The first thing you need to know about Bulgarians is that they shake their heads for “yes” and nod them for “no.”
As if the Cyrillic alphabet isn’t confusing enough. But orientation difficulties aside, Bulgaria is a still relatively untouched goldmine of stunning vistas, gorgeous coasts, ancient fortresses and trendy towns filled with friendly, fashionable young people.
Set high in the cliffs above the Yantra River, Veliko Tarnovo’s windy streets and dramatic cliff-side views rival those of Santorini, Greece or Cinque Terre, Italy. And as if that’s not enough, the city’s skyline is framed by an enormous fortress on Tsarevets Hill, the ancient capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire. In summer months, a surreal light and sound show floods the sky above it in the early evening hours. About a 5km walk, or cheap taxi ride, from town, the hillside village of Arbanasi is full of cheap restaurants and well-hidden treasures, including the Nativity Church, St. Michael’s Gabriel Church and the Konstantsalieva House.
The sprawling seaside resort of Varna boasts beachfront luxury and shopping galore, all set along the picturesque Black Sea coast. Get lost in the 8 km-long park housing a Dolphinarium, among other attractions, or view the world’s oldest gold artifacts at the Archaeology Museum. Take a day trip to Kaliakra, an enormous 13th century fortress, rooted on a cliff from which forty virgins are said to have jumped to their deaths in order to evade the Turks. Or, visit the gorgeous beaches and ruins of Greek Byzantine settlements at the nearby coastal cities of Messembria and Sozopol.