Perushtitsa | The Red Church in Black & White

Did you know that one of the earliest surviving Christian churches in Europe is located near the small Bulgarian town of Perushtitsa?

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Beautiful Bulgaria | Weekend in the Rhodope Mountains

 I had the pleasure to take Panasonic FZ2000 & DMC LX15 on a trip to the Rhodope mountains

to test their capabilities. The photos in this story are taken with these 2 cameras and only adjusted for brightness/saturation.

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Reservoirs, lakes & gorges | The beautiful Rhodope Mountains

According to the Thracian legend Rhodopa and Hemus were a brother and sister who fell in love and called each other by the names of the Gods: Zeus and Hera. And since Ancient Greek Deities are not famous for their good temper, the abuse of their names brought on a curse on the young couple: both lovers turned into mountain ranges. Of course, geologists have a slightly different idea about the formation of the mountain range.

The Rhodope Mountains takes up 1/7th of the territory of Bulgaria and features ski slopes,  caves, historical cities and villages, hiking routes and some of Bulgaria’s biggest reservoirs & artificial lakes.

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Unlike Rila, which is swarming with tourists (to the detriment of the area’s ecosystem), the Rhodope Mountains still manage to preserve their raw charm and offer travellers a serene look into Bulgarian nature, history and traditions.

Things to do & Places to visit

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Zooming to the distant shore | Shot on Panasonic FZ2000

Continue reading “Beautiful Bulgaria | Weekend in the Rhodope Mountains”

Things to do near Sofia | A walk along the Dragoman Marsh

If you are fond of outdoors activities and especially birdwatching, take the time to visit the Dragoman Marsh. Located just 35-40km away from Sofia, this area is part of Via Aristotelis: an important bird migration route passing through the area. In fact more than 160 bird species have been identified by bird watchers visiting the marshes along with dozens of amphibians and other species.

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Marshes, marshes, everywhere you look | Shot on LUmix FZ2000

In February birdwatching isn’t the best activity to plan, but the marshes still offer an escapist break away from the noisy city. The marsh itself covers more than 300 hectars but the most easily accessible to the general public area is relatively small: only several hundred meters of wooden bridges serpent their way through the marsh frail.

So unless you are into exploring the 160+ species of birds and plant species this trip would be relatively short. Me and my brother spent less than an hour there because there were no birds at this time of the year. Nevertheless, we were quite happy to explore the place and take some shots in the area.

Continue reading “Things to do near Sofia | A walk along the Dragoman Marsh”

Vazov’s Hiking Trail & Skaklya | The Bulgarian “Rocky Mountains”

It’s December 31st. The final chapter in a year full of great moments and great mishaps. We are headed to Zasele: a small village at the top of a series of pictureque road turns along the Iskar Gorge.

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I am looking out the car window and taking in the view: mountains, curvy road turns, pine trees, rows of houses up on the hills… Cough. Cough. Cough. It’s not me. The car is choking and when I look back there is blanket of thick white-to-gray-to-coal-black smoke coming out of it. Luckily we are just a few kilometers away from the village, so we park in the nearest pile of snow and leave the Cherokee behind for the rest of the road. 2016 reminds us it is still not over so I am keeping my fingers crossed for the remaining 10 hours of it.

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Our guest house is 5 minutes away from the Vazov Hiking Trail which connects Gara Bov and the village where we are staying (Skaklya) so instead of spending time indoors we head to see the trail and the waterfall it leads to.

Continue reading “Vazov’s Hiking Trail & Skaklya | The Bulgarian “Rocky Mountains””

The Best Travel Moments of 2016

It’s been a long (and not always easy) year, but upon looking back: all the though moments were worth it. And thankfully: there have been a lot of positive experiences together with friends and family to fill the year with some great vibes. Here are the best things about my Year in Travel:

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The Inception of Redhead Explorer

I’ve been sharing photos and travel stories in other places for quite a while but this year I realized that the pleasure I get from travelling and the milleage across Bulgaria and abroad are big enough to have their own place under the (online) sun. There is still a looot of work left, but the blog has been my chief creative outlet and source of positive emotions this year.

All over Bulgaria

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It will be hard to list all places we’ve seen, so I will just drop here my list of the Top 5 Bulgarian destinations for 2016: from the lakes of Dospat and Belmaken to the amazing Belogradchik Rocks.

