This New Year I was excited to see yet another East European wine on sale at Waitrose; it’s no wonder Decanter deem them the best supermarket supplier of wines. I saw in 2011 with a bottle of Enira 2006 Thracian Lowlands Bulgarian red wine. This fabulous, spicy red wine is produced and bottle by the Bessa Valley Winery in Ognianovo village.
This wine is a blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot. The deep, vibrant, ruby red colour is further complemented by its rich flavour. Boasting flavours of plum and blackcurrant, this wine is particularly smooth. Unlike most East European wines, it is ripe, and equals any bottle of cabernet sauvignon from France or the New World. It would not be impossible to enjoy this wine chilled as is a popular trend in Balkans and Greece.
Most excitingly I then found out this wine won a Bronze Award at the International Wine Challenge. I couldn’t agree with the decision more. It’s certainly a worthy punt for wine enthusiasts!
The preparations for the third edition of SPIRIT of Burgas, which will take place in August, are already in full motion. This year the festival is not only getting one year older, but is also growing in shape and importance. The Prodigy and Gorillaz Sound System (DVJ) will headline the 2010 line-up. Apollo 440 will warm up the main stage on the first evening, in preparation for the Prodigy’s set.
DJ Shadow will be one of special guests for the second evening and for the final festival night the team of SPIRIT Of Burgas will present the long-awaited Gorillaz Sound System (DVJ) and Serj Tankian of System of a Down fame.
However, it has been announced that The Stranglers will not play the festival as planned due to scheduling conflicts.
February half-term is a great time for a snow trip, with cross-country skiing, dog sledding and snowshoeing all available on trips organised by The Adventure Company. Bulgaria and Slovakia, both alpine destinations with thick blankets of snow guaranteed are perfect winter playgrounds.
The following trips still have availability for February 2010 but, as with all school holidays, families are advised to book early for the best deals on flights.
Bulgarian Winter Experience, 13 – 20 February 2010
An action packed centre-based week surrounded by Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains. Staying in the village of Chepelare, which boasts the longest ski run in the country, holidaymakers will have the opportunity to test it out with some downhill and cross-country skiing. A snowshoeing expedition through the forest in search of deer, foxes and wild boar is just one of the highlights of the trip.
The trip costs from £869 for adults and from £789 for children. These prices include flights, accommodation, transport, activities on the itinerary and some meals (seven breakfasts, one lunch and two dinners).
Teenage Slovakian Snow Adventure, 14 – 21 February 2010
Slovakia is one of Europe’s most mountainous countries and the Tatras Mountains provide the ideal location for a centre-based activity week. Learning how to dog sled and handling a team of between two and six dogs is an exciting part of the trip. Travellers will learn how to mush their team and navigate the snow-covered tracks. Also included in the itinerary are skiing and snowboarding, snowshoeing, swimming in thermal pools and dinner with a Slovak family.
The trip costs £899 per person. These prices include flights, accommodations, transport, activities on the itinerary and some meals (seven breakfasts and two lunches).
For information about these and other trips organised by The Adventure Company visit www.adventurecompany.co.uk or call 0845 609 0890.
After 125 years the original Orient Express service will grind to a halt for good on 12 December when the famous name will disappear from European timetables. During its heyday in the 1930s, the Orient Express ran between Paris and Istanbul with through coaches from Calais and Ostende for the benefit of UK travellers. Now the Danube Express will take up this mantle with a variety of journeys offered in May, June and September to and from Istanbul.
Istanbul is set to top travel hot lists next year after being named European Capital of Culture for 2010 and this coincides with the Danube Express’ arrival in the city. Reviving the Golden Age of rail and waiting to whisk passengers on a relaxed voyage of discovery is the Danube Express’ Istanbul Odyssey, an exotic overland adventure between London and Istanbul. Offering an altogether more civilised method of travel along this route than hitherto with deluxe en suite compartments, the Danube Express is ideal for those in search of a slice of nostalgia.
