The best places to visit in Europe selected by travellers
Did you know that Plovdiv, besides being one of your European Best Destinations 2022, was the oldest inhabited city in Europe and one of the most ancient in the world?
As the main cultural centre of Bulgaria, Plovdiv deservedly won the title of European Capital of Culture 2019.
The city is home to impressive monuments of antiquity – the 1st-century theatre, the Roman Stadium from the 2nd century, the Ancient Forum, fine examples of Roman mosaic heritage, seen in The Bishop’s Basilica of Philippopolis (4-6th century) and in The Small Early Christian Basilica (4-6th century), and others.
Plovdiv Old Town, the city’s finest gem, is a cultural phenomenon that enchants with its beautiful and richly decorated Revival houses. Thanks to the economic and cultural impulse carried by the Mayor of Plovdiv, Mr. Zdravko Dimitrov but also the Deputy Mayor in charge of Culture & Tourism Mr. Plamen Panov and the Tourism Department of Plovdiv this destination is also ranked first among your Best Cultural Destinations in Europe 2022. Plovdiv has also been the most voted Bulgarian destination since the creation of this competition in 2009.
Plovdiv is the city in which millennial history, culture and heritage are in harmony. Ancient and eternal, artistic and modern, cosmopolitan and romantic, this city is so captivating and full of life.
Lifestyles and cultures in what is now Bulgaria have developed over thousands of years. The country is located at the crossroad between Europe and Asia, and the lands of Bulgaria have been populated since antiquity. The Slavs and proto-Bulgarians were greatly influenced by the cultures of the Thracians, Illyrians and Greeks, and all peoples who resided on these lands – Thracians, Romans, Slavs, and Bulgarians – have contributed to the world’s cultural heritage. It is no accident that the earliest European civilization grew up here. Some of the most famous treasures in the world were discovered at the Varna necropolis, including the worlds oldest golden ornaments; There are Thracian tombs and sanctuaries in Kazanlak, Sveshtari, Starosel, Aleksandrovo, Perperikon, and Tatul. A large number of other golden artifacts have been found, in the Panagyurishte, Valchitran, Rogozen, and elsewhere. The remains of the Thracian, Hellenistic and Roman culture are many and varied. In the dozens of Thracians tombs that have been discovered, there are unique remains attesting to the high material and spiritual culture of antiquity. Entire city complexes had been found – Augusta Trayana, Trimontium, Nikopolis ad Istrum, Pautalia, Akre, Mesemvria, Apolonia, Serdika and many others. The traditions, festivals, customs, and rituals preserved by Bulgarians through the ages are evidence of the country’s profound spirituality and its dynamic lifestyle and culture.
Bulgarian customs are rooted in antiquity and are closely tied to the country’s history and particular expression of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Dancing on live coals is an ancient Bulgarian ritual still practiced in a few villages in the Balkan Mountains. The ritual in its authentic form is performed on the name day of Saints Konstantin and Helena – 21 May or (3 June according to the old calendar. Fire dancers prepare for their dance by spending hours locked in a chapel, venerating the icons of these two saints while listening to the beating of drums and the music of gaidas (Bulgarian bagpipes), which is a special melody associated with fire dancing, after which they often fall into trance. In the evening they perform their special dance on live coals. During their dance they always hold aloft in both hands an icon of Saint Konstantin and Saint Helena. Amazingly, they never get hurt or burn their feet.
“Mummers” is another local tradition that also found in other societies in the world. The Mummer games are special customs and rituals conducted most often on New Year’s Eve and at Shrovetide. They are only performed by men, who wear special masks and costumes that have been made for the occasion by each of the participants. The mummers’ ritual dances are said to chase away bad spirits and demons at the beginning of every year, so as to greet the new year cleansed and charged with positive energy.
“Laduvane” is another interesting ritual thatis performed on the New Year’s Eve, George’s Day, Midsummer’s Eve and St. Lazar’s Day. At this ritual young women predict their future in marriage and the men they will marry. They address Lada, the goddess of love and family life, to ask her about their future husbands.
