YOU SNOOZE, YOU LOOSE

by Dimana Trankova; photography by Anthony Georgieff

Places and experiences in Bulgaria best enjoyed with sun's first rays

sunrise black sea.jpg

There are moments when time and place merge, creating an overwhelming sentiment which makes you wish the world would stop spinning.

Sunsets, for example, can be glorious and sites like Santorini have made a business out of them. In Bulgaria, a similar experience could be enjoying a cold menta, or mint liquor, with a dash of Sprite in the shade of a beach bar, while the mid-day sun shines in the bleached sky. Or it could be entering the warmth of a tavern, filled with the smell of burning wood, with the anticipation of a hearty dinner after a day skiing.

Some experiences, however, are best at the very break of day, and at very, very special places. Here is a collection of some of the best early morning experiences in Bulgaria.

SEA DAWN

Bulgarians are proud with their unique festival, Dzhulaya, when groups of friends spend the night of 30 June on the beach and greet the rising sun while listening to Uriah Heep's July Morning. For the rest of the summer, however, they are too exhausted with wild partying to find early mornings refreshing.

Waking up at dawn, however, and seeking out a place far from the crowds, like the northern beach at Sinemorets, is an experience to remember. The air is still cool, and after the night work of the wind and sea, the sand is undisturbed by human presence. Fish jump in the sea, and the seagulls are already awake. The sky lightens, and turns pink, and yellow, and then blue, as the rising sun casts long shadows on the cool beach, making even the tiniest crease in the sand look like a dune.

Early morning Bulgaria

IN THE CITY

Big cities taste better at daybreak, and Burgas is no exception. It swarms with townsfolk and tourists in summer, but in the early morning Burgas is only for you, with its crying seagulls and summer smells of humid air, thick fig leaves, old houses and fresh banichki from the nearest pastry shop. There are a few other people around, but the hurrying burgazlii are still too sleepy to cherish the moment. Enjoy the morning glories!

Early morning Bulgaria

UP IN THE HILLS

Early mornings year round are pure pleasure in Malko Tarnovo, a tiny town in the Strandzha that still preserves its traditional atmosphere, but winter dawns there are truly special. The air and the light of the sun are crisp, and snow covers roofs, gardens, roads and squares. The barking of dogs mingles with cock crows, and the smoke from freshly-lit stoves wafts in the streets.
A walk around snow-clad Malko Tarnovo is best finished off in a warm café with a hot strandzhanka, or mince toastie.

Early morning Bulgaria

THRACIAN SUNRISE

Greeting the sun at a Thracian sanctuary, like Harman Kaya near Kardzhali in the Rhodope, is thrilling. You have to spend the whole night there, and for a first-timer, this could be a bit scary as the night is dark and full with unexplained noises. Your imagination is hard at work as those may be the spirits of long-dead Thracian priests. The real danger, however, is the terrain. Thracian sanctuaries are in precipitous places, and one wrong step can send you in a free-fall for dozens of metres.

However, with daybreak the mystery gives way to awe and an appreciation of life. Birds wake up slowly, with reluctant chirps, and then burst into the dawn chorus. The strange carvings on the rocks are now visible without torchlight, and you are not thinking about ghosts anymore.

Early morning Bulgaria

BIG-TIME RIVER

During the day, Vidin is an interesting place, if you stick to the central part with the tourist sights. By evening and nigh time, Vidin is a disappointment, as the night-life scene is very limited. Wake up early and you will have a one of a kind experience: the sun rising over the Danube, painting the sky and water with vivid reds and yellows. Even the fishermen's boats heading out on their daily business add to the serenity.

Early morning Bulgaria

MISTY

The vast panoramas of the Rhodope, filled with gently rolling slopes, have the ability to make you feel removed from all cares – especially if you have enjoyed some local rakiya with spit roasted lamb, while listening to Rhodope folk music.

In the early morning, however, you do not need rakiya or anything else to feel as if you are in a magical place. Mist rises from ravines, bleaching the blue, green and pink of the slopes. The sound of sheep bells tell of flocks on their way to pasture, and the air is so clear that you could hear the morning coughs of smokers waking up in a village a kilometre away.

