausoleum

Cafeteria Street (that’s not its official name) – Pleven is THE place for drinking coffee and chilling. There is a whole street lined up with cafes full of beautiful young people doing just that. There is a word that Pleven women are extraordinary beautiful. Choose a soft chair, order an espresso and enjoy the view:)

Pleven Plattenbauten – just out of curiosity you might wanna visit one of these residential areas – “Druzhba” or “Storgozia”. A bunch of large-panel system buildings or LPS, looking just like one another. Its pathetic! I actually grew up in one of those. The good part was that we had sooo many neighbours and friends – it was never boring!

Concrete Monsters

Shopping
Pleven is all about drinking espresso and shopping clothes. For a small town like Pleven the 3 shopping malls are a little too much!

Where to stay

I can’t really recommend any hotels in Pleven. They are not cheap due to the lack of tourist flow. I would stay in Park Hotel Kaylaka or Orbita hotel only because they are located in Kaylaka park.

Park Hotel Kaylaka

Quick facts about Pleven, Bulgaria

Location:  (see map) about 2.15 h driving North East from the capital – Sofia

Population: about 80 000
Must see: Kaylaka Park Reserve, Pleven Panorama, Regional Historical Museum, the Chapel Mausoleum, The Drama Theatr

Best time to visit: April – June and September – October

*Most of the photos in this post are a present from my friend Martin Milev. Thank you Marto!

Most Popular Traditional Bulgarian Foods

June 4, 2010

As a whole the traditional Bulgarian cuisine is similar to the Mediterranean one – lots of minced meat, pork, eggs, bread, sirene and yogurt.

Here is a list of local dishes and drinks you must try at least once, while in Bulgaria.

Traditional dishes:

Shopska salad: made from tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, raw or roasted peppers, and sirene (white brine cheese); a Shopska salad and a small cold rakia is a traditional and favourite way to start your meal in Bulgaria

Shkembe Chorba is a type of tripe soup (tripe is the thick lining of the stomach of cattle). Seasoning the soup with garlic, vinegar and chilli peppers is a must. You either love it or hate it – nothing in between. It is a difficult soup to cook and it’s hard to find a place where you can eat a really good Shkembe Chorba. I know many Bulgarians who like to eat Shkembe Chorba after a heavy night of drinking. They say it helps the hangover…

Shkembe Chorba

Sujuk – Sujuk consists of ground meat (usually beef) with various spices including cumin, sumac, garlic, salt, and red pepper, fed into a sausage casing and allowed to dry for several weeks. It goes very well with heavy red wines in the winter time.

Similar to sujuk is Lukanka. It is Bulgarians’ favourite salami. Traditionally, Lukanka is made of pork, beef, and spices (black pepper, cumin, etc.) minced together and stuffed into a length of dried cow’s intestine as Casing. The white stuff on top is flower. You can find different brands of Lukanka in the grocery stores. It is much more expensive compared to other local salami, sausages and meets. We eat Lukanka raw and thinly sliced usually as an appetizer. Foreigners often say that it smells like worn socks to them, but… what do foreigners know:)

Lukanka

Banitsa – a traditional Bulgarian pastry prepared by layering a mixture of whisked eggs and pieces of sirene between thin pastry and then baking it in an oven. The home-made version is the best because the pastry is actually made by hand. Where they sell banitsa they usually offer boza – a thick, sweet, brownish drink made of wheat, which we think, goes very well with banitsa. You can also find boza in the supermarkets.

boza - sweet thick wheat drink

Mekitsa – is our alternative to a donut. It is fried dough, which we eat with powder sugar, jam, honey or sirene. Not a very healthy breakfast, but so delicious!

mekitsa

Kiselo Mlyako –  Yogurt. Yogurt as such originates from the Bulgarian region. The bacteria which turns the milk into yogurt lives around the Bulgarian region and it is called “bactericus bulgaricus” They have tried to ship the bacteria to different regions but so far no luck with that. Mr and Mrs Bulgaricus seem to have liked the Bulgarian region and refuse to breed anywhere else. Real yogurt has nothing to do with the creamy sweet substance that Dannone produces. In fact not all yogurts in Bulgaria are real yogurts. I can recommend a few brands that still taste like the real stuff: “Био Кисело Мляко”, “Елена” and there are probably good small local brands.

