Past Participants' Comments
Basic Trip Information More Trip Information
What They Had To Say—Quotes from participants on our Bulgaria trips
  • ...the trip more than exceeded our expectations. The country is as beautiful as the people are gracious. Dance, culture and costumes were exquisite. Go with Karl and enjoy the time of your life. There will be time to rest when you get home."
    – A.C & L.C., Gretna, Nebraska
  • "The festival was fantastic. I loved the music, the dancing on the sidelines, the costumes, the faces and the experience of being in a place where all this activity was taking place. It was like living another life in another place. I don't usually wish to be young again, but in this event I could wish to be years younger and experience the ecstasy of dancing and drinking non-stop around the clock."
    "I didn't want to leave...as I found the music and atmosphere there exhilarating."
    – L.G., New York, NY
  • "...in telling you what a wonderful time I had and how much your obvious hard work and preparation was appreciated. Your efforts to balance tours, dancing, special events and to leave opportunity for the serendipitous showed great imagination."
    – B.K., Glen Head, New York
  • "It was a fabulous trip, actually one of the highlights of this life of mine."
    – P.S.. Tucson, AZ
  • "...You really outdid yourself on this one. I felt well taken care of, always: you seemed to anticipate all possible crises and diffused them before they began, with humor and empathy."
    *** "Walking down the mountain in the dark on the last morning, hearing and smelling the horses, cows, chickens and goats, watching the purple of the mountains silhouetted against the dawn, was an experience I won't soon forget."
    *** "...coordinating the festival experience right in the village... I am so grateful that you did it for us."
    *** "And the evenings, going from party to party, being warmly welcomed by each group in tent city, dancing with them around the fire, [the] party in the parking lot (you were at your dancing best that night. It seemed a culmination of all your love for that country and its people—all of it was a superb experience—the kind I will always associate with a Karl Finger tour."
    *** "The ride back on the bus to the hotel was so hilarious I wish I had taped it. Out of nothing you created an evening ride so delightful."
    *** "I've been talking to many people since I've been home... and what impresses them the most is the uniqueness of our experience, the connections with the village people, something no other group seemed to have. I really glow when I speak of it and I thank you for these precious weeks in my life."
    – Lola Ferris, Old Bethpage, New York
  • "Who could resist being impressed seeing the outlandish, fable-like charm of Pirin or watching the Bulgarian national outpouring at the festival. I would consider a return to Bulgaria."
    – B.D., New York, NY
  • "We found Bulgaria to be a beautiful country with very friendly and hospitable people. The weather was delightful, the food good, the tour extremely well organized with a party and live music, performances, and dancing for all every night. We thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it."
    *** "I thought it was a really great trip and you had it so well organized. Of particular note was that every night it was not just dinner, but performance and dancing and party."
    *** "One of the highlights of the trip was staying in a home."
    *** "I liked the full, intense pace of the trip... I would not want to have missed any of the features on the trip."
    *** "Again, thanks for a really great trip."
    – J.O., Stone Mountain, Georgia
  • "[Karl] organizes well and provides many extras that no one else does. There were dance lessons, parties and performances by professionals in every city."
    – Benjamin Zimney, Far Rockaway, NY
  • "Thanks again for a wonderful trip. I'm still glowing."
    – S.G., New York, New York
Excerpts from notes for friends, from a previous Bulgaria Trip
– by Murray & Randi Spiegel, Roseland, NJ, (and joining us again in 2010)

"We had wonderful people on our trip, wonderful weather, incredible arrangements behind the scenes by our tour leader Karl Finger (who brought along a laptop and laser printer for our daily schedule), dancing with villagers everywhere. Produce a mental picture of small old Greek villages in the mountains and you'll probably "get it," especially if you include an occasional challenging accommodation and bathroom."

"Some examples of Karl's tour arrangements: At every town, every stop, we were met by costumed women bearing decorative breads and spices (chupritsa), and musicians & singers, to which we danced. At nearly every meal, we had costumed singers and dance performances. In Bansko, a village reminiscent of medieval Brugges, we were taken over cobblestone street and alleyways on horse drawn carts. We could tell from the expression of the villagers this wasn't a typical tourist trick. (Randi fell off her cart and jumped away from the wheel just in time.)"

"Accompanying us on the trip were 2 official Bulgarian guides, 2 assistants (one who'd lived there and studied the customs and costumes of Bulgaria), and two musical groups (a married couple and a sister and... a nationally famous singing trio). We had dance workshops with 3 dance teachers in various towns and a special party during the dance festival.

