Nature

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ALL ALONG THE ISKAR, Part 1

Nothing is deeper than the Iskar River, says the folk song of the Shopi, the Bulgarians who inhabit the area around Sofia. This song is the ultimate proof of the Shopi's proverbial stubbornness and local pride, and yet the Iskar River is indeed remarkable. Gushing out in Bulgaria's highest mountain, the Rila, it begins its life when two smaller rivers, the Beli, or White, and the Cherni, or Black Iskars, converge. It then heads towards the Danube, arriving there after a journey of 368km (the Beli Iskar lenght included).

Tue, 11/29/2016 - 15:54
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MARITSA, ARDA AND TUNDZHA: TALE OF THREE RIVERS

Springing from the most prominent Bulgarian mountain ranges, they carve, wind and splash their way though ravines and canyons and across plains, passing by cities ancient and new, before they finally join together just after the border with Turkey and flow south until they reach the Aegean.

Each of these rivers has its own route and landmarks.

Thu, 10/27/2016 - 12:55
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BULGARIA'S ABANDONED ECO TRAILS

"Danger! Crossing is forbidden!" Makeshift signs adorn the wooden bridges that until not so long ago used to provide a hair-rising and yet fascinating glimpse of the Negovanka River and the rugged rocks of the Emenski Canyon, near Veliko Tarnovo. The path leading to the high point of the trail, the nearby Momin Skok, or Virgin's Jump, waterfall also shows visible marks of decay: planks are missing here and there from the wooden steps, particularly at the most precipitous part of the climb.

Thu, 09/08/2016 - 12:44
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DEVETAKI CAVE

Stoney-faced and determined, Sylvester Stallone pilots a plane, shooting at a bunch of baddies holed-up in a phantasmagorical cave. There are gunshots and wisecracks, and then the airplane enters the cave with a bang.

The scene from The Expendables 2 is pure fiction, but something in it is completely real: the cave where all the action takes place is one of Bulgaria's most fascinating natural phenomena.

Wed, 08/03/2016 - 10:44
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AT LAND'S END

In 1808, a German geographer, August Zeune, erroneously referred to southeastern Europe as "The Balkans" because he thought the Balkan range ran all the way from the Black Sea to the Adriatic. It doesn't. It exists entirely in Bulgarian territory: from the border with Serbia to the Black Sea coast at Cape Emine (Emine being a pretty common female Turkish proper name). The Bulgarians themselves refer to the mountain as "The Balkans" only in a poetic context. In everyday speech, The Balkans is just Stara Planina, or Old Mountain.

Sat, 04/09/2016 - 13:21
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STONED RHODOPE

Traditional architecture and music, great food, and mystic landscapes: the Rhodope, the mountain range that covers a significant part of the south of Bulgaria, is cherished by nature lovers for many a reason. Its strange rock formations are one of them.

Thu, 11/05/2015 - 12:51
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SHIROKA LAKA: PICTURE-PERFECT IDYLL IN THE HEART OF THE RHODOPE

Made with stout beams and massive stone foundations, the houses smell of ageing wood and geraniums planted in old earthenware pots. The streets are made of cobbles.

Sadly, the old Rhodope villages are slowly disappearing. Some have been transformed beyond recognition by their inhabitants, who fancy new plastic window frames over wooden ones, and shiny roof tiles over stone slabs. Others are dying out, with their ageing and diminishing inhabitants leaving their abandoned houses to the mercy of the elements.

Wed, 06/10/2015 - 13:53
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HARBINGERS OF SPRING

They are finally home: after flying thousands of kilometres from Africa, the storks have returned to Bulgaria, back to their old nests. Even more have passed through the country, on their way farther into Europe; according to the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds, about 75 percent of the storks on the continent arrive through Bulgaria.

Tue, 04/28/2015 - 12:17
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ESCAPE TO LESHTEN

Rural tourism in Bulgaria was barely known 20 years ago, but in the early 2000s it experienced an EU-funded boom.

But in the late 2000s the still ongoing economic crisis hit and now many guesthouses are struggling to survive with the decreased number of visitors. In the western fringes of the Rhodope, however, is a traditional village which is still one of the best places for rural tourism in Bulgaria.

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 17:47
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GOING DOWN THE DANUBE

In the 19th Century, cartographer Guillaume Lejean discovered with amazement that the Bulgarian stretch of the Danube was less well known than the Nile. In 1933, Patrick Leigh Fermor described the Bulgarian bank as terra incognita "the least inviting country in Europe, except Albania." Were they right?

Tue, 08/05/2014 - 12:18
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PURPLE CRAZE

The oil-bearing rose is considered one of Bulgaria's symbols, but it already has a strong competitor, lavender. Every summer for the past several years the fields between the Stara Planina and the Sredna Gora mountains have been turning purple with rows of lavender plants. Spreading towards the background of the mountain ridges, the plants make you dizzy with their overpowering scent and vivid colour.

Mon, 08/05/2013 - 13:01
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ISKAR GORGE

There's nothing deeper than the Iskar," goes the local folk song, with characteristic parochialism. Even sceptics, however, admit that the longest river running entirely within Bulgarian territory is indeed remarkable. Springing from the plain near Samokov, it flows through the Sofia Plain and the Stara Planina mountains, crosses the Danubian Plain and, after a journey of 350 kms, joins the Danube.

Wed, 05/29/2013 - 09:42
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GOOD CAPE

Wherever you reach some higher ground in Bulgaria there will be a legend about it. And in 90 percent of the cases it will be about some brave Bulgarian maidens who jumped off it to avoid being "enslaved" by Turks.

Kaliakra is no exception.

Thu, 08/23/2012 - 13:24
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CHERNI VRAH

Sofia is perhaps an exception to the unwritten rule that every great city should be located either at sea or near a major river. Bulgaria's capital has a rare advantage, though: within an hour you can leave behind the noise and bustle of downtown and be climbing up a mountain.

With its 2,290-metre-high peak of Cherni Vrah, Vitosha is Bulgaria's fourth highest mountain. It is in the southern part of the Sofia Plain, and a mountain view or a house on its slopes command higher real estate prices in some parts of the capital.

Mon, 08/06/2012 - 13:37
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