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Your Guide to a Bulgarian Holiday

Tucked away in the Balkans like a secret waiting to be discovered, Bulgaria is an exquisite array of caves, valleys, and springs. Ancient monasteries, tombs, and temples stir up images of a bygone age, and its UNESCO World Heritage Sites will fill you with childlike wonder.

Home to the Patron Saint John of Rila, the Rila Monastery is one of Bulgaria's top destinations. Hrelyo’s Tower is the only structure left from the original 10th century monument, and inside you’ll find a chapel filled with murals of angels with bird's wings, souls swallowed up by monsters, and the Virgin Mary pacifying many-headed dragons. An art gallery, a library, and a museum are the monastery’s other attractions. The museum houses jewellery, weapons, and “Rafail’s cross,” an artefact carved by the monk Rafail for 12 years. This work of art is made up of 650 figurines and 104 biblical scenes, all on a single piece of wood.

Go quietly into the Valley of the Thracian Kings in Kazanluk, where nobility from the 4th and 5th centuries were buried along with their treasured possessions. You’ll see well-preserved icon paintings immortalised in the churches, delicate embroidery adorning wedding dresses, and antiquated pottery used in ancient rituals.

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Sample typical Bulgarian dishes such as moussaka, an eggplant dish with lamb, herbs, and spices, or try the Bulgarian staple of yogurt, said by some to be the reason for the unusually long lifespan of the country's peasants. A baked mixture of sheep's cheese and eggs is a specialty, as well.

Revel in some of Bulgaria's most fascinating festivals, which dot the calendar throughout the year. Scare away evil spirits at the Kukeri festival in January, as masked men in sheepskin costumes dance to drive the winter ghosts away. June ushers in the Festival of Roses, with beauty contents, circus acts, and musical performances lining the streets in a true celebration of summer. September brings Apolonia Art Days to the town of Sozopol, a grand celebration dedicated to Bulgarian culture. Here, book readings, theatrical shows, and film screenings are featured year after year.

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