More Trip Information
Basic Trip Information Past Participants' Comments

More Information about our trip, about Bulgaria, and our itinerary

Most Americans have not thought of Bulgaria as a vacation site because it was "behind the iron curtain" for so many years and lies on the very eastern edge of Europe, bordering Asia, the Middle East. I feel so strongly this trip is a hidden gem it's virtually a calling for me to make information about Bulgaria available so that those who would appreciate and enjoy this trip so very much do not miss it. Those of you familiar with my missives know that I do not rant and rave like this over every trip. Here is some information that should be helpful to you.

This is undeniably our most popular trip of all (and the one I love the most). With the exception of our Alaska cruise, this is the trip I have repeated more often than any other (14 tours since 1979) and people who've been with us still come up to me to rave about it. Having developed friends and contacts throughout the country, being interviewed for Bulgarian radio, magazines and newspapers over the years and spending much time in the country, I feel very much at home there and return each time with unbridled enthusiasm.

How can I begin to communicate to you what the experience of this trip is like, the warmth of the Bulgarian people, the sounds and colors and sights of this little country, the people in the villages, the costumes, the music, the spectacular scenery, the incredible dancing, the historical sites, museums and cultural institutions, etc., the magical experiences we've encountered on every trip! When you add to this the equally magical festival: the continuous party and feast of performances, people from all over dancing together outdoors, on the village green and everywhere, the air filled with smells of fresh food on outdoor grills, villagers from age 4 to 94 strolling by in full costume, impromptu music sessions with dancers circling the musicians, the strange sounds of music echoing off the hills...

I guess all I can say is: please seriously consider this trip. The hotels are first class and deluxe, the buses are modern and air-conditioned (usually Mercedes) and the experience is unforgettable. (And, don't forget, non-dancers enjoy our trips as much as dancers do.)

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Bulgaria is a charming country, with a great variety of beauty in its landscape and a great richness in its traditional culture which still plays a strong part in its daily life. Its village life still exists as in times long past and its people are among the friendliest and most hospitable of any I've met in my travels. Its location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia provides a fascinating mixture of cultural influences with some of the most interesting and appealing dance and music in the world. Add to this the festivals, and the opportunity to meet, dance and sing with local villagers, the usual historical sites (ancient and otherwise), museums, scenic highlights, cultural institutions, plus special concerts, dance classes, parties and folk club visits with live music, local leaders, etc. ... well, I believe this trip is a must!

You can make your reservation by email and then send the check or use the coupon/reservation form herewith. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

(I will be sending participants tons more information including: language sheets, cultural and historical information, information on dance styles, music and regional differences, tips on where to find reading materials, maps, dictionaries, etc, helping hints for packing and things to bring with you... and much other useful information.)

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Here are some points about our trip:

  • 1. Dates & Rates: July–August 2011; 2 meals/day, plus extras; cost: $2495 plus air (est. $900 non-stop from NY; single supplement: approx. $475. (With our "amazing Bulgarian extras" this is one of the best tour values around!)
  • 2. Guides, Staff: We will be accompanied by our usual first class group of experienced English-speaking Bulgarian guides and wonderful Bulgarian folk artists.
  • 3. Re: Itinerary (see tentative itinerary in Basic Trip Information): Bulgaria is a small country so we are able to cover vastly differing regions, both culturally and topographically, without long travel stints. You will see many of the most wonderful features of Bulgaria and cover many ethnic regions (e.g., Shope, Pirin [Macedonia], Rhodope, Thrace, Severnyashka). We may also be taking a delightful train ride through the mountains of southern Bulgaria.
  • 4. Festivals: We are scheduling our trip to enable us to participate in folk dance and music festivals occurring in Bulgaria this summer, including some festival performances of ethnic folk dance groups from other countries around the world. (You may also have the opportunity to dance at a festival, if you wish to.)
  • 5. Folklore, Dance, Culture: We will be meeting with, seeing performances of, being instructed by, and dancing with Bulgarian teachers, musicians and villagers from the various regions of Bulgaria. (And, if you are not a dancer yourself, this is an excellent opportunity to mingle with the locals who gather around for our meetings, parties, dances sessions, etc.). A very significant aspect of this trip is its cultural one—and you will come home reeling, full of the richness and warmth of the Bulgarian people and their culture. Gustatorily speaking, you will get the opportunity to experience delicious local Bulgarian specialties.
  • 6. Extras: All our trips, and especially in Bulgaria, include "extra happenings" that are not (and cannot be) defined ahead of time. If you get a chance to talk to some of the people who've been to Bulgaria with us before (many have repeated), ask them about this. (Note: If you would like, I can send you some names and numbers of people who've traveled with us to Bulgaria and are willing to be called, so you can speak to them directly—let me know. You can also order a professionally produced, 1-hr video of our trip with lots of dancing, music, scenery, local color, etc. for $4.95 plus shipping.)

