Eight Days Exploring The Remains Of The Communist Regime In Bulgaria

This itinerary/program is dedicated to what has remained of the communist regime in Bulgaria. The program includes the following types of subjects/places:

  • Socialist industrial landscape – old, active, and inactive factories and plants and their surroundings. Some of these buildings and complexes are remarkable photographic subjects in the context of the modern urban landscape.
  • Socialist collective housing construction – half or entirely destroyed old homes and public buildings with their typically large size and style.
  • Socialist realism – large public buildings, generally situated in the downtowns of big cities. This Stalinist style of architecture is not unique for Bulgaria, but some of the most impressive examples can be found here. Also included are the monumental sculptures and memorials.

 

You will start from Sofia, where you can explore the monumental Stalinist architecture in the downtown area, the sizeable concrete-built park – complex “The Bells” and the Museum of Socialist Art, showcasing art from the Socialist period (1944-1989). The next stop would be the nearby industrial towns of Pernik and Radomir, which are sort of “open-air museums” with their massive industrial buildings, factories, and residential buildings. Continue to Buzludzha, perhaps the most famous abandoned Socialist realism monument in Bulgaria. Then, head to the town of Dimitrovgrad, one of the most representative examples of Bulgaria’s architectural transformation during socialism. Not far is the former mining town of Madzharovo with its Stalinist type of residential buildings. Stop for a short visit Ivaylovgrad. On your way to the Black Sea Coast, stop at the Museum of Military Glory in Yambol, which displays well preserved military equipment and aircraft. Your first stop at the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast would be the statue of Alyosha and the Aviation Expo near the Burgas Airport. Then continue northwards, reaching the “Summer Capital” of Bulgaria – the city of Varna. Here spend some time at the Park-Memorial dedicated to Bulgarian-Soviet Friendship, drive around the Varna-Beloslav Lakes system, a vast industrial area. In Varna is located the unique Retro Museum, which includes exhibits from the period 1944-1989 (4000 square meters). On your way back to Sofia, stop at the Monument to the 1300 Years of Bulgaria near Shumen. Of course, the old Bulgarian capital – Veliko Tarnovo is not to be missed. You will drive alongside Kremikovtsi – Bulgaria’s largest industrial complex. You will finish back in Sofia.

 

BASIC INFORMATION

Duration: 8 nights/9 days;
Places to be visited: Sofia, the Socialist realism monument Buzludzha, Dimitrovgrad, Madzarovo, Ivaylovgrad, the Museum of Military Glory in Yambol, two interesting places in Burgas, Varna, the Varna-Beloslav industrial complex, Monument to the 1300 Years of Bulgaria near Shumen, Veliko Tarnovo and some other places on the way, described in the itinerary.
Period of travel: year-round;
Tour mileage: approximately  1,700 km;
Price: take a look at the 3 options we offer below;

 

PROGRAM/ITINERARY

Today you arrive in the Bulgarian capital. Check-in the hotel and have some rest. Lodging in Sofia.

 

After breakfast in the hotel, have a sightseeing tour around the city, with an accent on old, monumental Stalinist architecture in downtown Sofia, with some of the best-preserved examples of the former communist bloc style. Walk around the train station, a strange mix of old buildings left over from the communist period in the context of a contemporary industrial landscape

Visit the enormous concrete-built park – complex “The Bells” on the outskirts of Sofia. In the center of the park – there is a large concrete monument, 37 meters high, comprising 4 vertical pillars—a spiral composition of two hemispheres in which the bells are placed. The complex was built in connection with the International Children’s Assembly, a children’s art festival under UNESCO’s auspices, organized at the initiative of Lyudmila Zhivkova, the famous daughter of the Bulgarian Communist dictator Todor Zhivkov. The first assembly was officially opened in Sofia on August 16, 1979. At the same time, the “The Bells” complex was opened as well. The last edition of the festival was in 1989 when children from the record number of 135 countries participated.

In the afternoon, visit the Museum of Socialist Art, exhibiting art from the Socialist period (1944-1989). A large outdoor sculpture park showcases artifacts like Lenin’s giant statue that once stood in the center of the city, the red star that topped the Socialist party headquarters, and many others. The gallery inside has excellent examples of 20th-century modern art, representing the Socialist Realism genre as an art form.

 

Wake early in the morning and set off to the nearby towns of Radomir and Pernik, a region famous for its heavy industry, which has suffered a severe decline in recent years. This area is practically an “open-air museum” where you will see what Bulgaria’s socialist industrialism looked like.

 

Wake up early and head to Buzludzha, the historical peak in the Central Balkan Mountains. Expect to arrive there at noon.

The Buzludzha Monument was built by the Bulgarian communist regime to commemorate the events of 1891 when the Bulgarian Social Democratic Party, the Bulgarian Communist Party’s forerunner, was founded. The Monument was opened in 1981. Nowadays, it is no longer maintained by the Bulgarian government and has fallen into decay.

On the other side of the Balkans drive to the town of Dimitrovgrad. Lodging in Dimitrovgrad.

