Travel

Waiting for Dracula…..

The time has come to write a review of my trip to Romania…I wanted to go on a trip with my mother and an organized trip to Romania sounded like the perfect option. So, in May 2017, we headed from Bulgaria to Romania….

First stop: Bucharest and the massive The Palace of the Parliament (Romanian: Palatul Parlamentului)….Or called by the locals ‘‘Ceausescu’s palace’‘ was on my list of buildings to see and I was amazed by the size and the beauty of the entire area where the parliament is located…It looks like a little Paris, the colour of the stones used to build up the area looks exactly the same as the one used in Paris… So little Paris on the Balkans…

After the Romanian parliament, we visited the National Village Museum (”Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum” – Romanian: Muzeul Satului). It’s a wonderland that transports you in the Romanian lifestyle in the past. We spent about one hour there and afterwards we headed to Sinaia.

The best of the trip from Bucarest to Sinaia is that you cross the Carpathes mountains. The scenery is stunning, especially during the summer period.

We arrived in Sinaia in the late afternoon. Sinaia is a famous Romanian ski resort. It’s a small town with a long walking street and many little shops and restaurants. We visited Sinaia monastery and the church situated in the Prahova Valley a little bit at the top of the hilly town.

The next day we left Sinaia early in the morning and travelled to Bran to visit Dracula’s castle. The castle itself did not impress me – there is a similar one in Balchik in Bulgaria – the Balchik Palace where Marie Queen of Romania lived during the summer period. But it’s a must-see once in a lifetime. So, ticked on my list. Bran is a small village with many stands for souvenirs, local delicacies and the like.

In the afternoon, we visited Brașov. For me that’s was the highlights of the trip. The city is very colourful even though it was raining when we arrived. The first thing we visited was the narrowest street in the city of Brașov called Strada Sforii

After that, we visited the city centre for a coffee and souvenirs. The day finished with a panoramic walk/ view at the top of the city. Just amazingly beautiful….

The last day of our Romanian adventure was dedicated to visiting two of the most famous castles in Romania – Peleș and Pelișor. Both are imposing and surrounded by greenery and breathtaking views. The best end of an unforgettable trip.

I hope after that review, you will put Romania on your list and go chase Dracula…

Thanks for reading!

Travel

Who doesn’t want to go to Amsterdam?

Walking down Amsterdam’s streets

It’s time to write about Amsterdam and to give you, dear reader, ideas where to go, what to see and what to eat in this place that amazes millions of tourists every year.

So, beautiful Amsterdam, here we come!

Amsterdam is easily reachable by train from every big city in the Netherlands – the Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht. Especially Utrecth is really close by (only 30 min. by train!!!). So, if you plan to visit Amsterdam and you think the accommodations there are way too expensive, just check the above mentioned Dutch cities. That could be a go for a cheaper city trip.

First stop, Amsterdam Central Station. The Central Station is located in 5 min. walk from the Dam – the central square of the Dutch capital. There are many possibilities of ”city tours”  but I’ll give you the tips for the ”basic” and the ”special” ones. My version of Amsterdam visit is for those who decide not to stay in Amsterdam, and that’s the reason why my departure and arrival point is Amsterdam Central Station.

Basic route (one day visit): from the Central Station, you take the tram №5 (the tram literally crosses the entire city and you can just sit, relax and admire the view. Once arrived at Amsterdam Zuid, you can come back by taking the same tram to Amsterdam Central with a better plan of your highlights to see!) and go to Museumplein. This is the place where are located all the Amsterdam museums – Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Moco Museum, Stedelijk Museum and the Diamond factory. The Rijksmuseum is an absolute must-see, but be prepared, it’s massive and you’ll need an entire day. My favourite is Van Gogh museum – it’s amazing and it’s doable in two hours. Leave a room to go to the Diamond factory (for free) and learn the history and the production process of diamonds. Apart from being a meeting point for eveyrone interested in art, Museumplein is famous for its huge ”I amstedam” sign where all the tourists take selfie pictures ):

Once visited Museumplein, you can take the road back to the Central Station. On the way, you’ll see the Flowers market. Take your time and buy presents for your family and friends. You’ll see many cheese shops, coffee shops and souvenir shops on your way.

