Tuesday, departure day

We woke up at 3am, Sofia time, to get to the airport at 4am. After a questionable exchange with a taxi driver (lessons learned!), we arrived at the airport, ready for our flights:

  1. Sofia to Vienna with a 4 hour layover
  2. Vienna to Chicago with a 4 hour layover
  3. Chicago to Portland!

Arriving in Vienna, we found the airport to be less than spectacular: dirty bathrooms and terse staff. I will make sure we don’t go through Vienna in the future.

While waiting for our Chicago flight, I came across this man:

Why did I take a photo of this man? Because it was Tuesday, after a Saturday night football game back home. He was decked out in Ohio State gear…shirt, hat, even a fanny pack. I so desperately wanted to chat with him about the game, since we had “watched” it via ESPN Gamecast. *For those of you NOT in the know: Oregon beat #3 Ohio State, at Ohio State. An UNEXPECTED. win*

This Ohio State fan was very tired and looked rather depressed, when he did look up.

I left him as is.

We had noticed an earlier flight to PDX but decided against it – for fear our luggage wouldn’t make it with us.

As we arrived in Portland at 10:30pm on Tuesday, we received a message that our luggage had in fact taken the earlier flight…so it was waiting for us when we hit baggage claim. Oh well, we made it, as did our luggage.

Bob, my sweet cousin, picked us up at the airport and drove us home.

Jan and I want to thank Bob for staying at our house, taking care of Autzen and Aspen and the house. It was relieving to know everything was safe at home. Love you, Bob.

We also want to thank Patrick for yet another awesome adventure.

Maybe, in 2023, we can visit Albania? That’s my idea.

And we’re hoping in 2024, when Emily graduates from AUBG, we can work with Patrick to have family and friends tour some of Bulgaria besides attending her graduation.

On to Sofia and our last days in BG

After a great breakfast at the Family Hotel at Renaissance Square, we packed up for our drive to Sofia.

Arriving in Sofia, we met up with Emily, who took a bus 1.5 hours from Blagoevgrad to spend a couple of days with us before we left for home.

Our time with Patrick was wrapping up. We said our “goodbyes” before Patrick left us. We hope to see you, Patrick, in October 2022, for a visit to the states this time!

On Monday afternoon, Emily took the bus back to Blago. THAT was difficult – saying “goodbye” until December break.

Plovdiv!

We spent Saturday touring Plovdiv. Jan and I have come to find Plovdiv to be an amazing place – one we would like to visit – for extended stays – in our future.

We spent our morning in the Old Town section of Plovdiv (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Town_(Plovdiv)).

Patrick suggested we next visit the Plovdiv Regional Ethnographic Museum (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Town_(Plovdiv)). I was very impressed by this museum, located in a beautiful house originally built by a merchant in 1847.

Plovdiv is comprised of seven hills. The Old Town sits on three of the seven. Here are some photos from a viewpoint.

We visited the newest UNESCO site in Bulgaria – the Bishop’s Basilica (https://www.plovdivmosaics.org/) next. What a place…I could visit many more times to take in the art.

A Change in Direction – to Plovdiv

On Friday morning, we woke up to a mildly miserable day – drizzle, wind, basically, a fall day in Oregon. We had planned to spend the day kayaking on the Veleka River, but the weather was really not cooperating.

Because Patrick is such an awesome, thoughtful travel companion, he suggested a change in our plan – drive early to Plovdiv, the next place on our itinerary but scheduled for a Saturday afternoon arrival. Jan and I thought about it and agreed – so on to Plovdiv!

Along the way, we made our first – and only stop – at a McDonald’s. Except for the lack of ice in our soda, everything else was pretty much the same. We were surprised, however, that the prices were much higher than here in the states.

We had visited Plovdiv during our 2019 tour with Patrick and stayed again at the Family Hotel at Renaissance Square (https://en.atrenaissancesq.com/). Mitko, the proprietor, runs a beautiful, well maintained small inn, perfectly located for seeing the sights.

The South Bulgarian Coast

Patrick suggested a walk along the shoreline today – between Sinemorets and Silistar Beach.

We learned, after the fact, that this was a 6 mile hike. The path was VERY narrow at times and rocky. I was so happy the wind was blowing onshore a few times when we were up high above the rocks on a very narrow path.

It so reminded me of the Oregon Coast. Take a look – let me know what you think!

After our hike, we headed south to Resovo – the southern most town on the Bulgarian Coast. We took some photos onsite, showing the Turkish flag across the river – the border with Turkey.

For lunch, we headed into the small town of Ahtopol. The same group that toured the Strandzha Mountains met up for lunch at a local restaurant. There are usually cats around town – but in this restaurant, we found a very small kitten. The owners of the restaurant were clearly caring for it.

After lunch, Patrick took us to a very special place – the Museum of Anchor. Patrick knows its director well – the Professor. We took a closed tour of the museum. Here are some photos from that visit.

