TRIP DURATION: 9 days
PRICE: € 1150 based upon minimum of 8 paying participants. Small group surcharge of € 100. Single room supplement € 60; single rooms are subject to availability.
GROUP SIZE: 5–8
We will start this trip dedicated to the authentic Bulgaria in its capital, Sofia. We will devote a day to the old Stalinist monumental architecture in the center, the women’s market and the industrial district around the train station (for fans of this type of photography). We will continue to a former capital of Bulgaria, Veliko Turnovo, an ancient and enchanting city with many churches and palaces, as befits the old center of a former kingdom. We will pass through Gabrovo and Tryavna; we will then cross Shipka Pass. We will spend a night and part of a day in the epitome of a socialist city, Dimitrovgrad. We will head south to the Eastern Rhodopes and the meanders of the Arda River. We will then continue even further south to the meanders of the Byala River and the nearby picturesque villages. Afterwards we will turn west to the heart of the Western Rhodopes, Ardino, the abandoned village of Dyadovtsi and the Devil’s Bridge. We will take pictures of the Shiroka Luka architectural reserve and the little villages around it. On our way to the ancient city of Plovdiv we will visit the Wondrous Bridges, a graceful natural phenomenon. We will spend a day or two in Plovdiv and then return to Sofia.
WHAT THE PRICE INCLUDES:
Group transportation in tour van/microbus; Accommodations based on two people sharing a room; Eight (8) nights including breakfast; Photographic leader in English; Day tours and excursions as shown in the itinerary; Extensive pre-arrival information and services.
WHAT THE PRICE DOES NOT INCLUDE:
International air fare; airport transfers; additional transfers or accommodations that may be required by those arriving or leaving out of the tour dates: meals not included in itinerary; personal medical or travel insurance; any expenses of a personal nature, such as room service, laundry, beverages not included with meals, medical expenses, film or processing, any activities not specified in tour itinerary or listed as optional, or any items not listed in what is included; upon the completion of your trip, modest gratuities to the local guides and the drivers are customary; tips of any kind.
DAY 1 Sofia
The trip begins at 9AM from the hotel in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria (all participants need to have arrived in Sofia the previous day). A local guide will take us to the main sites in the city, with a focus on the old, Stalinist monumental architecture in the center, one of the bestpreserved collections of such buildings in the former communist bloc.
Towards the evening we will visit the women’s market, one of the liveliest places in Sofia, where we will be able to take pictures of the locals in their element. For those who are interested, a visit can be arranged to the area around the train station (not far from the women’s market), where Sofia’s industrial districts are located, made up of a strange blend of old buildings left over from the city’s communist period in the context of a modern industrial landscape. Lodging in Sofia.
DAY 2 Sofia – Veliko Turnovo (approximately 250 km)
Early in the morning we will leave for the old Bulgarian capital of Veliko Turnovo, where we will arrive at around 11:30 in the morning. The remainder of the day will be devoted to a photo walk around this magical city.
Veliko Turnovo is shaped like an amphitheater and is situated on four hills: Tsarevets, Trapezitsa, Sveta Gora and Devingrad. According to contemporaries, medieval Turnovo was a new Jerusalem, Rome and Constantinople all in one. The meandering Yantra River flows between the city’s hills, creating fantastic opportunities to practice landscape and urban photography simultaneously.
We will see and take pictures of the following old architectural monuments: the Tsarevets Architectural and Historical Reserve; the village of Arbanasi, an architectural reserve; the Holy Forty Martyrs Church; the Demetrius of Thessaloniki Church; Saints Peter and Paul Church; the Saint Ivan Rilski Church; the Samokov market and others. We will spend the night in Veliko Turnovo.
DAY 3 Gabrovo – Dimitrovgrad (about 170 km)
We will have an early photo session in Veliko Turnovo, after which we will head for Gabrovo, where there will be time for a short photo session. Gabrovo is located at the foot of the Balkan Mountains. It is 25 km long and in places only 1 km wide. This city is interesting from a photographic perspective; it offers opportunities to practice urban photography with a unique blend of architectural styles dating from prior to the Liberation, the communist era and the present day.
We will continue on to Tryavna, located just to the north of the Trevnenska Mountains, 20 km to the east of Gabrovo. The houses in this architectural reserve have kept their authentic appearance; they are renowned for their unique wood carving adornments. Afterwards, we will head for the Shipka Pass (1185 m), which links northern and southern Bulgaria. At the ridge of this pass we will photograph the Monument to Freedom, dedicated to the heroic defense of the pass by Bulgarian volunteers and Russian soldiers during the Russo-Turkish War of Liberation (1877-1878).
We will go on to the south of the Balkans to Dimitrovgrad without making any stops. There will be an evening photo session in Dimitrovgrad, where we will spend the night.
DAY 4 Dimitrovgrad и Madzharovo (Eastern Rhodopes) – Ivailovgrad (approximately 130 km)
Dimitrovgrad has experienced a unique history. It was founded on 2 September 1947 when 40 youths arrived in order to build the “city of dreams”. This enthusiasm for construction grew, with laborers numbering 50000 coming from 963 Bulgarian towns and villages. Dimitrovgrad was built as a kind of architectural textbook, following the norms developed during the time of the Romans, according to specialists. It was held that the principles of Soviet city planning were also applied and whose model was used as the basis for many such undertakings at that time. The building of Dimitrovgrad is a symbol of the last century because it has turned into one of the most characteristic examples of the architectural transformation of Bulgaria during socialism.
At noon we will set off for Madzharovo. We will arrive at 2 PM. The natural sights of the Eastern Rhodopes in the region around Madzharovo is magical – the enchanting meanders of the Arda River and vultures hanging in the sky create an inimitable atmosphere. All day we will photograph the surrounding landscapes, sandy river beaches and rocky massifs with distinctive names such as Kulata, Momina Skala, Sivridikme, Hisarya, Kovankaya, Patronkaya, Okopa and Meneka. In the evening, just before dark, we will leave for Ivailovgrad, a cozy little town in the Eastern Rhodopes, not far from Madzharovo, where we will spend the night in a hotel.
DAY 5 Ivailovgrad – meanders of the Byala River – villages along the banks of the Byala River – Ivailovgrad (approximately 150 km)
We will have an early photo session street photography in Ivailovgrad. We will visit the especially beautiful meanders of the river. We photograph the villages of Odrintsi and Mandritsa as well as the cult villages of Dolno Lukovo and Gorno Lukovo. Several of these villages are completely empty, preserving their character and appearance from the very last day before they were abandoned. Here, along with thematic photography you will have the opportunity to practice scenic, ethnographic and cultural photography. We will continue to Ardino, where we will spend the night in a hotel.
DAY 6 Ardino, the village of Dyadovtsi and Shiroka Luka (около 50 км)
Early in the morning we will take pictures in Ardino, after which we will set off for Devil’s Bridge and the village of Dyadovtsi (approximately 10 km). The Rhodope style of house seen in the village with bay windows on the second floor was a popular design choice during the previous century, traces of its former greatness which can still be seen, albeit in a decayed state.
The so-called Devil’s Bridge was built in the 15th century along the route to the Aegean Sea; this bridge is 56 m long, 3.5 m wide and 11.5 m tall at the top of its arch. Its stone construction includes a second arch with openings to allow water from the turbulent Arda River to pass. Although it is not directly related to the theme of this trip, the surrounding natural environment together with the bridge are interesting from a photographic perspective, which is why we decided to include it in the itinerary.
At noon we will continue to the architectural reserve of Shiroka Luka, where we will have a photo session. Together with the enchanting little villages in the region we will also have the opportunity to take pictures of magnificent Rhodope landscapes from perhaps one of the most photogenic parts of the Rhodopes.
DAY 7 The Wondrous Bridges and Plovdiv (about 90 km)
In the morning we will travel slowly north, stopping frequently along the way to take in the ancient forests, high peaks and pastoral landscapes of the Western Rhodopes. We will go past the Wondrous Bridges, a rock formation also known as the Rock Bridges. It is located in the karst valley of the Erkyupria River in the Western Rhodopes at an altitude of 1450 m.
The large bridge is about 15 m wide in its broader segments and almost 100 m long. It consists of three arches, the largest of which is 45 m high and 40 m wide. The small bridge is 200 m from the large one along the flow of the river; it is an impassable formation 60 m long and with an average height of 50 m, though just 30 m high at the arch. Further along there is a very small third bridge which includes a cave into which the waters of the Erkyupria River disappear, later to emerge to the surface 3 km downstream.
After taking pictures of this natural wonder, we will head for Plovdiv, the second-largest city in Bulgaria. We will check into a hotel in the afternoon, then in the evening we will walk around and take pictures in the old town, an architectural open-air museum filled with authentic houses, narrow, winding streets and tiny shops. In the evening we will conduct our photography discussion, analyzing the pictures we have taken so far on the trip. We will spend the night in the old town in Plovdiv.
Plovdiv We will spend the entire day taking pictures in Plovdiv. The little streets meandering over the slopes of three hills reveal unexpected and incomparable views of the city. A majority of the churches here are built out of solid stone, and on Sunday morning you can hear the sound of church bells coming from every direction. The atmosphere in the early morning is especially unique. From the top of the hill a spectacular panorama opens up of the city that we will be photographing.
Another interesting place for photographers is the Ancient Theater, mistakenly called the Amphitheater. Built at the beginning of the 2nd century during the rule of the Roman emperor Trajan, this ancient theater is a unique and very well-preserved architectural masterpiece that compares favorably to such similar sites found in Greece and western Turkey.
This day’s focus will be on the city’s historical ruins. We will visit and photograph the Roman Odeon, which was restored in 2004, as well as the Roman forum from the 1st century, during the rule of the emperor Vespasian, and completed in the 2nd century, located next to the presentday Central Post Office.
If time allows, we will also visit the Roman stadium located between the slopes of Sahat Hill and Trihulmieto, which is the most significant monument of the ancient city. We will feast our eyes on Plovdiv’s emblematic Dzhumayata Square.
DAY 9 Return to Sofia and end of the trip (about 120 km)
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