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August 2009, 14/08/2009

Dear Valued Readers,

Short excursions off the beaten track around Bulgaria  

The statistics says that 95% of the foreign tourists in Bulgaria visit the Black Sea resorts in the summer and the ski resorts during the winter. However Bulgaria has a lot more to offer in terms of history, culture and nature. Most of the tourist sites which are worth visiting are not known to the foreign tourists.

Bulgaria is rich in mountains, natural reserves, river gorges, monasteries, ancient ruins, crafts and customs sites. In this and in the next issues of our newsletter we will tell you about some of the most interesting routes and sites.

Bulgaria's landscape varies from low lands in the valleys and plains to high mountains of Alpine type. Mountains have been thoroughly explored and the most scenic tourist routes are well marked for tourists. There are many huts where one can find inexpensive but very basic accommodation. If you go to the most visited huts in August bring your own sleeping bags. In the smaller huts you will also have to bring your own food.

The main mountain ranges are Rila and Pirin in the South-West Bulgaria, Stara Planina (the Balkan) mountains which spreads from western border to the Black Sea, Rodopi Mountains in the south and Vitosha just outside Sofia. Should you decide to go to the mountains you should know that you need warm clothes and shoes for the summer as well as for the winter.

Rila is the highest Bulgarian mountain with the highest peak Musala (2,925 m altitude). The most picturesque is the range of Malyovitsa and the routes which are worth visiting are:

  • Pionerska hut - Scakavitsa - the Seven Rila Lakes
  • Pionerska hut - the Seven Rila Lakes - Ivan Vazov hut - Malyovitsa peak - Malyovitsa hut
  • Malyovitsa hut - Malyovitsa peak - Ivan Vazov hut - Rila monastery

Around Scakavitsa you can visit the Scakavitsa waterfall and climb the Kabul peak with the magnificent views over lakes and ranges. The Seven Rila lakes are probably the most visited and picturesque mountain site in Bulgaria. The views are fantastic and you will enjoy them most if you climb them from the lowest to the highest lake.

The peak of Malyovitsa is known for the outstanding views but also for the changeable weather. You should not be surprised if you are reached by thick fog or snow in August so be prepared.

Rila Monastery is one of the oldest and the most famous Bulgarian monasteries. It is worth visiting for the beautiful scenery, the fine wood carvings and frescoes. The monastery can be included in a mountain excursion as well as in a car journey from Sofia towards the south-western part of the country.

In the Musala range the most popular are the routes to the peak of Musala which can be climbed from Borovets or from Granchar hut. The Ribni (Fish) lakes are also picturesque and can be visited on the way from Granchar hut to the Rila Monastery.

Many fans of the Bulgarian mountains will tell you that Pirin is the most beautiful Bulgarian mountain. Its peaks are nearly as high (highest Vihren 2914 m altitude) as the Rila ones and the lakes and ranges are dramatic and breathtaking. The routes there are also longer and more difficult than the Rila ones. Some of the routes you can take are:

  • Yavorov hut - through Koncheto range - Vihren peak - Banderitsa or Vihren hut - Bansko
  • Bansko - Banderitsa or Vihren hut - Bezbog hut - Dobrinishte
  • Bansko - Banderitsa or Vihren hut - Bezbog hut - Pirin hut - Pirin village

The Koncheto range is the most dramatic and probably most dangerous rock range in Bulgaria. It requires a dose of courage and a very good mountain guide in order to pass it. The ranges around the peaks of Vihren and Bezbog and the lakes are outstanding with their beauty. In the lower parts the century old forests are welcoming. Near the Banderitsa hut one can see the oldest tree found in Bulgaria - the Baikushev White Fir.

In the foothills of Pirin there are a number of small towns and villages which might be of interest for those interested in traditional crafts and architecture. Bansko is one of these places and although it has lost some of its charm due to the mass construction in the last few years, there is still the old part of the town with its traditional houses, pubs, churches and cobbled-stone streets. Melnik to the south is less known but is also worth a visit for its white rock formations, old houses and the famous wine cellars. Sandanski is a resort town with mineral water springs. It may be also a good starting point if you decide to visit Greece and the White Sea.

In the next issues we will give you some ideas about routes in other Bulgarian mountains.


Bulgaria's consumer prices are the lowest in the EU  

According to the EU statistical office Eurostat prices of consumer goods and services in Bulgaria in 2008 were 51 per cent of the average in the European Union. Price levels varied from 50 to 150 per cent across the 27 European Union member states. Denmark was the most expensive country with prices of 141 per cent on average followed by Ireland (127 per cent) and Finland (125 per cent).

Price levels in 2008 of food and non-alcoholic beverages varied from 67 per cent of the average in Bulgaria to 147 per cent of the average in Denmark. Alcoholic beverages and tobacco prices were lowest in Romania (61 per cent of the average) and highest in Ireland (184 per cent). This large price variation is mainly due to differences in taxation of these products among member states.