Kiselo Mlyako (Yogurt) - good brands

Sirene (white brine cheese) – pour some olive oil, sprinkle red pepper on top and its the perfect appetizer and goes very well with local red wines. There is a large variety of brands out there. I recommend these two: “Био Краве Сирене” and “Маджаров”. They are pricier but way tastier.

Traditional drinks

Rakia – strong fruit brandy. I am a big fan of Rakia, but I do not drink the one that they sell in the stores. I only drink home-made Rakia – the one made of plums is my favourite. But be careful with the home-made rakia since it can be overly strong. If you have to order or buy rakia the best popular brand is Burgas 63 (Бургас63). Remember this basic equation: Rakia + Shopska salad = great way to  start your meal.

Wines – Bulgaria is a wine country and wine tourism has a bright future. You should try Mavrud a unique red wine, common only to the region of Thrace in Bulgaria.

Learn about the most unusual foreign food finds from pig placenta drink to baby eels imitation as seen by LonelyPlanet travel bloggers and hosted by orange polka dot.

The Village of Leshten – Somewhere in Space and Time

May 25, 2010

Where: another alternative destination in Bulgaria – the village of Leshten. It is situated in the SouthWest end of the Rhodope Mountains – about 220 km from Sofia. The road is windy and uneven but it is absolutely worth the trouble. Our first impression – a magnificent view towards Pirin Mount!

The village of Leshten, according to different sources, is an ancient village and many traces of old life, culture and architecture have been found in the region. It used to be a municipal and trade centre in the past. I find it hard to believe this, looking at a small stony village of 30 houses – about 300 years old – and a single permanent resident.

That’s right, “stony village”, everything is made out of stone – the roads, the houses, the fences. No wander this specific technique of building was the core means of living here back in the Bulgarian Revival. It’s a great thing that the authentic look of the village is preserved. Even the 15 renovated houses, which host tourists, have kept their old style – stone plinths, roofs covered with hand cut tile-stones, high stone fences, small windows and wooden flooring. So solid and so great!

Where to stay: in one of the 15 renovated houses. They are supplied with all the modern comforts, a fireplace and a kitchen. Below is the house where we stayed at. If you need help with reservation write me an e-mail to truebulgaria@gmail.com or use the contact form.

the house we stayed at

Where to eat. There is one single place to eat in the village. I find it relaxing not to have a choice for once. The restaurant is in the building of the old monastery school. I haven’t eaten there yet but most people say the food is local, authentic and very delicious and… it is not cheap.

Things to see: the village of Leshten is a historical monument by itself. The ancient architecture and the great natural location is a winning combination. The spirit of the once lively municipal centre is asleep but it’s still there.

The village church – St Paraskeva – had its last service in 1957 but you can still enter the church and light a candle. The wall paintings are quite bright, kind of modern and curious.

The clay house – this one is a favourite tourist destination not because it is ancient or has any historical value but because it is one of a kind. It is made entirely out of clay. There are no sharp square shapes – the whole house is soft and oval. Even thought it looks simple and primitive the clay house actually offers luxury accommodation, which combined with location and view is probably worth the price – around 60 euro per night.

the Clay House

the clay house's porch

The gallery – one of the houses functions as a classy gallery from where you can buy sophisticated pricey art-icles.

The village of Kovachevitsa – nearby village, also an architecture monument – post about the village of Kovachevitsa coming soon

a street in Kovachevitsa village

Koziat kamuk (the Goat’s Stone) and Chernata skala (the Black Rock) – ancient sanctuaries of Thracian times (or so they say)

Fossil Deposit Site near the Village of Garment

Natural sights:

The Blue Pool – a beautiful pool of Kanina river

The Dark Forest – a forest reserve

Manoilova Dupka Cave- with various cave formations, underground river and waterfalls. It is the home of globally protected bat species. Entrance to the cave is limited.

Rizova Dupka Cave – a rare type of cave formed not by erosion but by vertical slicing in a gneiss rock, caused by its won weight

The Zagrade Plane trees: these are two incredible sycamores (plane trees) over 600 years old; they can be seen on the right side on the road from Gotse Delchev town to the village of Marchevo. In the Tertiary (or so the sources say) there used to be a huge forest of such trees along the valley of Mesta river.

If you need any help with reservation or a tourist guide to show you around write me an e-mail to truebulgaria@gmail.com or use the contact form.