Please find here a list of hotels in Dimitrovgrad.

 

Wake up early and spend the first half of the day in Dimitrovgrad.

The town was founded on September 2, 1947, when 40 youths arrived here to build the “City of Dreams.” This enthusiasm for construction grew, with laborers numbering 50,000 coming from 963 Bulgarian towns and villages. Dimitrovgrad was constructed following the principles of Soviet city planning practices, thus becoming a symbol of Bulgaria’s architectural transformation during socialism.

Leave Dimitrovgrad at noon and drive to Madzharovo, the former mining town, with several typical collective housing constructions. During the peak of mining activity, more than 6,000 people called Madzharovo home. Now that number is around 500. The natural sights of the Eastern Rhodopes in the region around Madzharovo are magical – the enchanting meanders of the Arda River and vultures hanging in the sky create a fairy-tale atmosphere.

In the evening, leave for Ivailovgrad, a cozy little town in the Eastern Rhodopes, not far from Madzharovo, where you can spend the night in a hotel.

Please find a list of hotels in Ivaylovgrad here.

 

 

In the morning, have a short stroll around downtown Ivaylovgrad. Stop for a moment at the Monument “Mother Bulgaria,” a typical socialist realism piece of art.

Hop back in the car and head to Varna, the summer capital of Bulgaria.

On the way to Varna stop at the Museum of Military Glory, located in the former ‘Pionerski Kazarmi’ (old army base) in the central part of Yambol. It features 3 expositions, one in the open and two indoors. The outdoor area displays preserved military equipment and aircraft that were in use during the last century. WWII enthusiasts will be particularly pleased to see original German tanks and guns. The old propaganda materials may trigger nostalgia, especially in those who lived in the times of conspiration. A former fighter plane and a military kitchen can also be seen in this unique museum.

Bulgaria is covered with monuments of victorious Soviet soldiers with propaganda slogans claiming they died for Bulgarian freedom. The Black Sea coast is no exception. Stop in Burgas to see Alyosha’s statue (18 m) with hand raised in salute (1952-1953).

The next stop will be the Aviation Expo near the airport of Burgas. It has been officially closed, but you still can see the old aircrafts collection and have a short walk among them. It is located on the way to Varna, so you will not waste much time searching for it.

In the evening you will arrive in Varna, where you will spend the night.

Note: If you have some time left today, stop by the Monument to Submarine ST-211 nearby the mouth of the Kamchia River, about 25 km from Varna.

On August 11, 1941, the Soviet submarine St-211 arrived secretly at the Kamchiya River’s mouth. Several men disembarked. They were all Bulgarian Communists, sent to support the anti-government resistance. The St-211 trip was a part of a more extensive operation by the USSR, which in the summer of 1941 brought 55 saboteurs to Bulgaria by air and water. Lodging in Varna.

 

Today is dedicated to the city of Varna, the so-called “Summer Capital” of Bulgaria.

The Park-Memorial dedicated to Bulgarian-Soviet Friendship was initially designed as a monument to the Soviet Army. It was built on a hill, at the height of 110 m. That is the most notable Monument in the whole Varna area (23 m high; 48 m wide). 

In afternoon drive to the Varna-Beloslav Lakes system. The industrial complex alongside the Varna – Beloslav Lake system was constructed in the early years of the communist regime in Bulgaria. Here are some of them: Port Varna-West, Devnya chemical industrial complex, Varna Thermo-electric power station (TPS), Port Varna-East, and Varna town sewage plant. Consequently, the system Beloslav Lake-Varna Lake became one of the most ecologically affected areas in Bulgaria. Fortunately, all these industrial activities have declined in recent years, and the ecological situation improved significantly. 

In the evening, visit the unique “Retro Museum,” which includes exhibits from the period 1944-1989. You can see artifacts like Bulgarian cigarettes without filter, Russian vacuum cleaners, goods from East Germany, and Polish cosmetics. It occupies an area of 4000 square meters in the biggest mall in Varna – Grand Mall. The most significant collection is of over 50 cars from brands like “Volga,” “Moskvich,” “Skoda,” “Trabant,” etc. – all of them impeccably restored. Next, you will find popular bikes, “Simson” and “Balkan.” The star of the retro showroom is the classic “Chaika GAZ-13” – the official car used by the Politburo members of the Communist Party. Overnight in Varna.

Please find a list of hotels in Varna here.

If you prefer Airbnb, please have a look here.

 

Today early in the morning, leave for Sofia (450 km).

Your first stop would be at the “Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria”, also known as the “Founders of the Bulgarian State” Monument in the outskirts of Shumen. It was built in 1981 to commemorate the 1300th anniversary of the First Bulgarian Empire. The Monument was designed in a Cubist style by the Bulgarian sculptors Krum Damyanov, and Ivan Slavovis. It stands at the height of 450 m above sea level and can be seen from 30 km away.

Hop back in the car and head to the old capital of Bulgaria, Veliko Turnovo.

