Europe is a much traveled continent and many countries have become overly crowded and commercialized. However, some eastern European countries have remained authentic while still easily accessible. Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova are three countries on the west coast of the Black Sea. It is a region with growing popularity and a stunning number of UNESCO World Heritage sites. On our small group tour, we will take our time to wander along the cobblestone streets of ancient towns, explore medieval castles and fortresses, marvel at the magnificent churches with incredible histories and taste gourmet food in centuries-old restaurants.
Located at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, the lands of Bulgaria have been populated since antiquity and it is no accident that the earliest European civilization grew up here. The treasures of the early civilization can be seen at the Thracian tombs and sanctuaries in Kazanlak, a UNESCO World Heritage site and a place we will visit. There are many other sites to explore, including the 13th-century Boyana Orthodox Church with murals among the very finest examples of Bulgarian medieval artwork; and Rila Monastery rising out of a forest valley in the mountains and a spiritual center for over 1000 years. Both are on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
North of Bulgaria is Romania, a country full of wonders even for very experienced travelers. This is the land that is said to have inspired the gothic horror novel Dracula in Transylvania and we will venture into the heart of it. Along the way, we will stop in beautiful towns of Brasov, Sinaia, Sibiu and two UNESCO heritage listed sites: the medieval town of Sighisoara dating back to the 12th century, and the Lutheran fortified church in Biertan built by the ethnic German Transylvanian Saxon community. The northeast corner of Romania is home to the painted monasteries of Bucovina, also on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Their painted exterior walls are decorated with elaborate 15th and 16th century frescoes, displaying some of the most remarkable examples of religious art in Romania.
Moldova is the smallest among the three countries of this trip and easily overlooked by most people, but it has unspoiled natural beauty and is among the top 20 global wine exporters, holding more vines per capita than any other country. We will pay a visit to Cricova Winery holding the world’s second largest cellars stretching 75 miles. The tunnels have existed since the 15th century and one goes around in a train-like golf cart. We will explore Old Orhei, a historical and archaeological complexed located on the bend of Ruat River. Here you will find unspoiled idyllic villages and the river forms a unique horseshoe bend. Traveling north, we will not miss the Soroca Fortress, known for its well preserved stronghold displaying elaborate characteristics of late medieval fortifications.
During our stay in Chisinau, Moldova’s capital, we will be very fortunate to experience Chisinau City Day, a Russian Orthodox religious festival commemorating the intercession of the Holy Virgin. The festival is in the open, inviting everyone to join. Traditional food and wine is plentiful. National music, folk dances, concerts and other folkloric traditions are all around. It is the best occasion to get to know Moldavian culture.
This is a trip along the off-beaten-path to the less traveled Eastern Europe on the west coast of the Black Sea. It is probably the most underrated and best kept secret travel destination. Join us on this small adventure group to explore the beautiful Black Sea countries!
Day 1. arrive in Sofia, Bulgaria
Day 2. Sofia
Day 3. to Plovdiv
Day 4. to Veliko Tarnovo
Day 5-6. to Bucarest, Romania
Day 7-8. to Brasov
Day 9. to Sibiu
Day 10. to Sighisoara
Day 11-12. to Painted Churches of Moldavia
Day 13-14. to Chisinau, Moldova
Day 15-16. to Soroca
Day 17. to Chisinau
Day 18. trip ends.
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