The aim of this program is to provide participants with opportunities to visit and photograph what remains 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 photographical subjects placed in the context of the modern urban landscape.
– Socialist collective housing construction – half or completely destroyed old homes and public buildings with their typical large size and style.
– Socialist realism – huge public buildings, generally situated in the downtowns of big cities. This Stalinist style of architecture is not typical for Bulgaria, but some of the most impressive examples of the type can be found here. Also included in this category are the monumental sculptures and memorials, which we will visit.
We will start from Sofia, where we will see the monumental Stalinist architecture in downtown Sofia, the enormous concrete-built park – complex “The Bells” and the Museum of Socialist Art, showcasing art from the Socialist period (1944-1989). We will visit the nearby industrial towns of Pernik and Radomir, which are sort of “an open-air museum” with an exposition of massive industrial buildings. We will travel to the Buzludzha, maybe the most famous abandoned Socialist realism monument in Bulgaria. We will visit the town of Dimitrovgrad, turned into one of the most characteristic examples of the architectural transformation of Bulgaria during socialism. We will continue to the former mining town of Madzharovo and Ivaylovgrad. On our way to the Black Sea Coast we will visit Museum of Military Glory in Yambol, which displays real life conserved military equipment and aircraft that were in use during the last century; the statue of Alyosha in Burgas and the Aviation Expo near the airport of Burgas. In Varna we will visit the Park-Memorial dedicated to Bulgarian-Soviet Friendship, will have a short excursion to the Varna-Beloslav Lakes system, huge industrial area and will also visit the unique for Bulgaria Retro Museum, which includes exhibits from the period 1944-1989 (4000 square meters). On our way back to Sofia we will stop at the Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria near Shumen, will have a short sightseeing tour in Veliko Turnovo and will drive alongside Kremikovtsi – Bulgaria’s largest metalworking industrial complex.
Type: a guided tour or a self-guided tour;
Duration: 8 nights/9 days;
Price: Please send us your enquiry! If you would like us to contact you with a proposal for this tour, please complete the form at the end of the page or use e-mail/phone or other communication channels, providing as much information as possible. We specialise in tailor-made travel to Bulgaria and our travel suggestions are individually designed to suit your personal requirements, so the more detail you can provide us with, the better. One of our specialist Travel Consultants will then contact you in order to provide you with a personalised proposal and quotation;
The guided tour includes: group transportation in a tour van/microbus; fuel/road taxes/parking fees; tour guide/driver (English); an accommodation depending on your preferences; entry fees; any additional services, excursions or places to be visited depending on your requests; extensive pre-arrival information and services.
The guided tour does not include: international air fares; airport transfers (can be arranged depending on your arrival and departure time and the place of arrival ); lunches and dinners; personal medical or travel insurance; any expenses of a personal nature.
Our self drive tours offer a flexible touring experience that allows you to discover Bulgaria in its diversity at your own pace.
Typically a self-guided tour includes: hotel reservations depending on your preferences; maps and detailed itinerary description + GPS coordinates of the places/hotels; information for places of interest; car rental depending on your preferences and car insurance; extensive pre-arrival information and services.
Typically a self-guided tour does not include: flights to/from Bulgaria; airport transfers (can be arranged depending on your arrival and departure schedule and the place of arrival); fuel, lunches and dinners; personal medical or travel insurance; any expenses of a personal nature.
Tour dates: all year round;
Tour mileage: ca 1500 km;
Minimum number of travelers: 2
Tour dates: all year round;
Tour mileage: ca 1500 km;
Day 1 Arrival in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria
Depending on the time of arrival we will have program for this day. Overnight in Sofia
Day 2 Sofia
After the breakfast in the hotel will 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 style in the former communist bloc. We will also visit the area around the train station, a strange mix of old buildings left over from the communist period placed in the context of a contemporary industrial landscape.
Today we will also visit the enormous concrete-built park – complex “The Bells” near Sofia. In the centre of the park – complex a huge concrete monument is situated. In height it reaches 37 meters and comprises 4 vertical pillars oriented according to the four cardinal directions, and a spiral composition of two hemispheres in which the bells are placed. In a circle around this major monument are placed a number of much smaller concrete structures on which bells are hung representing different countries (68 bells were hung in 1979, and nowadays the bells are 100).
The complex was built in connection with the International Children’s Assembly “Banner of Peace”, a children’s art festival under the auspices of UNESCO, organised at the initiative of Lyudmila Zhivkova, the famous daughter of the Bulgarian Communist dictator Todor Zhvkov. The first assembly was officially opened in Sofia on 16 th August 1979. At the same time the “The Bells” complex was opened as well. The last edition of the assembly in 1989 involved children from the record number of 135 countries.
At the afternoon we will visit the Museum of Socialist Art, showcasing art from the Socialist period (1944-1989). A large outdoor sculpture park has everything from the giant statue of Lenin that once stood in the centre of the city to the red star that topped the Socialist party headquarters. Smaller pieces reveal a gentler side to the Socialist ideals. The gallery inside has some excellent examples of 20th century modern art as well as the Socialist Realism genre we know from the period. Lodging in Sofia.