After the Flowers market, it’s time for a boat trip. This is very very very touristic attracation, but it’s the only way to admire the unique architecture of the city. You’ll need at least one hour. The boat tours meeting point is at the Dam sqaure, not far away from the Central station. On the same street, you’ll see the Heineken Experience, the Sex Museum and Madame Tussauds. Give them a try if you have time.

After the boat trip, it’s time for the Red Light District and coffee shops (optional). From the boat trip meeting point you take one of the bridges and you’ll arrive at the Red Light District. It’s packed of tourists, coffee shops and thematically related museums (Prostitution museum for example).

After the Red Light District it’s time to go back to the Amsterdam Central Station (if you do not stay in Amsterdam).

The second version can include some of the highlights of the ”Basic” in case you have enough time.

Nine streets Amsterdam Walking tour (one day):

One of the best things to do in Amsterdam is to walk around throught the bridges and the canals to admire the architecture and feel the vibrant athmosphere of the city. The best way to do it and to escape the crowds is: walk through the Nine Streets – it’s a collective name for the cosy streets from Raadhuisstraat to Leidsegracht. Many little cafes, restaurants and design stores will welcome you if you need a break or want to buy a special gift. Nine streets maps are available in many key places around the city.

Apart from the mentioned above attractions, you can also visit Zaanse Schans (organized trips are offered in the Tourist Information Centers), you can also go there by public transport, just check the busses (https://9292.nl/en). Nemo Science Museum is also something to check out. If you plan to visit Amsterdam from November till February, don’t miss out the Amsterdam Light Festival. If you love chocolate, check the Chocoa Festival in February. If you’ve never ever seen wallbies, lamas and and other unusual animals, just go to Amstelpark (it’s for free).

Hope you enjoyed your visit in Amsterdam and now you buy a ticket to see it for free!

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Travel

Black sea pearl: Varna and the region – part II

After you visited Varna, it’s time to explore the region. I am going to start with my favourite places.

The number one place is for Pobiti Kamani (Bulgarian: Побити камъни, “Planted stones”).

It is a rock phenomenon and looks like the Bulgarian Stonehenge, located on 18 km north-west of Varna. The place consists of sand dunes and natural rock formations on a total area of 13 km². This magical place is well-known for its positive energy (according to the local superstitions) and if you lay down for a moment on a stone formation, you’ll feel the positive energy flow in your body and soul. Personally, I did it, I laid down on a big stone and I really felt a wave of serenity and calmness flowing into me. Who knows, maybe I was simply influenced by the local legends ):

Pobiti Kamani.pngThis picture is made by my brother-in-law Milen Dimov. Thanks Milen for the lovely picture!!

Number two: Balchik (42 km northeast of Varna)

Balchik is an absolute must-see! The little hilly town has a lot to offer in terms of surroundings, culture, seaside and attractions. The highlights of Balchik are the Botanical garden (Bulgarian: Ботаническа градина) and the Palace of Queen Marie of Romania (known as Balchik Palace, Bulgarian: Двореца). Both sites are close to each other. A botanical garden is a fairy-tale place – if you are into the photography, this place is the perfect spot for you. No matter the season, you’ll make awesome pictures. The garden is very big, so take half a day to visit it. The palace is tiny, but when there, pay it a visit too. Balchik is located in a hilly region, so walking in the town, means most likely climbing. Be prepared it’s a long street that goes up and down.

Balchik

Next stop: Albena (30 km northeast from Varna and 8 km southeast from Balchik)

The best beach resort EVER. This is my favourite place to go to the beach. Albena has the broadest coastline on the Bulgarian Black Sea and the beach is very clean. It’s a family resort and is not so noisy as Sunny Beach. The best place to relax and lay on the beach all day long.

Albena.pngThis picture is made by my friend Tsvetelina Yankova. Thanks Tsveti for the lovely picture!!

Aladzha Monastery is the next attraction on our way (stop number 4)

Aladzha Monastery (Bulgarian: Аладжа манастир): is a popular tourist attraction 17 km north of Varna and 3 km west of Golden Sands beach resort, located in the protected forest area of the Golden Sands Natural Park. it is a medieval Orthodox cave monastery that represents catacombs hidden in a big rock. To explore the catacombs, you have to climb the stairs.