Value for money has always been a priority for Regent Holidays which takes away the tedium of watching the pennies on holiday thanks to its selection of unusual, accordingly-inexpensive destinations, including the vast majority of Europe’s top 10 least expensive countries. Often overlooked, countries including Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovena, Albania, Serbia and Montenegro offer the visitor a fulfilling holiday without leaving a large dent in the wallet.
Taking the simple cup of coffee for example – a freshly brewed mug costs just €0.50 in Bosnia & Herzegovena, a country that boasts a glorious mix of the Mediterranean and Alpine, as enchanting as Italy, where a caffe latte can set you back as much as €5… With this in mind, why not sample the delights of Sarajevo, Bosnia’s bustling capital city for a palatable £443 per person with Regent, including 3 nights in a 3* hotel on B&B basis and flights.
Then there’s Montenegro, a perennially chic, discreet country with towering mountains that dip dramatically down to the Mediterranean and to deep-set fjords. New to Regent’s 2009/2010 brochure, Montenegro attracts a glamorous, discerning visitor, comparable to the Côte d’Azur, where you wouldn’t see much change from €50 at a restaurant while in Montenegro a three course meal at a reputable restaurant costs a toothsome €12.50. For a taste of this exceptional country, Regent has an eight day Highlights of Montenegro tour from £935pp including 3* accommodation on B&B basis, a full day excursion to Cetinje and Biogradska Gora National Park, return flights and transfers.
Macedonia is another joyously inexpensive European country and one of the Balkans’ best-kept secrets. A veritable treasure trove of Greek, Roman, Slav and Turkish history, Macedonia – also known as the ‘Land of Lakes’ – is awash with monasteries, mosques and castles and some surprisingly good local wine. Regent’s eight day Skopje & Lake Ohrid trip (from £695 per person including 4* hotel accommodation on B&B basis, flights and private car transfers) offers a brilliant overview of the country, where a decent bottle of wine will set you back €4!
Regent offers many more holidays to inexpensive European destinations that allow visitors to splash out on the ground. Holidays such as a nine day fly-drive of Bulgaria’s highlights for £595 per person (including flights, B&B 3* or 4* accommodation and care hire); a seven day Tirana & Beach holiday to Albania from £530 per person (including flights, B&B hotel accommodation and private transfers); a three night city break to Krakow from £274 per person (including flights and 4* hotel accommodation on B&B basis) or a three night city break to Belgrade from £418 per person (including flights and 3* hotel accommodation on B&B basis).
People lured to stay in the UK by talk of a ‘barbecue summer’ this year may now be rueing their decision and considering a winter holiday instead. The Adventure Company has some fantastic winter trip suggestions to suit all budgets and requirements.
Best for Snow Bunnies: High Peaks Snowshoeing in Bulgaria
For one of the best value winter getaways, head to the snowy mountains of Bulgaria for a winter trekking holiday – on snowshoes. This week-long adventure explores the dramatic snow-clad forests, peaks and valleys of the Rila Mountains. Daily hikes of four to five hours take walkers to sights including the 70m Skakavitza waterfall, which is often frozen solid in the winter; the historic Rila monastery; Mount Maliovitza; and the celebrated Seven Lakes area. Departures are available between December and March with prices starting from £569 plus €125 per person local payment. Prices include flights, transportation, accommodation, activities as per the itinerary, the services of a local guide, plus most meals (seven breakfasts, five lunches and six dinners). For full trip details, go to Adventure Company.
This Wednesday an exhibition displaying a golden decoration chariot from Ancient Thrace opened in the Mall of Sofia. The Thracian chariot was discovered in 1976 near the village of Karanovo but there was little interest in the incredible find. That was until this year when archaeologist, Veselin Ignatov, head of the history museum in Nova Zagora, and a specialist on Thracian chariots, found it as he was inspecting the museum basement.
