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Bulgaria: Europe's new Tourist Hotspot

Date: 04.01.2007

"The EU accession will have a reassuring effect and help (foreign tourists) overcome a psychological barrier," AFP says in an article.

"More tourists will decide to discover the wild nature of this country about which they hear few, but often negative, comments," said Dimitar Loboshki, director of a Bulgarian travel agency.

Together with their extensive Black Sea sand beaches, Bulgaria and Romania also offer excellent skiing in the Rila, Pirin and the Rhodope mountains in southern Bulgaria and in the Romanian Carpathians.

And an increasing number of Greek, British and German tourists are streaming to Bulgaria's seaside resorts, where there may be unaesthetic socialist concrete buildings but stays for a week can cost only 400-600 euros (520-780 dollars), transportion included.

Meanwhile, Bulgaria's villages have kept their traditional look, even while investments are restoring the picturesque but long-abandoned old houses.

And the air is improving.

"The economic crisis that closed plants gave us cleaner air in turn. The region counts on developing tourism to recover," said Angel Dzhuninski, deputy mayor of Belogradchik, a small northwestern town that lies in the shadow of weather-chiselled mountains.

Romania's central Transylvania villages founded by Luxembourg settlers in the 12th century are also a favourite tourist destination.

Enchanted by this region with its unique fortified churches, British UNESCO World Heritage list.

Tourists are also drawn to Transylvania by the dark fame of the Bran castle, ancient home of the Romanian Vlad Tepes, known as the Impaler and the model for Bram Stoker's Count Dracula.

The unruffled calm of the Danube delta in Romania, often called "the wild paradise", attracts more and more tourists. Bird-watching binoculars close at hand, they row in small boats along the hundreds of tiny reedgrown channels.

Some 500 out of Europe's 850 bird species can be observed in this region, where Europe's largest pelican colony resides.

Bulgaria and Romania are also home of thousands of wolves, bears and other game.

The Bulgarian Magura cave, near Belogradchik, has unique prehistoric stone paintings, including a solar calendar.

Tourism development in these off-the-beaten-track regions is often hindered by poor infrastructure but EU funding may help this.

Largely Christian Orthodox, like Greece, Bulgaria and Romania's churches and monasteries have treasuries of icons and murals. The high-mountain Rila monastery in Bulgaria and the Bucovine monasteries in Romania are only two of these exquisite examples of religious art.

The Boyana church in Sofia, adorned with one of the most important collections of medieval frescoes dating back to 1259, reopened for visitors recently after 50 years of restoration.

Bulgaria and Romania underwent periods of Turkish domination and Muslim mosques dot their landscape. The Bulgarian town of Shumen, in the northeast, is home of the largest mosque in the Balkans.

The two newcomer states were also the ancient motherland of the famed Thracian civilization, known for intricate gold masterpieces.

In Bulgaria, the well-excavated tombs in the central region near Kazanlak and in Sveshtary in the northeast, the sanctuary in Starosel and the sacred site Perperikon to the south are now open for tourists.

Traces of paganism are also present in some feasts still observed today, like the Nestinary burning-ash dances on May 21 in Bulgaria and the red-and-white wool keepsakes called "martenitzas" that both Bulgarians and Romanians exchange in March to celebrate the first month of spring.

News.bg

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