After a long hike, lunch, and a tour of the museum, we returned to the guesthouse to rest before heading out for an amazing dinner at the Trastikite. If you are ever in Sinemorets, I’d strongly suggest this restaurant!

A Day in the Strandzha Mountains

Patrick arranged for us to take a full day tour with the Captain in the Strandzha Mountains – a vast, forested area that covers southeast Bulgaria and northern Turkey.

Patrick’s friend, the Captain, led the tour of two cars with nine among us, including an Israeli woman who has been in Bulgaria since August 9.

The first stop was at a revered cave of St. Marina (https://travelbulgaria.news/cave-st-marina/). The water is said to help with curing illnesses. St. Marina is the protector of the pregnant as well as snakes.

Before visiting the next cave, the Captain stopped for a small BBQ. We had a great lunch of grilled meats, bread, and lutenitsa. It was a perfect setting for an early fall lunch.

We then travelled to the Holy Trinity Chapel, which is built on top of an ancient Thracian sanctuary. Lots of examples of reduce/reuse/recycle here! The current building was completed around 1875.

One of the icons included a picture of St George and some Arabic. I ended up translating it. A couple of thoughts about that: who would think that I would use my university degree in the wilds of the Bulgarian forest to help everyone understand the icon. And secondly, I think I kinda freaked out our Israeli guest when I did this – because she turned to me with eyes wide open and asked “how do you know Arabic?”

For photos of the cave, check out this blog: https://www.myfreshes.eu/holy-trinity-chapel-strandzha-mountain/

I did not have the lighting to do it justice.

All three of these locations – the two caves and the chapel – had amazing energy – like the hair on my arms was standing up.

After visiting the chapel, we all drove back “to town” and stopped at a small village to grab some coffee out of a vending machine. Oddly enough, these machines (Lavazza) make AMAZING coffees. I took some photos from the village.

Arriving back in Sinemorets, we stopped at a small brew pub and enjoyed a nice cold drink to end the adventure.

After cleaning up, Jan, Patrick and I headed out for a nice dinner. Here are some photos of the rest of the evening.

I will try to get more/better photos of the Friends Room. It is very Bulgarian in its decoration, with the fireplace, the big pillows, and lots of wood.

On to Sinemorets

We travelled from mountains (Rhodope) to the sea (Sinemorets) on Tuesday. Here are some photos along the way.

Patrick then took us to the Deaf Stones – a Thracian sanctuary. https://bulgariatravel.org/the-deaf-stones-thracian-sanctuary-haskovo-region/

Again, amazing views.

After visiting the Deaf Stones, we headed east to have some lunch in a mountain restaurant before hitting lower land. We stopped at the site of a dolman next.

We made it to Sinemorets before dinner time. Jan and I rested a bit before Patrick took us to a beachside bar. For my Oregon friends: THIS IS OREGON. The waves, the rocks, everything screams home to me. Except the sun sets on the mountain side…

We changed up our plans for dinner. The Captain invited Patrick, Jan, and I to have dinner with him and his family. He has built a beautiful 14 room complex here, with a small kitchen/bar, and a special room for friends. I’ll try to get a photo of that room because it screams Oregon to me. It has a fireplace that is raised – at almost waist level – so they can grill meats directly in the fire.

We had Shopska salad, some nice soup, and tons of grilled meats. Someone had made creamy pesto which went so well with the meats. Quince rakia and white wine helped wash it all down. Maria, another of Patrick’s friends, made homemade yogurt ice cream with figs. LOTS of figs here now and they are ripe. Lovely.

Wednesday, Patrick has arranged for us to take an all day tour with the Captain of the Strandzha Mountains – which is on the border with Turkey. I will have lots of photos to share!

Perpera

Patrick took all over the area! We saw so many different, cool things!

We began our day visiting some deserted villages. Here are some pix from the first one.

We moved on to another large settlement that had been abandoned up in the hills. People use the area for grazing their sheep, cows, and goats, however.

We left the hill and moved down toward the valley. Along the way, we passed through a beautiful pine forest.

After lunch, we traveled to Tatul – a special monolith. A rather amazing place.

We travelled back to the Perpera Complex and spent the night, ready for Tuesday and a day of travel.

Greece, back to Bulgaria

Sunday, we left Greece and moved back to Bulgaria. I’ve captured some random shots along the way I thought I would share.

We spent about one hour in line waiting to cross the border. There was interest in us Americans, but nothing stopped us from getting through.

Patrick took us to a very interesting place – Complex Perpera. It’s an area of archaeological interest. Here are some photos from the grounds near our bungalow.

We had dinner at the onsite restaurant, which also happened to be hosting a conference of women. We saw them doing yoga, but at dinner time, the restaurant cranked up the Bulgarian folk music and we had some authentic dancing!

Boating on the Aegean, Day 2

We had so much fun on Friday, we decided to rent the boat again on Saturday.

We wrapped up our day at the best local restaurant – beachside. So much fresh seafood!

Here are some final evening photos from our room at the Theoxenia Apartments.