Bulgaria – Part 2
Whoever planned our itinerary knew what they were doing – Sofia was definitely the place to recharge for month four of our journey. We actually spent five weeks in Bulgaria – as we travel on the last Saturday of each month – and I appreciated the extra week to simply “be”. Be still and relax and rest…not rushing to see one more sight before packing our things and moving on yet again.
I’ve already raved about how beautiful the country is and how nature surrounds the city so I’ll fill you in on some of the highlights during the last two weeks.
Growing up with a mom who was rodeo queen (and a darn fast barrel racer!) and an aunt who went to the Olympics for dressage, I’ve ridden a few horses in my lifetime. So you can imagine my excitement when there was extra space for the horseback riding track event!
We drove 1.5 hours outside Sofia and arrived at a small farmhouse, where we were warmly greeted with licks from the guard dogs and a foal nuzzling our bags looking for treats.
The horses were saddled with either an English or traditional wooden saddle and a simple halter with lead. The owners strived to treat them as close to natural as possible – no fences, no corrals, no bits, no reins.
Our trail ride wove through fields blossoming with bright purple flowers and butterflies fluttering all around, across streams, up hills and through dense forests. I couldn’t stop smiling at the joy of being on horseback and appreciating the stunning scenery!
While the other group was riding, we had a brief archery lesson with a Mongolian farmer. Traditionally, shooting is done from the back of moving horse so balance is key. He taught us the importance of breathing – to take a deep breath and not rush, which, he reminded us, it true for everything in life.
A perfect day of nature, horses, dogs and perspective on life.
In the spirit of self-care, I continued my yoga practice, attending classes at nearby Santosha House (which was next door to the Tea House, with yummy golden milk and raw foods!)
I also found an amazing physiotherapy clinic that combined physio, massage, chiropractor, acupuncture and ultra-sound all in one appointment – for the equivalent of $50 Cdn!
Each session started with a consultation, followed by a treatment plan that lasted 1.5 hours. Dragomir was amazing and got my weary body back on track. I saw him once a week and wished he could join us for the rest of the year!
We headed to the movies to see Wonder Woman. It amazes me that people around the world are watching movies at the same time! Even though I’m in Bulgaria, I’m still watching the same movies as my friends back home, which definitely helps me feel connected. (And what a great “girl power” movie – loved it!)
June 21 marks the official start of summer and a group of us decided to welcome the solstice sunrise. Meeting at 4am, we piled into three taxis and drove 45 minutes up Vitosha Mountain.
When we arrived, Laura said we should walk to the Tree of Wishes to catch the view from there – a simple 20-minute flat walk. (I should know by now that “simple walk” has a different meaning to the outdoorsy, active Bulgarians!)
The path led us through water, slipping into mud bogs and scrambling over boulders…all in the dark! As we went along, my friend Heidi offered her hand over the slippery sections and we decided the path was getting more treacherous so we picked our own spot to watch the sunrise.
And it did not disappoint.
Slowly the sun rose above the horizon. Warm light washed over the entire city and up the mountainside. We sat in silence and marveled at how fortunate we were to be sitting on a mountainside in Bulgaria to welcome summer. A memory we’ll both treasure.
Eventually the rest of the group returned and we made our way together in the daylight back to our waiting cabs. It was an early morning but well worth the lack of sleep!
Being a girl who loves water, I simply had to get to the Black Sea. I rented a car, grab two friends and we headed south for a three-day road trip. I’d been warned about aggressive drivers on this highway but never in my life have I seen such high speeds!
Although the posted limit was 90 km/hr (which in Canada means most drivers are going 100 km/hr), I quickly found myself being tailgated and honked at in the slow lane!
I increased my speed to 110, then 120 and still at 130 cars were flying by like I wasn’t moving. It was unnerving to see vehicles rapidly approaching and swerving out to pass at the last second. The road safety girl inside me was freaking out!
But we arrived safely at our first stop – Plovdiv, a cute city with a large old town and ruins to explore. In fact, it has the largest, most well-preserved Roman amphitheatre in the world. We explored the theatre, a fortress, various churches and other buildings before climbing back in the car and continuing our journey.
We arrived in Burgas, checked into our AirBNB and walked to the beach to dip our toes in the Black Sea. The next day we explored the northern coastline up to Nessebar and Sunny Beach (a party town that we didn’t like at all) and then the southern coastline to Sozopol (which we loved!)
Sozopol is a small town with narrow windy cobblestone streets, stunning water views, soft sandy beaches and local grandmas sitting outside selling homemade jams. We relaxed on the beach, swam in the sea and found a restaurant to watch the sun set into the water.
And just like that, our month in Sofia was over and we were standing on a rooftop patio for the farewell party. Every month we come together as a group to say goodbye to the city and swap stories. This party was my favourite so far – the venue offered unlimited views of the city, the weather was warm and breezy, everyone was tanned and relaxed, and laughter was heard from every corner.
Sofia was good for my soul…and it appeared my fellow remotes agreed.