The cheapest place to buy clothing was United Kingdom (83 per cent of the average) and the most expensive was Finland (123 per cent of the average). The lowest prices for consumer electronics were found in the United Kingdom (86 per cent of the average) and the highest in Malta (126 per cent).

Excluding Denmark price differences among member states were limited for personal transport equipment. Price levels varied from 84 per cent of the average in Romania to 174 per cent of the average in Denmark and 125 per cent in Ireland.

Price variations in restaurants and hotels were significant with price levels ranging from 40 per cent of the average in Bulgaria to 151 per cent of the average in Denmark.


Bulgaria cuts 2009 budget spending by BGN 1,2 B

Bulgaria's new center-right government of Boyko Borisov which was elected in July decided to cut the public spending by an additional BGN 1,156 B and to improve tax collection to avoid slumping into a budget deficit at the end of the year.

The finance minister Simeon Diankov said that there would be no cuts in wages, pensions and social payments because this would deal another blow to consumption but the cuts were in planned capital investments. The cuts will cover no more than 46% of the gaping deficit. In order to achieve the balanced budget that the new government has been aiming at, it will also seek ways to bring in extra revenue.

The new government plans to cut 15% of all administrative costs in the second half of this year to help save BGN 1,2 B. Plugging loopholes in excise tax collection and curbing contraband is expected to help cover another BGN 1.3 B. Bulgaria faces a budget deficit for the first time in eight years. The International Monetary Fund forecast a shortfall of 1% of GDP this year and urged the previous government to cut spending by 20%.

The country has already entered recession with Bulgaria's GDP contracting by 3,5% in the first quarter of 2009 on an annual basis, the first time that the country's GDP marked a drop year-on-year since the financial and economic crisis in 1997.


Bulgaria real estate market collapses

The number of real estate deals in Bulgaria has declined substantially in the first half of 2009 to the extent that the market is back to the 2005 before it experienced a steep growth.

The number of real estate purchases dropped by 42% for all of Bulgaria, and by 58% for the capital Sofia in the first six months of 2009 compared to the same period of 2008, according to data of the Raiffeisen Real Estate company. The conclusions of the company are based on official data from the National Statistical Institute, and a survey of real estate agents and developers.

The trends that started in the third quarter of 2008 have continued to deepen in the first half of 2009, according to the Raiffeisen Real Estate and quoted by BTA. Most of the real estate buyers in Bulgaria are in a waiting position expecting a continuing decline of prices, and only the investors with a high-risk profile have remained active. The time for selecting properties and negotiating deals has increased from an average of 20 days to an average of 60 days, and almost always involves achieving a substantial discount.


French Experts introduce wine tours in Bulgaria

Eight Bulgarian wine tours have been selected by the French oenologist Claude Samson and the marketing specialist in vine and wine field Pascal Teto. The tours which are expected to attract more tourists to the interior of Bulgaria aim to present different types of wine and culture sights in Bulgaria.

The French experts have studied vines, wine-cellars, and factories, accommodations, restaurant, as well as cultural sights. 51 wine makers in 14 regions have been studied and 25 wine-cellars have been visited during three expeditions.

"We did this research in a country of contrasts, of history, and which is a planet of wine. Among the Balkan states in Bulgaria we met the widest capital for combination of wine, history, culture, religion, and civilization. Everywhere in this country we can connect wine with culture, archeology, and balneotherapy. In the last 20 years Bulgaria has made a 50-year progress in the field of wine quality. Every tourist sight has its own emotion", Claude Samson said.


Famous Hollywood actors will be filming in Bulgaria in 2010

The Ministry of Culture announced that some of the most famous Hollywood actors were all set to come to Bulgaria in 2010. Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone were expected to film in the Boyana Film studio in Sofia.

Stallone will be filming the new Rambo film in May 2010. The Ministry did not give details of the films Robert De Niro and Al Pacino will be shooting in Bulgaria but they were expected towards the end of the year.


Stage of the Ages on Tsarevets

This August Veliko Turnovo hosts the Stage of the Ages festival for a second consecutive year. The imposing scenery of the Tsarevets fortress is a stage for the Sofia Opera and Ballet Theatre which presents "Prince Igor" by Alexander Borodin, "Zorba The Greek" ballet by Mikis Theodorakis and "Tzar Kaloyan" - an opera by Pancho Vladigerov. Both the performances and the scenery are outstanding and worth seeing so if you happen to spend some time in Veliko Turnovo in August 2010 watch out for the posters inviting to the Stage of the Ages festival!


Monthly Travel Guide

Below is a link to the Jamadvice HRG Bulgaria Monthly Travel Guide. It provides useful information as well as some interesting facts from the travel industry.

Monthly Travel Guide..

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