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Below is a rough sketch of some of the places we often visit in this country replete with very special villages and old towns, each with its own distinctive flavor. (This is, of course, in addition to all the parties, dance sessions, classes, live music, special performances, meetings with locals and all the other extras.)

  • SOFIA—Bulgaria's capital with all its restaurants, clubs, concerts, historical sites, markets, streets filled with people, Alexander Nevski golden-domed Cathedral, Icon collection, 4th century St. George Church and treasures of the National Museum of History, the National Ethnographic Museum in the former royal palace, folk performance and dancing at a "Mechana" (Folk Tavern), possible special performance and meeting with children's folk dance ensemble, the magnificent Mt. Vitosha, shopping, sightseeing, wandering the streets, etc.;
  • RILA MONASTERY—the 10th century, world-famous walled Rila Monastery, one of Europe's largest, nestled about 4000 feet high in the mountains, with storks nestled on rooftops in the nearby town;
  • SANDANSKI—the birthplace of Spartacus in the Pirin Mountains of Macedonia, sophisticated spa facilities, massage, curative mineral swimming pool, various therapies available;
  • MELNIK—visit to the museum town of Melnik with its sandstone cliffs and picture-book houses, Ethnographic Museum and St. Nikolai Church, dinner and dancing (Zurna dance evening), wine-tasting in a local cave;
  • BANSKI—our favorite little town, with an absolutely stunning view of the Pirin Mountains from our hotel window, its wonderful "local color," including the exotic outdoor natural washing machine, horse and cart ride to a special mountainside picnic with local foods, grilled specialties and wines and music by the incomparable local men's singing group, the famous Banski Starski Ensemble (dancing too, of course);
  • VELINGRAD—special narrow-gauge train ride through spectacular gorges and mountain passes to Velingrad, a center of the Turkish minority in Bulgaria;
  • VELIKO TURNOVO—the medieval capital of Bulgaria from 1185 to 1396 A.D., fortress walls and palaces perched among steep cliffs of the Yantra Gorge, numerous archeological sites and the breathtaking view over the city, Sound and Light Performance over the Tsarevets Hill, scenic, picturesque ride through the famous Valley of the Roses and the spectacular Shipka Pass; the wonderful open-air Ethnographic Museum of Etura, with local artisans, as you watch, working their crafts as have been done for centuries (and which you can purchase if you wish), the incomparable Humor Museum in the "funny town" of GABROVO; Kotel School of crafts and instrument making (gaida, gadulka, kaval, tambura, etc,);
  • PLOVDIV—dating back nearly 6000 years, exquisitely beautiful old medieval city with cobbled streets, classic Balkan architecture and Roman ruins, iconostasies of gilded wood in ancient churches, the Old Town, Thracian folklore, the famous Ethnographic Museum, the Roman Amphitheatre, lunch at the Pulden Turkish-style restaurant (one of Europe's most beautiful), folk performance and dancing at Trakijski Stan Folk Tavern;
  • KOPRIVSHTITSA—picture-book town, white stone walls and fences covered with wild geraniums and ivy, beautiful wooden houses with incredible wooden carvings everywhere, founded in the 14th century, site of the first shots fired in the 1876 April uprising against the Ottoman oppression and home to the famous Koprivshtitsa Festival;
  • BLACK SEA COAST—golden sand beaches, nightlife and folk entertainment, natural spas, hydrofoil rides, ancient towns, etc., etc;
  • THE FESTIVAL—a dizzying panoply of sights, sounds, smells, music, dancing, eating, drinking and merry-making; plus: more folk performances, clubs with dancing and singing, workshops, meetings in villages, picnics, classes, etc., etc.—just wait and see!


SOME USEFUL INFORMATION

  • Climate—similar to southern New England, with some Mediterranean influence. The average temperature in July/August is 70°F, average high is 83°F. Therefore, days will be warm and summer-like (one or two, on average, may be hot) and nights can be cool, especially in mountain areas. Rain is infrequent and usually not much of a factor.
  • Electricity—220 volts AC (50 cycles). You will need an adapter/transformer that will convert the voltage and fit the European-type outlets. (Note that there are low-wattage transformers (e.g. for radios, tape recorders, etc.) and higher-wattage (e.g. for hair dryers).)
  • Clothes—You'll need casual summer clothes with good, comfortable shoes for walking, dancing or whatever, plus a warm sweater or jacket for cool mountain nights. Our trip is very informal and easy-going, but you may want some dressier wear for dining, shows, etc.
  • Vaccinations—None required.

Note:  This is merely a bit of preliminary information.
Much more detail, folklore and dance information and helpful hints will be sent to participants later.