Aladzha monastery.png

Number five: Cape Kaliakra (60 kilometres northeast of Varna)

Cape Kaliakra is one of the biggest national symbols of Bulgaria. It’s a legendary place as many legends are told around. The most popular is about 40 Bulgarian girls, who preferred to tie their hair together and jump into the sea rather than becoming Ottoman slaves. At the entrance to the cape, you’ll see an obelisk called “The Gate of the 40 Maidens” inspired by the legend. Nowadays Kaliakra is a nature reserve, where dolphins swim freely and can be admired from the cliffs. The remnants of the fortified walls of an ancient residence are well-preserved and you will walk through them during your visit.

Cape Kaliakra.pngThis picture is made by my friend Tsvetelina Yankova. Thanks, Tsveti for the lovely picture!!

Number six: Kamchia biosphere reserve (25km south of Varna)

Kamchia is a river running through a Longoz forest. It’s a UNESCO protected area. Take a boat to admire the natural reserve on a sunny day and you will be amazed by the beauty of the forest and the virgin beaches…

Kamchia.pngThis picture is made by my brother-in-law Milen Dimov. Thanks Milen for the lovely picture!!

Number seven: Devnya (25km to west from Varna)

Devnya is a small industrial town, but there is a hidden gem that you don’t want to miss out. The Museum of Mosaics (Bulgarian: Музей на мозайките) is a museum built on top of a Roman villa’s ruins and shows mosaics from the Roman and Byzantine city of Marcianopolis. The mosaics cover the ground floor and are very well-preserved. You can distinctively see the ornaments and the colours of all of them. There are buses on a regular basis to and from Devnya. Check the Tourist Information Centre of Varna for more information on the bus schedule.

Museum of Mosaics Devnya.png

Travel

Black sea pearl: Varna and the region – part I

Good food, good mood, good life: the best of Varna and the region – Part I

I originally come from Bulgaria and I always wanted to live in Varna. Because of the sea, the sun, the vibrant atmosphere, because…. you have it all there! And after I finished my studies,  I moved from Sofia to Varna! And this is where my dream came true….

Arts and Crafts festival Varna

Varna – the Black Sea capital of Bulgaria. Everybody loves Varna! Everything you want and need is there at your fingertips – delicious food, bars and cafes on the beach, its majesty the beach, cultural events all year round, historical sites and many many nice things to discover and to do in the region.

Varna beach panoramic view.png

Varna is one of the oldest cities in the world. It is located on the Black Sea and is becoming more and more attractive for tourists. There is an airport and many low-cost airlines provide direct flights to Varna every day, especially in the summer. However, if you have more time and really want to experience the best of your stay in Bulgaria, fly to Sofia and then take a bus to Varna – you will cross half of the country through Stara Planina (“Old Mountain”), the mountain that divides the country into two parts. The sceneries are stunning no matter the season. The route is quite long, but it’s worth it. (I just realized that many Bulgarians are going to blame me for what I’ve just advised, as the route is for about 6h30….but anyway..check it out and it’s up to you to decide wheater you go for it or not).

Varna city centre

Once in Varna, you have to make up your mind what to see and what to do in this little paradise. That really depends on what you like and how much time you have. I am going to guide you through a city tour and show you the gems of it. The first thing to do – go to the city centre. It’s easily reachable no matter the location of your accommodation. Taxis are relatively cheap in Bulgaria and there are buses from and to every neighbourhood so transportation won’t be a problem. Once in the city centre, you won’t miss out the symbol of Varna –  the Dormition of the Mother of God Cathedral (Катедрален храм “Успение Богородично”). It’s majestic. Take a moment to admire the massive orthodox temple. If you are interested in visiting more orthodox churches, there are two others on the way to the city centre: St. Nicolas “Свети Николай” (on the main shopping street) and St.PetkaСвета Петка” (behind the Municipality of Varna).

Cathedral of Varna Uspenie Bogorodichno

In front of the main entrance of the cathedral, on the other side of the road, you’ll see the branch stage of the Drama Theatre “Stoyan Bachvarov”. This is where the main shopping street begins. For more information on all tourist attractions and how to get there, refer to the Tourist Information Centre, located nearby.

