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Tours around Borovets

It’s not just the skiing that attracts hoards of visitors to bustling Borovets. The resort is rapidly establishing itself as a year-round resort with plenty of opportunities for a variety of sport and recreation from hunting, climbing, hiking and fishing to sightseeing some of Bulgaria’s most amazing cultural wonders, which are best appreciated when the weather is warm and the air fresh. Borovets, with its luxury hotels and self catering apartments, abundance of bars and restaurants makes a great base from which to experience these delights.

 

The Seven Rila Lakes

There is much to see and do in the Rila National Park, but by far one of the most visited sites andcertainly the most visited lakes in Bulgaria are the once glacial Seven Rila Lakes. the lakes lie at an altitude of 2,100 and 2,500 m above sea level. Each lake is named after a distinct feature, which relates to a visible characteristic of the lake; the highest lake is named Salzata or The Tear because its waters are so remarkably clear, Bulgaria’s deepest lake, which forms part of this group, is called Okoto or The Eye after its almost perfectly oval form. The Lake with the steepest banks is called Babreka or The Kidney again because of its shape. There is no explaining why the largest lake is called Bliznaka or The Twin, but it is certainly one of the most picturesque in the group. The Trilistnika or The Trefoil is aptly named because of its similarity to three overlying rings. The Ribnoto Ezero or Fish Lake is the shallowest and clearly filled with fish, the Dolnoto Ezero or The Lower Lake, is as the name suggests the lowest in altitude and is also the lake where water gathers from the other six lakes before forming the Dzherman River.

Bistritsa Palace

Hidden away like a precious jewel, the Bistritsa Palace lies off the beaten track a few kilometres from the town. The palace used to belong to Tsar Ferdinand and was the place he used to visit when he wanted to hunt. Tsar Boris III also used the palace for this purpose, but in 1944 with the advent of Communist rule the palace became the property of the state and fell into decline. The palace is now back in the hands of the former Bulgarian royal family who have restored it and opened it to the public, although they do use it for their own personal use from time to time.

The palace is an amazing place to visit with hunting trophies adorning practically every wall and woodcarvings on every ceiling, providing a clear insight into the life of the rich royals. Tsar Ferdinand’s office is decorated in the style of a captain’s cabin and it is alleged that he won the interior in a game of cards although some maintina it was a gift from the captain of the ship New America, Jean-Louis Maurice. The bedrooms of the Princesses Evdokia and Nadezhda are well preserved and represent the interior style of the era. Another noteworthy relic is the ornate Persian tapestry, which hangs from a wall and was a gift to Queen Eleonora, Ferdinand’s second wife, from the Shah of Iran. Another interesting point to note is the electric heaters in every room. They were manufactured in 1912 specifically for the palace by Siemens and they are still in working order. The palace grounds also houses a power plant built to ensure that the royals never went without life’s luxuries.

The Bistritsa River flows through the grounds and there is a quaint little bridge and numerous pathways along its banks. Within the palace gardens there are some rare plants, which Ferdinand brought to Bulgaria from his journeys abroad. There are two chalets within the grounds, one known as Sitniakovo was constructed for Ferdinand I, whilst the second, Saragiol was built for one of his sons, Prince Kiril.

The Rila Monastery

Bulgaria’s largest and most striking monastery lies in the heart of the Rila Mountains. Formally known as the Monastery of Saint John of Rila, it is better known as the Rila Monastery. It is located at an altitude of 1,147 m in the heart of the Rilska River valley. The monastery is one of the oldest in Europe – established in the 10th century by the recluse Ivan Rilski and built by his students whilst he camped in a nearby cave and remains to this day a major spiritual and cultural centre respected by all.
The monastery has a rich history and over the course of time has received many donations including those from the Russian Orthodox Church, the Bulgarian government and the former royal families. Its architecture is regarded as one of the best examples of the Bulgarian Renaissance and as a consequence it is now a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The principal chapel was built during the mid 19th century; it has two side chapels, three altars and five impressive domes. Inside the church is decorated with some impressive gold iconostasis and ornate wood carvings. The residential area of the monastery consists of 300 rooms over five floors, four chapels, the kitchen and a library housing containing 250 manuscripts and 9,000 articles. There is an onsite museum, where you can view the world renowned Rafail’s Cross, a large crucifix constructed by Rafail, a monk, who carved 650 miniature figures and 104 religious events onto the wood over a 12 year period.

Melnik

The wine town and architectural reserve of Melnik lies in what is often dubbed Pirin Macedonia. The town inherited city status when its former population topped 25, 000 people, but with a current population of only 385 inhabitants, it is the smallest in Bulgaria. It lies at 440 m above sea level. There is much to see and do in this town; 96 of its buildings are listed cultural monuments. Nearby is the Rozhen Monastery and whilst it is not in the same league as the Rila Monastery, it is still worth a visit, as are the natural sand pyramids, which form shapes reminiscent of giant mushrooms or crumbling towers. The town’s reputation for good quality wine spans seven centuries and was seemingly a favourite tipple of British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.

Rila lakes and Bistritsa Palce pictures are courtesy of www.BulgariaPhotos.net