The city is mostly famous for the popular landmark – the historical hill Tsarevets, where the Second Bulgarian Empire’s capital was built. Several other sites also attract tourists, including the historic hill Trapezitza, the Samovodskata Charshiya, numerous medieval and Bulgarian Renaissance churches, and the ancient Roman fortress of Nicopolis ad Istrum. Some monuments from the socialism period could also be seen, although people come here because of the unique cityscapes and historical monuments mostly.

A few kilometers from Sofia is located Kremikovtzi, Bulgaria’s largest metalworking industrial complex. You can drive alongside the complex, but you probably would not be able to enter the area. The construction of the facilities began on November 5, 1960. On May 15, 2009, the coke production plant – one of the most controversial symbols of the industrial complex – has been shut down forever. 

You will arrive in Sofia in the evening. Overnight in Sofia.

 

Fly back home 🙂

 

HOW TO USE THIS PROGRAM/ITINERARY

The preparation of a guided tour program/offer is free of charge. You’ll get a package price from us up front, which will include the services of a professionally qualified tour guide; pick up and drop off from your hotel/accommodation; transportation by A/C vehicle, fuel and parking expenses; accommodation, transfers from/to airport and all other additional services you might need.

 

You will obtain from us a Final Trip Plan of this tour in both web and pdf formats. Please have a look at sample web version with photos, maps and video here. Please download a sample version of a Final Trip Plan in pdf format here.   

You can use the Final Trip Plan to make the needed reservations and reservations by yourself.

The Final Trip Plan of the trip will contain: a web version of the tour; a pdf version of the tour (see the sample above), а short description (Resume); Basic information about the trip (duration, places to be visited, tour mileage, the period of travel;  а trip budget with detailed expenses table (downloadable pdf file); а Google map with the itinerary and bookmarks for places, hotels and restaurants; а link to a Google Earth interactive map with features like “Street view”, 3D etc; A link to a Google KML file, which can be uploaded to a cell phone and used during the trip; а detailed program day by day with activities and places to be visited, recommendations for accommodation and nice restaurants with links for bookings and reservations.

 

Additionally to the Final Trip Plan we make all the bookings and reservations on your behalf. We do this through our licensed travel agency “Thousand Voyages” Ltd.

  • Transportation and logistics: We coordinate, book and manage all the transportation elements of your trip – planes, trains, rent-a-cars, busses… everything to and from your destination, and between various places during your trip. 
  • Accommodation: We coordinate, book and manage all of your selected accommodations. We recommend the best selections at every destination on your trip, including hotels, airbnbs, bed and breakfasts, that fit your tastes, budget and are available during your travel dates. You will find the names of the properties in Final Trip Plan, with connections to the websites or booking forms. Sometimes the chosen by us accommodation is not on booking.com or any other platform, especially those in the distant areas. In this example we provide the name of the owner and a telephone number. 
  • 24/7 emergency support with a dedicated travel consultant: 4/7 Support throughout your journey (SMS, Email, Skype).

Secure Payments upon delivery of services: We offer two options: 1) PayPal – You will receive a PayPal invoice with the total amount to be paid. You can pay using your credit card or PayPal account; 2) A Revolut Business Account (in Euro) (UK) for a bank transfer.

Money Back Guarantee: In the unlikely case that you are not fully satisfied with our services, we offer a 100% money back return policy.

Discounts: We offer a 20 % discount voucher for the following service;

 

TRAVEL SERVICES, WHICH MIGHT HELP WITH YOUR TRAVEL TO BULGARIA

We would be glad to help you organise this trip. Please use one of the options above. Please also have a look at all the services we offer here in Bulgaria. For your stay in Bulgaria or to organise the trip by yourself, you may wish to use the travel services we recommend and work with, and which you can book by yourself using the links beneath. Of course, you always can contact us at any time, and we will do our best to help.

 

Hotels/hostels/Airbnb rentals

Hotels

A collection of nice hotels in Sofia

Hostels and budget accomodation

Hostels, Bed &Breakfast, and other budget options in Sofia

Аirbnb Rentals

Nice properties for rent via airbnb in the center of Sofia
Flights/Transfers/Rent a car

We can organize all types of day trips, long weekends, and longer tours in Bulgaria. Please have a look at our core service – Custom Travel Planning Trips in Bulgaria at our hope page – http://guidetobulgaria.com

 

We search the best itineraries and airfares manually based on your inquiry. Please drop us a message, and we will be back with at least 2 free offers.

 

Transfers in Bulgaria
We organize transfers according to your type of stay, the size of your group, your accommodations, and your budget. Please drop us a message, and we will be back with offers based on your inquiry.

 

We work with and trust AutoEurope for our rental needs in Bulgaria. Please search for your car here.

 

INTERESTING BOOKS

Free delivery worldwide (with no minimum spend) from Book Depository, a leading international book retailer. Please click on the title of the book to read the full description and to buy it.

Five Essays on Bulgarian Museums and Communism

A nice collection of books about Bulgaria.

Soviet Architectural Avant-Gardes: Architecture and Stalin’s Revolution from Above, 1928-1938

 

CONTACT US FOR MORE DETAILS