Drama Theater Stoyan Bachvarov.png

Let’s continue to walk through the main shopping street, it’s a walking boulevard, no cars are allowed here. There is a hidden gem that even the locals don’t know it exists – The Puppet museum. It’s the only one in the entire Balkan region. Very interesting and informative place to see with a unique collection of puppets. It will take you about 40 minutes to explore it all, trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Puppet museum of Varna.png

As I already mentioned, the church St.Nicolas is on our way on the main shopping street and we are passing by when heading to the Seaside Park. Entering inside is for free and it will take you about 10 minutes to have a look around. The tour continues and we arrive at McDonald’s or known amongst the locals as “Sevastopol” (Sevastopol or traditionally Sebastopol (Севастополь in Russian), is a city on the Crimean Peninsula on the Black Sea). This is the meeting point for everybody as it’s a crosspoint of the main spots in Varna. This is the place for me to make a break as my favourite cafe “Kramer” is at Sevastopol square. This is the best place to eat the best cakes and pancakes EVER and NEVER regret it!. Seriously, who can resist this? Not me for sure!

St. Nicolas church Varna.png

Next stop: the Sea Garden (Морската градина), the biggest park in the city. You can spend an entire day here, plenty of cafes, bars, restaurants and other attractions are at your disposal. During the summertime, it hosts many festivals, performances and cultural events. The Naval Museum, the Observatory, the Zoo and the Dolphinarium are situated there as well. The famous disco bar “Horizont” is there too. My favourite bar Cubo is on the beach. Loads of things to do for all the tastes, all the ages, all the tourists and locals. Be aware that if you want to visit the Dolphinarium, you might need more time as it is located at the end of the Sea Garden. You can take a bus or a taxi to go there.

Cubo bar Varna.png

When in Varna or in Bulgaria you should absolutely try the Bulgarian cuisine – it’s super delicious. In Varna you can find many restaurants with a very good reputation: BM Zaliva, Rappongi, Captain Cook – it’s a very expensive one, but the view is breathtaking, Happy at Sevastopol is a very good place to eat and the restaurant offers a big variety of cuisines. Godzilla is a local chain well-known for its big salads. If you want to go out in the evening, Cubo is a place to be  (at least for me), but you can pick up a bar on the beach alley.

Bulgarian cuisine.png

We come back to Sevastopol and are heading now to the Varna Archaeological Museum. It’s a massive building and it hosts the Varna Summer International Jazz Festival every year. If you are up for it, check the program online in advance. The Museum’s most important exhibit is the Gold of Varna, the oldest gold treasure in the world. The museum also has two open-air archaeological sites, the Roman baths in the Greek neighbourhood and the medieval grotto of Aladzha Monastery. I am going to provide you with more info about Aladzha Monastery in a separate post.

Roman baths Varna

After this extensive tour of Varna, it’s time to visit the region. The Black sea pearl: Varna and the region – part II article is coming soon! Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

Travel

Calissons, Calanques and Savon de Marseille: chasing the summer mood in Marseille

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Have you ever heard about Marseille? You definitely did or at least watched the movie Taxi.

Marseille is a French city with a very bad reputation, that actually is on its way to change especially since it was nominated “Capital of Culture 2013”. Marseille attracts more and more tourists and I was really surprised how beautiful is the city and how many things you can do, see, eat, discover and admire there. I had no expectations and did not plan anything in advance as I was visiting a friend of mine who is so-called local and knows the best spots.

So, Marseille, j’arrive….

The first day we did a Marseille Free Walking Tour and were embarked on a panoramic walk around the main attractions of Marseille. The first stop was Marseille History Museum (Musée d’Histoire de Marseille). Entering the building from the city centre, you can see “Jardin des vestiges”, an open-air pre-entrance conserving archaeological remains of classical ramparts, port buildings, even a necropolis. We continued our walk and arrived at Le Panier – Bohemian Bourgeois (BoBo) neighbourhood of Marseille. Very bohemian, very bourgeois, very Mediterranean, very colourful and eclectic. The perfect spot to feel the local atmosphere, architecture and cultural traits. There are many little traditional shops where you can buy soap, petanque accessories or other traditional delights and souvenirs. One tour is not enough to taste Le Panier, so if you have more time, I would recommend to come back and enjoy the Marseille little colourful streets.

