Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Let’s go International – Visiting Bulgaria

(Bansko, Pirin National Park, Rila Monastery, Sofia)
Note: This is a guest post from my DH, a tradeoff for not taking me along with a promise for this blog-post and lot of gifts:) I hope you enjoy reading!!

A week of classes in Bansko, Bulgaria on a scholarship was a unique, not to miss opportunity for an International trip. Bansko is a town and ski resort in southwestern Bulgaria, located at the foot of the beautiful Pirin Mountains, about 3 hour drive from Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. The Sofia airport was relatively small and currency exchange in the airport was indeed a bad idea. As part of the course, we toured industries in and around Bansko, which included Shumensko (Bulgarian beer company now owned by Carlsberg). We explored exotic restaurants with live native band and traditional Bulgarian costume. The houses(apartments) look alike, people speak no English and weren’t very enthusiastic about economy. All over, it felt like the country was stuck in communist era after the fall of soviet union. We also met Bankso mayor who was keen on developing skiing and tourism while the managers expressed interest in cheap labor and industry. 
Catching our own fish at a Restaurant, Bansko
Malnik, a town near Bansko
On the last day, we hiked in Pirin National Park, known for its wealth of flora and fauna. There were colored markings along the trails. The glorious alpine landscape and its beautiful glacial lakes, called “the crystal eyes of Pirin” make it  completely worth to be a World heritage national park.
 Next day we visited the popular Rila Monastery, another UNESCO world heritage site on the way back to Sofia. This big eastern Orthodox monastery has beautiful wall paintings and equally astounding natural surroundings and stands as an important symbol for culture, architecture and ancient history.
We spent the evening in Sofia touring around Sofia Center- Alexander Nevski Church, Banya-Bashi mosque, the Sofia Synagogue, Hagia Nedelja church, Central Department Store, Saint Sophia statue and stayed there for the night.
Inside a mosque
Next morning we went to a local farmers market and few other streets before taking the flight to Istanbul, Turkey!

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