The decorative plaque is 52 cm long, 12 cm wide, and 0.3 cm thick. It was placed on the lower back part of the chariot, which was more likely a luxury passenger car rather than a war chariot. The image appears to be an ancient building, probably a temple. Other decorations include a busy of Hercules and two heads of Medusa. To date, over 200 chariots dated back to Thracian and Roman times have been found in Bulgaria by both archaeologists and treasure hunters. In comparison, only two chariots have been found in the rest of Roman Empire – one in Pompeii, and one in Ephesus; and about 20 chariots have so far been discovered in Hungary.
The chariot will be on display until 22nd September 2009.
Green Lodge, a quality-accommodation standard for bed-and-breakfasts and guesthouses, distinguishes holiday facilities that place an emphasis on outstanding hospitality, care for the natural environment and a traditional representation of ethnographic diversity in their enterprise. The standard puts into practice the internationally recognised European Centre for Ecological and Agricultural Tourism (ECEAT) quality label in Bulgaria.
It has two grades – Nomination and Certificate. Facilities that receive a Nomination meet the basic ECEAT criteria and demonstrate their efforts for sustainable development; the recognition is valid for a three-year period. The Green Lodge Certificate itself fulfils the ECEAT Special Criteria for significant contribution to nature conservation and sustainable development.
Every Green Lodge strives to:
· Provide relevant environmentally friendly living (ie, “eco”) information to its guests;
· Support environmental friendly agriculture;
· Use water and energy in an efficient and conscious/responsible way;
· Follow the green building policy;
· Reduce waste;
· Support soft mobility;
· Actively contribute to nature protection;
· Actively contribute to sustaining cultural heritage;
· Actively contribute to supporting the local economy; and
· Improve environmental performance.
At every Green Lodge, you can join the proprietor in supporting the development of sustainable tourism. Ask how be active and reduce your impact on nature and the environment. You can collect small bits of rubbish, reduce water and energy usage, use soft transportation means and much more… Let there be only the footprint of your sole remaining.
The Bulgarian Association for Alternative Tourism (BAAT) was established on in 1998 as a national tourist non-government organization. At present BAAT has more than 95 members: non-government organizations and regional associations in the field of tourism, including the Bulgarian hotelier and restaurant association and a number of NGOs, some of which integrating owners of B&B establishments in rural areas, local tourist councils, incoming tour operating companies, hoteliers, guesthouses, producers of traditional Bulgarian food and products, nature parks, and individuals with business interests in alternative tourism. It is the most progressive public association in the field of tourism in the country.
BAAT participates in the most important events and initiatives related to tourism, regional development and ecology. The association is a member of the National Tourist Council and the Council for Educationin Tourism.
Creating the Quality Standards Chart“Bulgarski Dom” (“Bulgarian Inn”) that established consistent guidelines for accommodation in guesthouses, family hotels and other B&B establishments (1998); conducting training courses that help providers raise and maintain quality.
Founded a project for rural tourism and sustainable development in Strandja Mountains (1998), in co-operation with the Bourgas Association for regional development and Association “Mountains and People”;
Initiated the project “The Rhodope craftsman trail” for sustainable development in the Rhodope Mountains. In May 2001 an association with the same name was established;
Made a research and completed a database with 99 addresses of guest houses, family hotels and monasteries, situated in mountain and rural areas on a French project with the participation of two French volunteers (2001);
With other French volunteers a selection was made among 30 Bulgarian monasteries for the most convenient places for accommodation and receiving tourists and a brochure was published (2002).
Participated in the organisation of an international campus for studying the Balkan architecture with participants from Bulgaria, Macedonia, Turkey and Greece (September, 2002) as a project of the French organization GEC.
Worked with Bulgarian-Suisse Biodiversity Program for creating a new Plan for management of Pirin National Park (2002);
Participated as a partner with the Agency for regional and economic development, Vratza on a PHARE Programme project in the field of tourism for cross-border collaboration with Romania (2005, 2006);
WonandimplementaprojectunderVEGA – BTDProgrammefor “Research of the needs and consulting of SME’s in alternative tourism in Bulgaria” (2005).