First time in Italy together

Stef and I have travelled all over the place together, but we still had not visited Italy until this year, which is a shame because it is a country way too dear to my heart. We managed to visit Bologna, Florence, Rimini, Imola, Scarperia/Mugello, had one of the most memorable walks & talks ever in the Boboli gardens and had the best street food near one of my favourite museums the Uffizi. Stef visited the monument of one of his all time heroes Ayrton Senna and we saw Valentino Rossi on his trademark circuit Mugello.And we captured (a cliched) but truly beautiful full moon over Ponte Vechhio which felt like living in a painting or a postcard

Paragliding over Sopot

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My mom was so thrilled to learn I was about to jump from a cliff with a paragliding instuctor…. After I forgot to call her for an hour after landing she was even more thrilled :)) (Read more)

Visiting Valencia again + best friends

Renting bikes for a trip to the beach, eating paella, trying the best Argentinian steaks and enjoying a Spanish version of La Dolce Vita together + 3 best friends= great experience

Wedding in the remote mountains

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No words can describe this event, so I won’t even try :))

Visiting the Rila Monastery during the Summer School in Cognitive Science

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It is so great to spend time with people who are not only fun and friendly but also incredibly smart and have all these obscure, geeky interests. I’ve seen the Monastery a zillion times but the company on this trip was a whole new story. I also discovered that somehow magically I can translate from Portuguese into English just by finding the similiraties between Portugues and Italian words!

First lesson in Horse-Riding

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I always enjoy trying new sports and horse-riding was definitely one of the most enjoyable experiments during the year

The Annual Motorbike Trip to Greece

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Wonderful food, crystal clear water : Greece is always a summer delight. This year it also provided some extra thrills for us as a huge storm welcomed us on the highway on the way back and almost turned over the bike! I’ve never been through anything like this and I hope I will never experience it again. Chills and thrills all over

Meeting Isabella Shopova in person

I am a big fan of Isabella Shopova: a Bulgarian travel-blogger-turned-book-author who has spent years living in New Zealand and Australia. I have all her books and I just love her writing style: light, funny and in the same time: informing you in depth about the history and nature of the places she visits. In person she is exactly what she is like in her books: witty, intelligent, full of humor, self-irony and remarkable bravery. Lovely and inspiring woman, who presented her new book dedicated to a trip to the Bulgarian Antarctic Base!

When I grow up I would like to be like her 🙂 ❤

Did I mention her ultimate destination is Mars? Definitely my type of woman!

 

Bulgaria | The 5 Most Beautiful Places We Visited in 2016

In the past few years Stef and I have travelled all around Bulgaria: enjoyed its countrside, hiked (and snowboarded) across its mountains and stormed through beaches, caves, lakes, valleys and all sorts of beautiful places. We had seen a lot on our motorbike trip across the country, but the past year provided us with the chance to explore some of the prettiest spots in the country. It is quite hard to choose just 5 but here are the places which really impressed me during the year:

5. Belmeken

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Belmeken felt like entering the Twilight zone. We went there on a day when a thick blanket of fog covered everything around us and it felt like our car was piercing its way through a hostile yet truly magical place. I would really like to come back on a sunnier day, but still: the area looked amazing (See more).

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4. The Devetaki Cave (Devetashka Peshtera)

The Devetashka Cave | From the Paleolithic period to Hollywood action movies

The cave (named after the nearby village of Devetaki) looks so surreal and cinematic that some of my friends asked me if whether I had photoshopped it! No, I haven’t: it does exist in reality and its incredible space was used as a set for Hollywood movie productions.

What makes it even more special is that it is one of the most important speleological spots in Bulgaria and one of the largest habitats of rare bat species in Europe! (Learn more)

3. The Belogradchik Rocks

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This is one of the most populat tourist spots in Bulgaria but I saw it for the first time this year. I definitely regret not coming here earlier: what an amazing and unusual view! (Read more).

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2. 30km across Rila in a day

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Musala is the end destination for most visitors in the Rila mountain but for our small group of enthusiasts it was just…the first stop.

After reaching the summit, we simply continued through the vast beauty of Rila for another 20+ killometers, we spent the night in Zavratchitsa Hut and on the next day…we kept walking…(Read more)

1. Tsigov Chark & The Lakes in the surrounding area

DSC_0200 (2).JPGI’ve seen my fair share of beautiful nature around the world, but Tsigov Chark and the abundance of not-so-popular but wonderful lakes in the area really took my breath away.

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Waking up at dawn to run to the shore and take photos of the awakening nature was one of the best mornings I’ve had this year!  (Read more)

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My best wish for you in 2017: Explore Bulgaria & Enjoy its beauty!

Belmeken

p1120269Some places speak for themselves

Belmeken is the highest dam lake in Bulgaria and I could write more about the eerie fog which welcomed us there or about the Twilight Zone atmosphere of the road ahead of us, but sometimes a place simply speaks for itself. So I will just leave these photos here.

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