Balchik: Amazing Gardens by the Sea

When I was researching Varna, one thing I saw randomly was a picture of a fountain at the botanical gardens in Balchik. So of course I looked it up. It looked pretty, but I had some level of question because there were so few photos of it online, and not a ton of information.

The gardens were Queen Maria’s summer gardens around her summer palace, so they’re all set on the Black Sea. Balchik is about an hour north of Varna, and there are many minibuses that go between the two cities.

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I Can See Russia From Here: The Black Sea

Varna is a town I think you’re going to hear more about in coming years. It’s a resort town in Bulgaria on the coast of the Black Sea, and is fairly well-known in Europe. I think it’s about to get even more well-known!

It’s the third-largest city in Bulgaria, and tends to be a summer destination due to it being on the sea. It’s absolutely beautiful, and I was surprised by the Black Sea. First, it was cold! At least to me. Even in August, it was about 70F. In my world, that’s cold! However, it was so refreshing in the heat (and in the general European aversion to air conditioning. Do not even get me started on how crazy they are about not liking AC.).

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Plovdiv, Bulgaria: The Coolest City You’ve Never Heard Of

I left Sofia for Plovdiv, and it was pouring down rain! I was practically soaked by the time I made it on the train – with only a few minutes to spare. I’d waited to share a cab with some others from my hostel, and it makes me so anxious when people cut things so close! Note to self: do not share cabs if it means you’re going to risk missing your train.

So where in the world and what in the world is Plovdiv? I had never heard of it before researching Bulgaria (this is a theme of all of Bulgaria for me… it’s been a discovery!), but it’s actually the oldest inhabited town in Europe. It goes all the way back to the sixth century BC, I believe, and they’ve maintained the old-world charm.

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Breathtaking Views at Seven Rila Lakes

When I was researching what to do in Sofia, I came across day trips from Sofia, and one that was highly recommended was the Seven Rila Lakes. I decided that sounded perfect – I have seen many temples, many churches, and many museums – it’s a good change to get out into nature!

Seven Rila Lakes is about an hour and a half drive from Sofia, and I used a tour organized by my hostel to get there. In my car, there were three others – Hailey, an Australian girl, and a pair of French friends – Eric and Genevieve.

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Sofia, Bulgaria

I took the train into Sofia from Thessaloniki, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s Bulgaria, so I knew I’d try to find Viktor Krum (no luck…), but other than that… I had no idea what was in store. I am definitely making up this part of the itinerary as I go!

I booked two nights in a hostel in Sofia, and checked in after getting off the train. I decided to walk in from the train station – about a mile – and it was a good way to start seeing the city.

I spent the afternoon walking around town. First, I went to Cathedral Saint Alexandar Nevski and it was so massive! The architecture is quite different from any of the churches I’m used to seeing, so it was really impressive – the gold dome on top made it even more so!

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