Cooperated in a project “Authentic Bulgaria”, for certifying accommodation places representing authentic Bulgarian architecture and hospitality, within Vega-BTD Program (2006);
Applied with a project in the sphere of tourism in cooperation with the Agency for regional and economic development – Vratsa before Phare International Cooperation (2006);
Participated in a project of Glavinitsa Municipality for popularization of Malopreslavsko swamp (2007).
Since 1998 BAAT has been working on:
Since its creation in 1998, BAAT has played a vital role in providing training:
Held 8 training courses in co-operation with Association “Tetraktys” (France) during a 3-year project, financed by the French Ministry of Exterior Affairs and the Ministry of Trade & Tourism (1999-2000);
Completed training courses on “introducing the profession of a mountain guide” for the regions of Karlovo and Chiprovtzi (2001-2002) which have very high unemployment rate – a project of Beautiful Bulgaria 3 Program.
Created training system for mountain guides and realized 2 training courses in Bankso and Ribaritza for representatives of the national and natural reserves – a project financed by the Bulgarian- Suisse Biodiversity Program (2002); The project was selected to present Bulgaria’s NGOs activities on Rio+10 World conference on sustainable development (Johannesburg, September 2002);
Organiseed 15-day on route seminar for providers of rural and eco-tourism services with lecturer Mr. Yoan Mansfeld (leading expert from Israel) in the mountain towns Vratza, Chiprovtzi, Elena, M. Tarnovo, Smolyan and Sofia;
Accomplished training for preparing a Tourism developing strategy for Batak Municipality (2005)
Implemented training on “How to create and establish alternative tourism quality. Best practices”, Samokov and Smolian (2005);
Organised experience exchange travel for guesthouse holders between Northwest region and Ezerovo and Mogilitsa (2005).
Organised two trainings for 26 attendants in the mountain for the area of Chudnite Mostove under a project financed by PHARE Eco tourism (2006);
Conducted a training dedicated to alternative tourism for 25 representatives from municipalities Rudozem and Nedelino with the partnership of Bulgarian Foundation “Biodiversity” and “Rhodope” project (2006);
Made a guide with descriptions of trekking routes for the region of “Wonder Bridges” and a small “Manual of the mountain guide” (2006)
Carried out trainings for hosts of guesthouses and family hotels in Dobrich, Gyrmen, Chiprovtsi, Berkovica, Belogrdchik, Chuprene, Gorno Damyanovo (2007).
In addition, BAAT has led the way in research and provided a much-needed consulting service:
Organised the first National round table on the problems of tourism in mountains and villages with French experts from government and non-government organizations (1999);
Completed the first SWOT analysis for Bulgarian alternative tourism, which was presented on numerous forums in Bulgaria and abroad (2001). Updated analysis was presented in 2004;
BAAT collaborated in the preparation of the National Eco-tourism Strategy (2002-2004);
Participated in the debates for the Tourism Law (1998,2001,2002,2003,2004), The Law for VAT (2000,2001), SAPARD Program, PHARE – Program “Culture Tourism” (EU pre-accessing programs);
Participated in a working group to prepare the standards for guest rooms and guest houses in the National Decree for categorising in tourism (2002).
Consulted the Ministry of Economy during the preparation process of a booklet about eco-tourism in Bulgaria (2002);
Consulted creation of an “Alternative Tourism development project” in Antonovo municipally and accomplished 2 trainings for starting small family business (2004);
Participated in generating “Developing tourism Strategy” and “Creating a tourism cluster” in Smolian municipally(2004);
Provided help for creating “Strategy for tourism development in Central Balkan National Park” (2004);
Witnessed the presentation of “Possibilities for financing regional growth projects trough tourism” – Sofia (2004);
Took part in presenting the new “National plan for climate change” – Sofia (2004);
Consulted economic activities with the help of an international experienced American volunteer from VEGA International (2005);
Co-organized with the help of VEGA International a study trip to Ireland for BAAT members (2005).