Next, we visited the Cathedral of la Major (Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille or Cathédrale de la Major) one of the main symbols of the city and a French national monument. The building is imposing and very very beautiful and is a part of a smaller and older cathedral which remains can be seen alongside the new part. The “New Major”, was built in Byzantine-Roman style typical for Marseille and should not be confused with the basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde, watching Marseille from above the hill.

Step by step we were approaching the Old Port and stopped over the Fort Saint-Jean and MuCEM. MuCEM or Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée) houses collections of European and Mediterranean civilisations. The building is situated at the entrance to the harbour, next to the Fort Saint-Jean. The two of them are connected by a high footbridge, 130 m (430 ft) long.

In the early afternoon, we came back to the Vieux Port (Old Port) and headed to If Castle to discover all the mystery around Alexandre Dumas’ novel The Count of Monte Cristo. The Château d’If is a fortress (later a prison) located on the island of If, the smallest island in the Frioul archipelago. It became famous for being the place in which the action of Alexandre Dumas’ adventure novel The Count of Monte Crist takes place. The castle and the island itself are small and you can easily do it in one hour or in one hour and a half.

The evening was quite unusual as went to an International Fanfare Competition. That was once in a lifetime show. Fish smell, funny costumes, dancing and music, it was all about having fun the French way.

The second day, we visited Calanque de Sugiton. The natural park is just breathtaking. We were walking, climbing, enjoying the great view and swam in the crystal water. There is no real beach there, just stones and water. Pure natural delight!

The last day, we pay our respect to the most famous attraction in the city – the basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde. It’s situated on a hill so the way to the basilica can be quite hard to climb. You can take a bus, or the little funny touristic train and do the way back by walk. The basilica itself is gorgeous. The panoramic view allows to see the entire city from above and to realize how big it is actually.

Oh, I was writing about Marseille but did not mention anything about neither the food nor the typical souvenirs from Marseille. Here are the best places to be:1. You should absolutely have a French breakfast at Noailles: old fashion typical French cafe. The coffee is mind-blowing, the croissants as well and you can buy typical regional sweets from there as Calissons. 2. Soaps: La Savonnerie Marseillaise here you’ll find real 72% olive oil soap. The shop offers perfumed soaps, but go for the smelly natural Savon de Marseille. 3. The oldest Hardware store (Quincaillerie) in France is actually based in Marseille. If you wonder what to buy as a present, just check-it-out Maison Empereur.

I am sure you already put Marseille on your bucket travel list and are checking the flights! Share your Marseillaise experience with me! Because happiness is better when it’s shared!

Thanks for reading!

 

Travel

Dutch weekend destination: Amersfoort, Gorinchem or s’Hertogenbosch

 

You’ve already been to Amsterdam and are wondering what else you can do in the Netherlands apart from Zaanse Schans and Volendam? I suggest to get out of the crowd and check the connections to Amersfoort, Gorinchem or s’Hertogenbosch. You would ask why? Here is the answer.

Amersfoort is easily reachable by train from Amsterdam, Utrecht, Rotterdam and The Hague. You can make a day trip there and discover more about Dutch history and culture. Amersfoort looks like a fairy tale magical place with its Fort Walls surrounding the city heart. The first stop is the Medieval gate Koppelpoort and the Kei (or the Port). The Culture House Eemhuis and Kunsthal KAdE – a modern art exhibition hall are also located there, so if you are a culture addict, check them out. From the gate, you enter the city, which follows a little street in the shape of a spiral. You can just walk around and reach the main shopping streets – Langegracht or Kortechracht, both are close to each other and end up in the Hof and Sint-Joriskerk – the city cathedral. This is the perfect spot for a coffee or a lunch break on a sunny day. Amersfoort is the birthplace of the painter Piet Mondrian and when you hang out in the centre, you can visit Piet Mondriaan house located at