Early morning Bulgaria

THE BALKAN

This tiny town in the central Stara Planina is famed as the birthplace of poet and revolutionary Hristo Botev, and is a good starting point for mountain treks. Its early summer mornings, though, are for connoisseurs.

Kalofer women eagerly compete to create the most beautiful garden. While you wander the quiet morning streets, you are surrounded by roses and lilacs, geraniums, marigolds, peonies and carnations in all varieties and colours imaginable, and the fresh dew makes them brighter and more aromatic.

America for Bulgaria FoundationHigh Beam is a series of articles, initiated by Vagabond Magazine, with the generous support of the America for Bulgaria Foundation, that aims to provide details and background of places, cultural entities, events, personalities and facts of life that are sometimes difficult to understand for the outsider in the Balkans. The ultimate aim is the preservation of Bulgaria's cultural heritage – including but not limited to archaeological, cultural and ethnic diversity. The statements and opinionsexpressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the America for Bulgaria Foundation and its partners.

  • COMMENTING RULES

    Commenting on www.vagabond.bg

    Vagabond Media Ltd requires you to submit a valid email to comment on www.vagabond.bg to secure that you are not a bot or a spammer. Learn more on how the company manages your personal information on our Privacy Policy. By filling the comment form you declare that you will not use www.vagabond.bg for the purpose of violating the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria. When commenting on www.vagabond.bg please observe some simple rules. You must avoid sexually explicit language and racist, vulgar, religiously intolerant or obscene comments aiming to insult Vagabond Media Ltd, other companies, countries, nationalities, confessions or authors of postings and/or other comments. Do not post spam. Write in English. Unsolicited commercial messages, obscene postings and personal attacks will be removed without notice. The comments will be moderated and may take some time to appear on www.vagabond.bg.

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Discover More

WHO WAS LYUDMILA ZHIVKOVA?
Her father's daughter who imposed her own mediocrity on Bulgaria's culture? Or a forbearing politician who revived interest in Bulgaria's past and placed the country on the world map? Or a quirky mystic? Or a benefactor to the arts?

CATHOLIC BULGARIA
In 1199, Pope Innocent III wrote a letter to Bulgarian King Kaloyan to offer an union.

RHODOPE IN FULL BLOSSOM
The Rhodope mountains have an aura of an enchanted place no matter whether you visit in summer, autumn or winter. But in springtime there is something in the Bulgarian south that makes you feel more relaxed, almost above the ground.

BIZARRE BULGARIA
There are many ways to categorise and promote Bulgaria's heritage: traditional towns and villages, Thracian rock sanctuaries, nature, sun and fun on the seaside, and so on and so forth.

KARLOVO
Karlovo is one of those places where size does not equal importance.

SILENCE OF SHARDS
Pavlikeni, a town in north-central Bulgaria, is hardly famous for its attractions, and yet this small, quiet place is the home of one of the most interesting ancient Roman sites in Bulgaria: a villa rustica, or a rural villa, with an incredibly well-preserv

BULGARIAN EASTER
How to celebrate like locals without getting lost in complex traditions

BULGARIA'S TOP 10 SMALL TOWNS
Small-town Bulgaria is a diverse place. Some of the towns are well known to tourists while others are largely neglected by outsiders.

BORDER ZONE VILLAGE
Of the many villages in Bulgaria that can be labeled "a hidden treasure," few can compete with Matochina. Its old houses are scattered on the rolling hills of Bulgaria's southeast, overlooked by a mediaeval fortress.

WHO WAS GEO MILEV?
Poet who lost an eye in the Great War, changed Bulgarian literature - and was assassinated for his beliefs

SEEING DEVIL IN DEVIL'S BRIDGE
In previous times, when information signs of who had built what were yet to appear on buildings of interest, people liberally filled the gaps with their imagination.

URBEX BG, PART 2
If anything defines the modern Bulgarian landscape, it is the abundance of recent ruins left from the time when Communism collapsed and the free market filled the void left by planned economy.