Arguably BAAT’s greatest achievements have been the persistent promotion of tourism in and outside Bulgaria:
Printed so far four editions of “Guidebook of Bed & Breakfasts and Guesthouses in Bulgaria” (2003, 2004/2005, 2005, 2006);
Initiated and supported the printing of two series of 10 posters in cooperation with the Ministry of Economy, Ministry of environment and waters and Bulgarian-Suisse Biodiversity Program (2002);
Organized 6 promotion trips for representatives from the Bulgarian media and press, under the heading “The otherBulgaria”, which were completed in the period 2002 – 2004;
BAAT authored and edited materials about walking tours and national parks in Bulgaria in two guide books of Activity series (UK) – “Natural parksin Europe” and “Walking in Europe” (2000);
Gave input and supported the publication of an information booklet “The Monastery Route”, financed by the Ministry of Economy as a part of the National PR campaign;
Published different materials in leading press Media and specialized editions in the field of tourism in Bulgaria and abroad.
Edited 2 brochures for its activity (a run of 10 000) and calendars (1999 – 2007);
Represented its members on different national and international tourist fairs and events – “Vacation” – ’98 – ’04 SOFIA; “Nature, hunting, fishing and tourism” – ’99 -’02”- PLOVDIV, “ Tour-expo 2000-2004” VARNA, Philoxenia – Thessalonica;
Participated in the Rhodope Tourist Market and made a presentation on “International rural and ecotourism market –Where is Bulgaria”
Printed new advertising materials of the association – flyers, T-shirts, calendars. The folders are under construction (2004);
Our activities and experts opinion were quoted in 139 Bulgarian media – newspapers and magazines;
Presented the members on the 21st , 22nd , 23rdand 24thNational Tourist Fair “Vacation 2004”, “Vacation 2005”, “Vacation 2006” and “Vacation 2007”;
Organized tour operators trip to Berkovitza with the aim of presenting the city and the new tourist services (2005);
Prepared guidebook with description of pedestrian routes for the area of Chudnite Mostove and a short “Handbook for the mountain guide” (2006);
Issued new advertising materials in English popularizing BAAT activities (2006);
Renovated the web site of BAAT with new vision and more information about alternative tourism and the association on baatbg.org (2007);
Presented BAAT’s members at the Bed & Breakfast expo 2007 in Brussels.
For more information on BAAT visitwww.baatbg.orgor telephone BAAT’s Secretariat –+359 (0)2 980 76 85.
БЪЛГАРСКА АСОЦИАЦИЯ ЗА АЛТЕРНАТИВЕН ТУРИЗЪМ – БААТ
София 1301, бул. “Ал. Стамболийски” 20 – В, партер (вход от ул “Лавеле”)
Eurostat have revealed the results of their latest price survey across Europe, proving bargains are still to be had across Eastern Europe. The survey revealed that price levels in 2008 differed widely across Europe: Northern European countries tend to have the highest prices while the south-eastern European countries have the lowest prices. Southern and central European countries tend to show price levels closer to the EU average.
In Denmark consumer prices appeared 41% higher than the average of the 27 EU Member States, while in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia prices are 53% lower than this average. Among the EU Member States, the cheapest country is Bulgaria (49% below the average).
Food and non-alcoholic drinks are most expensive in Denmark and cheapest in Bulgaria. Taxes on food, alcohol and tobacco across the bloc’s 27 states are highest in Ireland and lowest in Romania. Regarding clothing prices, Britain is the least costly and Finland is the most expensive. Prices for consumer electronics are lowest in Britain and highest in Malta. Hotels cost the most in Denmark and the least in Bulgaria.
Eurostat examined prices of 2500 consumer goods and services across 37 European countries (27 Member States, the three Candidate Countries (Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey), three EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) and four Western Balkan countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia).
The results of the surveys are expressed in “price level indices” (PLIs), which provide a comparison of countries’ price levels with respect to the European Union average: if the price level index is higher than 100, the country concerned is relatively expensive compared to the EU average and vice versa, if the price level index is lower than 100, then the country is relatively cheap compared to the EU average.
10 Least Expensive European Countries
4. Bosnia and Herzegovina
10 Most Expensive European Countries: