Bulgaria for an international vacation?! I think YES! Four years ago, I went to Bulgaria for a conference with my mother as apart of my graduation gift. Before going, I never thought that I would travel to a country such as Bulgaria that appears to be on the lower end of most people’s radars when it comes to European countries to visit. However, Bulgaria deemed to impress me on more levels than not! Now, we will take a trip down memory lane to my trip to Bulgaria back in June 2017.

Our Home Base – Sofia

For the week and the duration of the conference, we stayed in Sofia, Bulgaria – the nation’s capital city. The hotel that the conference was held at was where we decided to stay along with the rest of the conference attendees and their families. The conference was a smaller scale conference for this organization and attendees were more than welcome to bring their family members and many did. Although I was a guest of my mother who was a presenter and attendee, I did get to attend sessions if I so chose to along with all of the group tours, meals, excursions included within the conference. Personally, I liked that the conference was held on a smaller scale, because I got to get to know everyone who attended on a more intimate level. Furthermore, I also got to see everyone at the conference on a regular basis, rather than simply in passing or meeting them once and never seeing them again for the rest of the week.

The hotel that we stayed at was a boutique hotel within the Sofia city center. It wasn’t far from many of the city’s major attractions. A unique asset of the hotel that we stayed at was that it was also a site of ancient Roman ruins. Who knew that the Roman Empire expanded to Bulgaria?! Well, may brain did not think that through! There is also a Bulgarian city called Plovdiv – a place I wish I visited while there – which is notorious for its Roman ruins. The Roman ruins were located at the hotel’s basement right next to the conference rooms with viewing points throughout the hotel – definitely something that you do not see everyday!

Bulgaria is a post-communist Soviet Union nation. So, there are several concrete tenant apartment buildings that Bulgarians live in. The same concept goes for some of the city’s architecture on the outskirts. But, the city center still had its charming and unique to Bulgaria feel that has been there for years before its Soviet Union days. Sofia also has ancient Roman ruins throughout its city center that its residents and tourists can view by simply just walking across the street. Each day that we were there, we got to visit various aspects of the city. One of the most notable sites to see in Sofia is the Cathedral Saint Aleksandar Nevski – a stunningly gorgeous cathedral just blocks away from the hotel. We would always pass it on our walks and strolls around the city.

On our first full day in Sofia, the conference arranged for our entire group to go on a city center walking tour. We walked passed the Bulgarian Parliament, an Opera house, Roman Ruins, Cathedral Saint Aleksandar Nevski, an Art Museum, and much more. Bulgaria is filled with beautifully colorful architecture that truly shows off its Eastern European charm. Another super amazing aspect of Bulgaria is its fresh roses that come in the form of perfumes amongst many other things. Let me tell y’all, their perfumes come at a Bath & Body Works price for a Marc Jacobs quality! They are also known for their great massages, at a much cheaper price tag, too. Overall, Sofia is an extraordinary city and I fell more and more in love with it everyday that I was there, and especially on the walking tour!

Excursion 1 – Mount Vitosha

The first excursion that we took was to the nearby Mount Vitosha. Mount Vitosha is a mountain in Bulgaria that is also a notable ski resort in the Winter months. We had the opportunity to hike the trails around Mount Vitosha since we visited in the summer time. There were two options for our group to hike: the bunny trail and the advanced trail. Clearly, I chose the bunny trail, since I am not an avid hiker – ha! The bunny trail definitely had its scenic route and truly allowed me to take in all the sights (and pictures) along the way. One of my favorite parts of the trail was the cross along it signifying Orthodox Christianity that remains strong to this day throughout the nation of Bulgaria. I also got to take in some mountainous Bulgarian views. After our group hike, we had dinner at a nearby restaurant that came with a complimentary traditional Bulgarian folk dancing performance!

Excursion 2 – Teteven

Teteven is known as the greenest town in Bulgaria, according to the locals. This stunning town is located in the Bulgarian mountains, which are all *surprise* green! The conference group and I went there to help out at a local school. We were greeted by local Bulgarian women who had bread and honey for us – some of the town’s specialties! Helping out at the local school, even though I lack experience in education, was such a rewarding experience. It was incredible to be able to see the teachers in Teteven so happy to see us and appreciate our help. Not to mention, the school was built with the local materials to the town and truly showed off its Bulgarian charm. As for the town, it was beautiful with all of its immaculate architecture. It was super fun to walk around and enjoy!

Excursion 3 – Rila Monastery

The Rila Monastery is located in the Bulgarian mountains. There are also four or five lakes called the Rila Lakes nearby. This monastery was beautiful and it was great to walk through. Our experience there was self-guided and we got to see all of the gorgeous architecture and paintings – all of which took countless hours and hard work to make. Luckily, I got to see it all in its full glory!

My experience in Bulgaria was such an amazing experience. I am oh so grateful that I was able to go. Years ago, I never would have thought that I would have gone to visit Bulgaria, but I am happy that I did!

XOXO – Katie <3

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