“Lazaruvane” is a ritual related to coming of spring. It is conducted on St. Lazar’s Day, eight days before Easter. The date of the celebration varies, but it is always on the Saturday before the celebration of Palm Sunday. On this day willow branches are picked and used to decorate the doors of houses on the following day. Then the young maidens in the villages pick flowers to shape as garlands on Palm Sunday. On Saturday maidens gather in the home of one of their number and dress in festive clothes decorated with flowers and sprigs. Then they walk through the village from house to house, offering blessings for good health and rich harvests. They are invited in and given small gifts. Probably the most important symbol of Bulgaria is the ritual of making and giving martenitsas for health and happiness at the beginning of March. For Bulgarians this is a symbol of the year’s renewal, again intended to promote health and successful harvests.
Especially well-respected in Bulgaria are traditions related to the circle of life – birth, christening, wedding, and funeral. Saints’ name days are also highly respected in the country, the most famous ones being St. John’s day, St. George’s Day, and St. Dimitar’s Day.
The holidays that are most honored by Bulgarians are undoubtedly Christmas and Easter – when the generations all celebrate together, united by the feeling of belonging to the harmonious Bulgarian family. Also especially highly honored are the first Sunday before Lent, the second Sunday before Lent, Mother’s Day, All Soul’s Day, and Lent.
While traveling around the country, tourists will become acquainted with various rituals and customs, many of which are typical only for specific regions in Bulgaria.
The Rose is the symbol of Bulgaria. Rose picking, one of the oldest and traditional customs of Bulgarians, has become primarily a tourist attraction. Carpets from the time of the Bulgarian Revival are now highly valued works of art. The major centers of carpet weaving are Kotel, Chiprovtsi and Samokov. Along with traditional handicrafts, Bulgaria’s people have also preserved a wide range of traditional popular customs and songs.
There are a number of architectural reserves in the country that preserve the unique Bulgarian architecture from the age of the Revival (18th – 19th centuries) – Koprivshtitsa, Tryavna, Bozhentsi, Zheravna, Bansko, and Melnik, among others. In some of the ethnographic complexes, such as Etara, Zlatograd, and Old Dobrich, tourists can appreciate first-hand Bulgarian customs and handicrafts, since residents continue to make articles according to old techniques passed down from generation to generation.
During the Bulgarian Revival, the monasteries served as centers of artistic and educational activity. There are still many working monasteries in the country – Rila Monastery, Bachkovo Monastery, Troyan Monastery, Zemen Monastery, Glozhene Monastery, Kilifarevo Monastery, Shipchenski Monastery, and others. Our country is also famous for its well-established national traditions of icon painting and wood carving. The best known icons and carvings are from Samokov, Tryavna and Bansko.
The Bulgarian national costume is an intrinsic part of Bulgarian lifestyle and culture. Over the ages, folk costume designs have been influenced by Thracian, Slavonic and ancient Bulgarian motives. The basic article of clothing is a white shirt with long sleeves, worn under vests and coats of various shapes, materials and decorations. There are four types of national female costumes: the single apron, the double apron, the tunic, and the sayana, and there are two types of national male costumes: white-shirt and black-shirt. Each ethnographic area (Dobrich, Pirin, Rhodope, Northern, Thracian and Sofia) has its own typical workday, holiday and wedding costumes.
An important part Bulgarian culture is folk music and national dances, such as the horo. Instruments typically used to perform Bulgarian national music are the fiddle, the mandolin, the kaval (flute), the gaida (bagpipe), the pipe, the dvoyanka (double pipe), the drum and the taranbuka, another percussion instrument. Bulgarian folksongs are handed down orally from one generation to the next. The ensembles “Cosmic Voices”, “The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices” and the folklore ensemble “Pirin” are internationally famous. Bulgarian traditional dances are exceptionally vivid forms of artistic expression. Most often they are performed by a group of people touching palms in a closed or open circle, semicircle, serpentine pattern, or in a straight line. Participants perform similar movements in unison, along with gestures and steps to a specific melody (the horo). Depending on the rhythm and the steps, there are a number of horo types: the standard horo, the rachenitsa, the paydushko horo and the improvised horo.
Bulgaria’s museums preserve valuable collections of domestic, cultural and military articles; statues, burial steles and monuments; masks, mosaics, and small statuettes of ancient gods; and many other precious exhibits.
