Just over the Bulgarian border in Eastern Macedonia, the city of Stip is home to 52,000 people making it the region’s second largest city. As a key educational, cultural, and economic centre Stip makes an interesting place to visit.It lies on the banks of two rivers, the Bregalnica and the Otinja, surrounded by hills but dominated by the Isar hill where a medieval fortress once protected the city’s inhabitants.Stip is not a city, which boasts about its culture and heritage and consequently most visitors pass it by en route for the capital Skopje, however it is an attractive town with warm and friendly locals and well worth making that stop over.
It is a remarkable fact of life, how this little country nestled at the eastern edge of the Alps can be a household word all across Europe, but virtually unknown within the United States.
Bulgaria proudly boasts five neighbours meaning an excursion over the border is easily undertaken ... the neighbour that lies just across the river Danube, is of course, Romania. It’s capital, Bucharest, has undergone various changes since being nominated as the main city in 1862, but has now easily established itself as the Romanian headquarters for mass media, culture, arts and architecture. Many people with holiday homes in Bulgaria are choosing to fly into Bucharest, taking advantage of the low cost flights now available. There are two airports in Bucharest; the Henri Coandu International Airport (or Otopeni Airport as it is still largely known) and the Aurel Vlaicu International Airport. Both Bucharest airports have easy bus and metro links to the centre of the city. If you are travelling from Bulgaria you have several options.
The magnificence of Kavala is the way it ascends the foothills of Mount Pangeon in tiers like an amphitheatre so that nearly every resident has a glorious sea view. This is a city with a rich past, steeped in tradition, culture and outstanding beauty. As the second biggest northern Greek city and eastern Macedonia’s major port, it is the capital of Kavala prefecture. Kavala really is a hidden gem with plenty of impressive cultural sites and long, sandy beaches. There is also much in the way of accommodation and entertainment including some popular Greek festivals.
Ohrid is rooted in a variety of historical eras; remnants of its medieval Turkish rule, its period of Renaissance and the legacy of its communist past, still linger. In 1980 it was made a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The emblem of the Yugoslav motor industry, the Zastava is parked on every street corner, children race around on bikes and women hang out their freshly laundered washing across the balconies of the Communist blocks. One might even say that nothing has really changed around here since the Bulgarians occupied the territory in the Forties. This quiet sleepy hollow is renowned as the Pearl of Macedonia and possible the best known city in the Republic. It sits peacefully on the north-eastern banks of Lake Ohrid, home to 50,000 people. It’s streets offer some striking Renaissance architecture, some amazing hiking trails through the Galic˘ica National Park and a fabulous variety of places to eat and drink.
Odessa, the third largest city of Ukraine does not lie directly on the border with Bulgaria; however it is easily accessible and offers much to delight the culture hungry tourist. It is a city steeped in history and one that you can wander around endlessly discovering interesting sites or just gaze at the old 19th century limestone houses. It’s beautiful, wide tree-lined avenues and large parks will keep you entertained for days as will ambling down its busy pedestrian walkways like Primorsky Boulevard and Deribasovskaya Street. Once known as the Russian Riviera, the city is now dubbed as the Pearl of the Black Sea and a trip here is sure to explain why.
Travel further south from Bourgas and one thing is striking – the mass of construction common to Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast starts to dwindle until finally at Rezovo a coastal village on the Bulgarian side of the Turkish border, the beach stretches for miles without a single hotel or apartment complex. The reason for this is that being border territory, it is patrolled by police and a quiet laze on the beach is interspersed with cops asking to see your ID and the contents of your picnic hamper. Nevertheless, Rezovo, may mark the last bastion of an unspoiled Bulgaria, but it also marks the start of the unspoiled Turkish Black Sea coast.
Edirne is the first city you come to once you cross the Bulgarian border into Turkey en route to Istanbul. Most tourists would be hell bent on hot footing to the Turkish metropolis to shop in the bazaars and gaze at the Bosporus, but a stopover in Edirne reaps dividends. It is full of historic mosques, ancient bridges and the former palaces of the Sultans.
Vama Veche is the first town across the border in Romania for those who live close to or along the northern Bulgarian Black Sea coast. So if you have not ventured as far as the Romanian border why not take a bus or car ride to the first quaint town across the border, Vama Veche. Vama is really no more than a village with a population of around 178 people, yet it is much visited and is well geared to serve the Bulgarian day tripper. It is a Bohemian resort with brightly coloured buildings and attracts plenty of arty types, but don’t let this put you off, it is worth seeing the village for its uniqueness and alternative environment and most of all its beach is untouched by mass tourism.
Walking in Greece - Greece can be a walker's paradise and particularly when the weather has cooled down at the end of the summer when there is also the added advantage of off-season hotel rates! Walking is a good way to view the beautiful, varied landscape of Greece, explore various mountain trails and ancient paths and also to spot the wonderful animals and plants. The best time to visit is either the spring or autumn, and October is a good time of year to visit for a walking holiday when the typical temperatures can be a still warm at about 15 degrees Celsius. There are ample areas to pursue on a walking break anywhere in Greece with many well signposted walks, wherever you decide to walk.