Gorinchem is a Dutch city in the middle of the country, 70 kilometres south of Amsterdam. It is not “around the corner”, but you can take a train to Utrecht and then take a bus to Gorinchem. Gorinchem is a must-see for everyone who is obsessed with the perfect travel photos. All the Dutch symbols are there – windmills, little streets, canals, even a Castle on the other side of the river. I highly recommend visiting this place as it’s really out of the beaten path and you will enjoy the Dutch atmosphere there. Everything is in the city centre – the Central Station, the windmills, the central square, the park and the river. I am sure you’ll have also time to take a water taxi and visit Slot Loevestein – one of the biggest medieval castles in the Netherlands. It’s the perfect place to immerse in the Dutch culture and history.

s’Hertogenbosch is quite a famous Dutch city. The city is located in the heart of the country and surely has a lot to offer in terms of sights to visit. A part of the festive atmosphere in the city centre with all the bars, there are two great highlights that you should not miss out. The first is the historical boat trip on the canals. There are canals everywhere in the Netherlands, but the canals in Den Bosch (as locals are calling s’Hertogenbosch) are very narrow and are wide enough for only one boat to pass. All the canals are well-preserved and it’s a real adventure to do the boat trip there. The second spot is the St. John’s Cathedral. This is the biggest cathedral in the Netherlands and the most famous one. It has a very rich interior and

a huge organ. The cathedral is considered as a National monument and receives financial support from the government.

Hope you are convinced enough to explore the Netherlands out of Amsterdam. I will continue to update you with tips to do and to absolutely not miss out in this beautiful country! Stay curious and thanks for reading!

Travel

Paris, je t’aime….

Paris is the city of love, to find love, to fall in love or just to be there with your beloved there. I was there many times, but every time is like I am for the first time there. There are a bunch of books, movies, songs, paintings inspired by the sublime city of Paris.

Finding information what to do, where to go, what to eat in Paris is very easy nowadays. It’s the must-do destination for every one at least once in a lifetime.

I will never forget my first trip to Paris, it was magical. I was walking, walking, walking from the Eiffel Tower, to the Arc de Triomphe and to Notre Dame de Paris marvelling at every corner of my dream-come-true.

I would like to share 5 places that I like the most and that I visit every time I go there. There will be nothing new in my list as these places just cannot be skipped.

The top place is for the Eiffel Tower – you can see it from everywhere. It’s the symbol and the guardian of the city. The ultimate thing to do there? Go in the middle of its location and just look above you. Isn’t it amazing? Doing the queue to go on top of it, on the other hand, it’s not really worth for me. I would prefer to hang around and see everything on my way…..But if you absolutely want to go to the top of it, buy the ticket in advance…

The second place is for Montmartre and the Basilica Sacré-Cœur. This place inspired artists from all around the globe and created a sort of cultural European hub. Walking around, having a coffee with a crêpe Suzette in one of the numerous cafes-terraces, and ask one of the local artists to make a caricature of yourself is absolutely mandatory and fun!!!! I did all of them and don’t regret it …especially the caricature which reminds me my Parisian escape…

When at Montmartre, check the Salvador Dali museum. It’s hidden from the tourists and you’ll find there a big part of his most famous work. A place to tick if you are into art..

The third place is for The Louvre. The Louvre has been on my list for a long long time and I finally visited it during my last trip. The museum is huge, so you’ll need a day to spend there. But it is worth. Apart from the Mona Lisa painting, you have an entire floor dedicated to Muslim art, especially Iranian, which is really beautiful. You’ll find artefacts from not only Europe but Ancient Egypt, Mauritania and other civilisations.

The fourth place is for Notre Dame de Paris. The exquisite cathedral is as beautiful from outside as from inside. Hanging around, marvel at the beautiful architecture, feed the pigeons makes you feel like being a part of the beautiful Victor Hugo novel or entirely in the musical itself.

The last but not the least is all the bridges around the Seine River. Just walk around, check Quartier Latin and all the sights over there: Centre Georges Pompidou, La Conciergerie, Le Jardin du Luxembourg, Le Palais Royal and others.

I will be glad if you share your favourite tips in Paris. For more inspiration, check the movie “Paris, je t’aime

Thanks for reading!