Bulgarians have developed their culture and enriched it over the millennia, and they preserve it and continue to develop it to the present day. In more recent times, Bulgarians have also had reason to take pride in their literature, arts, music, and architecture. A proof of ongoing involvement is Bulgaria’s rich cultural calendar of national and international festivals for young and old alike, as well as other gatherings, cultural events, and expositions.
Our first post-COVID welcome guests from the USA are touring Bulgaria for 16 days! A magnificent tour, with some very unusual stops.
One of them is definitely PODA PROTECTED SITE:
"Besides the extraordinary bird diversity, Poda shelters the only mixed colony along the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast of the Eurasian Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, Pygmy Cormorant, Night, Purple, Grey and Squacco Herons and Little Egret. The international importance of Poda is recognised by its designation as an Important Bird Area, Natura 2000 Site and Ramsar Site. BSPB efforts in preserving Poda were acknowledged by the first for Bulgaria National Award of the Henry Ford Conservation Awards and by the Diploma of the Association of the German Tour Operators. Poda Protected Site is one of the very few sites in Europe, where 290 bird species have been recorded at just 1 square kilometer." If you are a bird watching lover, do not miss this place where researchers will make you appreciate and learn the richness of the place. http://bspb.org/poda/en/papoda.html
Here is a small glimpse of the Black Sea in the calm of the spring sunset.
Obviously, the moment of perfumes in the Valley of the Roses was not missing, visiting one of the distilleries that in this period receive the bags of petals collected in the flowery fields, to extract the precious essence.
Bisogna essere forniti di uno dei documenti elencati sotto:
1. Certificato di completa vaccinazione - seconda dose fatta entro 14 giorni dalla data di ingresso - con uno dei vaccini anti COVID-19 riportati nell'elenco sotto.
Il documento deve contenere i nomi della persona secondo il documento di identità con cui viaggia, la data di nascita, le date in cui sono state somministrate le rispettive dosi di vaccino, nome commerciale e numero di lotto del vaccino contro COVID-19, nome del produttore / titolare dell'autorizzazione di commercio, il paese da cui è stata rilasciata e il nome dell'autorità competente per il rilascio;
2. PSR test negativo al COVID-19 eseguito 72 ore prima dell'ingresso nel paese
oppure Test rapido (RAT) negativo al COVID-19 eseguito 48 ore prima dell'ingresso nel paese
Il documento deve contenere i nomi della persona secondo il documento di identità con cui viaggia, i dati dell'istituto medico che ha effettuato il test
(nome, indirizzo, contatto), la data in cui è stato effettuato, l'esito "NEGATIVE" scritto in inglese
3. Per le persone che hanno già avuto il COVID-19:
PSR test positivo oppure Test rapido (RAT) positivo effettuato da 15 a 180 giorni prima dell'ingresso nel paese.
Il documento deve contenere i nomi della persona secondo il documento di identità con cui viaggia, i dati dell'istituto medico che ha effettuato il test
(nome, indirizzo, contatto), la data in cui è stato effettuato, l'esito "POSITIVE" scritto in inglese
Nome commerciale depositato presso UE/OMS - Nome dell'intestatario della licenza - Dosaggio completo
Comirnaty/ BNT162b2 - BioNTech Manufacturing GmbH/ Pfizer-Biontech - 2 dosi
Vaxzevria/ AZD1222 - AstraZeneca AB - 2 dosi
AZD1222 - SK Bioscience Co Ltd - 2 dosi
COVID-19 VACCINE Moderna / mRNA-1273 - MODERNA BIOTECH - 2 dosi
Janssen / Ad26.COV2.S - Janssen-Cilag International NV 1 dose
Covishield (ChAdOx1_nCoV-19) - Serum Institute of India 2 dosi
SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine (Vero Cell), Inactivated (lnCoV) - Sinopharm / BIBP1 - 2 dosi
SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine (Vero Cell), Inactivated (lnCoV) - Sinovac Biotech Ltd. - 2 dosi
Sputnik V - The Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology - 2 dosi
Nome commerciale - Produttore
Panbio™ COVID-19 Ag Rapid Test - Abbott Rapid Diagnostics
AMP Rapid Test SARS-CoV-2 Ag - AMEDA Labordiagnostik GmbH
BD Veritor System for Rapid Deteciton os SARSCoV-2 - Becton Dickinson
SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Test Kit (Colloidal
Gold immunochromatography) - Beijing Lepu Medical Technology
BIOSYNEX COVID-19 Ag BSS - BIOSYNEX SWISS SA
CerTest SARS-CoV-2 CARD TEST - CerTest Biotect S.L.