"The people were very warm and friendly; generosity is a nat'l trait. They'll kill themselves to help you. We were told to be careful even in how we compliment things in their houses—they may feel obligated to give it to us.

"What makes the music and dance of Bulgaria special is the complex rhythms and dissonant harmonies. Much of the music is made up of 'slow' and 'quick' beats, where the slow beat is 50% longer than the quick one, making for a lot of dotted rhythms. Songs in 7/8, 9/8, 11/8, and 13/8 tempos are not uncommon. One has a 22/8 time signature. The sung harmonies rely heavily on a drone, which is often dissonant, a musical second away from the melody. This dissonance is enjoyed richly, rather than avoided as in Western music. Dissonance and complex rhythms make Balkan music other-worldly.

"Major instruments: gaida (goat's stomach bagpipe), tupan (drum), gadulka (semi-violin), and zurna (that loud oboe/ trumpet). Our favorite gaida story: We know someone who wanted to make his own and obtained a Bulgarian how-to book. He got someone to start translating, but stopped when the first chapter described the technique for slaughtering the goat.

"We did a fair amount of touring. In Sofia, we saw many beautiful churches and mosques, some with 5th c. BC ruins, a roman-era coliseum. One church (Alex Nevski) used 8 1/2 kg of gold contributed by Russia. One Thracian chieftain was buried with 1 kg of the stuff. Bulgaria's famous Rila monastery, dating from 14th c., is built 4000 ft up, into the base of E. Europe's highest mtn (9k ft); every surface contained beautiful murals, and the church had bright gold icons from floor to ceiling.

"We mentioned the nationally famous trio accompanying us. Well, one of them is regularly called by Bulgarian radio for a cultural report. She was scheduled to be called during the weeks she accompanied us, so she mentioned our tour and Karl spoke a little on the program. The following day, when we arrived in the spa town of Sandanski for much needed massages and mineral baths, Karl grabbed Randi for an interview with the regional newspaper. The paper finished the article about our tour with Randi's quote: 'I've always said, when I die, there'll be Bulgarian women singing in heaven.'

"We visited (L.'s) small birthplace village, high up in the mountains. It had never been visited by an American group before, and...the entire village turned out for greeting, ritual and ceremonial songs and dances. I can't say we understood many of them: some involved men dressing up as women, kids placed on men masquerading as camels, and a fellow toting a gun leading around another hooded dancer. Only the wedding ceremonial dances were easy to identify."

"Special meals: In Velingrad, we went to a trout fishery and saw the fish caught that we had at our next meal. Picnic in a park in Bansko, amid beautiful tree-lined hills, entertained by local musicians. Dinner at restaurant in the home built by the father-in-law of one famous sister; there we were serenaded by local 'babbies' who sang songs only sung in that specific town. Sofia, in a mechana, after a wonderful dance performance, we saw Nestinarsko or fire-dancing ritual (2 dancers on hot coals).

"The festival: ... groups rehearsing on grass, others just dancing to the music or making their own. People of all sorts—even a gypsy with a trained bear, another with a monkey... This goes on from morning till night for 3 days. Resplendent embroidered wool costumes of every conceivable color and pattern; mummers with colorful headdresses and loud cowbells; old wrinkled grandmothers dancing while they sing monotonous songs with dissonant songs; and kids no older than 6 years singing with lots of power and poise. The performers sleep in an enormous tent city nearby—some party all night. We went there for 2 nights, danced a little with some, watched others, and listened to singing around a campfire."

"One of [our] group's assistants, Miriam, translated Bulgarian to English for Karl in a simultaneous undertone keeping up with the conversation. One Bulgarian began to answer in English, and Miriam continued her undertone, translating English into English for Karl.

"Our funniest language moment was with our hostess, sitting around after midnight, eating the fried potatoes we couldn't get her to stop making for us. We were trying to learn the language and were asking 'kak se KAZ vehteh' (point, point) to find out the Bulgarian word for whatever we were pointing to. It was good to say something more than the 'Kolka struva' (How much cost) we'd been saying to vendors for 2 weeks. After people commented on Murray's large nose, Margie first teaches our hostess our word 'Nose, Nose.' Hostess repeats it, 'nose.' Then Margie, intending to ask how to say Nose in Bulgarian, falls back on old habit and said 'Kolka struva' while pointing to her nose. All the Americans and Bulgarians laughed, with full understanding for probably the first time.

"We'll finish with thoughts on travelling, from a friend's friend who said she followed the 'Rule of 3': After clothing had been in her suitcase for 3 days, it was clean again!"