Clungene COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test Kit - Hangzhou Clongene Biotech
Coronavirus Ag Rapid Test Cassette (Swab) - Healgen Scientific Limited
LumiraDx SARS-CoV-2 Ag Test - LumiraDX UK LTd
NADAL COVID -19 Ag Test - nal von minden GmbH,
Sofia 2 SARS Antigen FIA - Quidel Corporation
STANDARD F COVID-19 Ag FIA - SD BIOSENSOR, Inc.
STANDARD Q COVID-19 Ag Test - SD BIOSENSOR, Inc.
CLINITEST Rapid COVID-19 Antigen Test - Siemens Healthineers
Rapid SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Test card - Xiamen Boson Biotech Co
Coronavirus Ag Rapid Test Cassette (Swab) - Zhejiang Orient Gene Biotech Co.Ltd
Every year on 1st of March, Bulgarian people celebrate a centuries-old tradition called the day of Baba Marta (baba means ‘Grandma’ and Marta means ‘March’), related to sending off the winter and welcoming the approaching spring.
Wearing and giving martenitsas
On that day and a few days afterwards, Bulgarians exchange and wear the so-called “Martenitsas” – decorative pieces of red and white twisted threads, symbolising health and happiness and a lucky charm against evil spirits. The Martenitsas are given away to friends, family and colleagues and are worn around the wrist or on clothes. In some villages in the mountains people decorate their houses and domestic animals.
Martenitsa is made of twined red and white threads – woolen, silk, or cotton. The most typical Martenitsa represents two small dolls, known as Pizho and Penda. Pizho is the male doll, usually in white colour. Penda is the female doll, usually in red colour and distinguished by her skirt.
Martenitsas come in a variety of shapes and sizes: bracelets, necklaces, tassels, pompoms and balls.The white is a symbol of purity, innocence, beauty and joy. The red is associated with health, vitality, fertility and bravery.
According to the tradition, people wear Martenitsas for a certain period, the end of which is usually associated with the first signs of spring – seeing a stork or a fruit tree in blossom. After that people can tie them on a blossoming tree for fertility thus giving the tree health and luck, which the person wearing the Martenitsa enjoyed while wearing it.
Baba Marta in the Bulgarian folklore
In Bulgarian folklore, Baba Marta is a mythical figure who brings with her the end of the cold winter and the beginning of spring. Baba Marta is believed to be a grumpy old lady whose moods swing very quickly and it reflects in the changeable March weather. The belief was that when she was smiling the weather was sunny and warm, but if she got angry the cold would stay longer. By wearing the red and white colours of the Martenitsa, our predecessors asked Baba Marta for mercy. They hoped that it would make winter pass faster and bring spring.
Young and old would take care to keep Baba Marta in a good mood. Young would get up early before anybody else in order to meet the first day of March and rejoice Baba Marta with their youth and beauty. Old women would knit twisted strands of red and white threads to decorate the house. They were believed to protect people from diseases and evil forces. The housewives used to hang out red aprons, belts, rugs or twisted threads in front of their houses, hoping that when Baba Marta saw them, she would laugh and make the Sun shine bright again.
The custom of wearing Martenitsa is probably one of the most interesting Bulgarian traditions. According to one of the many legends, this tradition is associated with the founding of the Bulgarian state in 681 AD. The first martenitsa was made by Ahinora, the wife of Khan Asparuh (the founder of Bulgaria) in the second half of the seventh century, when Asparuh crossed the Danube and found the Bulgarian lands. Ahinora, while waiting for her husband, decided to send him wishes for good health and prosperity. She tied a twisted white and red thread to the leg of a swallow and send the bird to deliver the message for health and love.