Day 3 Radomir and Pernik
After the breakfast in the hotel we will set off to the nearby cities of Radomir and Pernik, a region famous for its heavy industry which in recent years has suffered serious decline. This region is practically an open-air museum with an exposition made of massive industrial buildings – ruins left to endure the passage of time, strange “monuments” to Bulgaria’s socialist industrialism of 20 years ago. At times these surroundings can feel downright Orwellian. Lodging in Sofia.
Day 4 Sofia – Buzludzha – Dimitrovgrad
After the breakfast in the hotel we will head off for Buzludzha, a historical peak in the Central Balkan Mountains. We will arrive there at about noon.
The Buzludzha Monument on the peak was built by the Bulgarian communist regime to commemorate the events in 1891 when the socialists led by Dimitar Blagoev assembled secretly in the area to form an organised socialist movement with the founding of the Bulgarian Social Democratic Party, a fore-runner of the Bulgarian Communist Party. The Monument was opened in 1981. No longer maintained by the Bulgarian government, it has fallen into disuse.
We will go on to the south of the Balkans to the town of Dimitrovgrad, where we will arrive at late afternoon. Lodging in Dimitrovgrad.
Day 5 Dimitrovgrad – Madzharovo – Ivaylovgrad
The first half of the day we will have a stroll in Dimitrovgrad
Dimitrovgrad has experienced a unique history. It was founded on 2 September 1947 when 40 youths arrived in order to build the “city of dreams”. This enthusiasm for construction grew, with labourers numbering 50,000 coming from 963 Bulgarian towns and villages. Dimitrovgrad was built as a kind of architectural textbook, following the norms developed during the time of the Romans, according to specialists. It was held that the principles of Soviet city planning were also applied and whose model was used as the basis for many such undertakings at that time.
The building of Dimitrovgrad is a symbol of the last century because it has turned into one of the most characteristic examples of the architectural transformation of Bulgaria during socialism.
At noon we will set off for Madzharovo.
Madzharovo is a former mining town, where we can see a lot of the 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 is magical – the enchanting meanders of the Arda River and vultures hanging in the sky create an inimitable atmosphere.
In the evening, just before dark, we will leave for Ivailovgrad, a cozy little town in the Eastern Rhodopes, not far from Madzharovo, where we will spend the night in a hotel.
Day 6 Ivaylovgrad; Museum of Military Glory in Yambol; statue of Alyosha in Burgas; Aviation Expo near the airport of Burgas; Varna
In the morning we will have a short stroll around the downtown Ivaylovgrad, which is also a sample of the typical socialist architecture and urban planning. Here we will see the Monument “Mother Bulgaria” along with the main administrative buildings.
We continue our tour to Varna, the summer capital of Bulgaria.
On our way to Varna we will stop at the recently opened Museum of Military Glory, located in the former ‘Pionerski Kazarmi’ (old army base) in the central part of the town of Yambol. It features 3 expositions, one in the open and two indoors. The outdoor area displays real life conserved military equipment and aircraft that were in use during the last century. WWI experts and collectors will be particularly pleased at the sight of the original German tanks and guns while the more recent home-made products and old propaganda materials may trigger nostalgia especially in those who lived in the times of conscription. An old fighter plane and a field kitchen add to the period feel.
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. In fact, along the Black Sea coast these monuments to a undeclared war in a bygone era are actually well-kept and tended to.
We will stop in Burgas to see the statue of Alyosha with hand raised in salute (18 metres high). Reliefs of the meetings of Red Army soldiers in Burgas adorn the pediment. The monument was built in 1952-1953, and was designed in the best Stalinist fashion.
The next stop will be the Aviation Expo near the airport of Burgas. It has been officially closed but we still can see the old aircrafts collection and have a short walk among the remains.
At the evening we will arrive in Varna, where we will spend the night.
Note: If we have time this day we can stop by the Monument to Submarine ST-211 nearby the mouth of Kamchia river, about 25 km from Varna.
On 11 August 1941, the Soviet submarine St-211 arrived secretly at the mouth of the Kamchiya River. Several men disembarked. They were all Bulgarian Communists, sent to stir up anti-government resistance. The St-211 trip was only a part of a larger operation by the USSR, which in the summer of 1941 brought 55 saboteurs to Bulgaria by air and water.
Day 7 Varna
After the breakfast at the hotel we will have a sightseeing tour in Varna.
The Park-Memorial dedicated to Bulgarian-Soviet Friendship was initially designed as a monument to Soviet Army. It was built on Crane Hill, at a height of 110 m. That is the biggest monument in the whole Varna area – its height is 23 m., and its width – 48 m. The structure comprises two dynamic forms got together, built as an open composition.
At about noon time we will departure for a short excursion to the Varna-Beloslav Lakes system. Starting from the west, the following industrial complexes were constructed since 1954: Port Varna-West, Devnya chemical industrial complex, Varna Thermo-electric power station (TPS), Port Varna-East and Varna town sewage plant. As a consequence the system Beloslav Lake-Varna Lake become one of the areas along Black Sea coast strongly affected by human activities receiving pollutants from chemical industry, agricultural and sewage plants, TPS and port activities.
At the evening we will visit the unique for Bulgaria “Retro Museum”, which includes exhibits from the period 1944-1989, telling in artefacts how Bulgarians lived under socialism. Bulgarian cigarettes without filter, Russian vacuum cleaners, household from East Germany, Polish cosmetics and most desirable cars produced in the former Comecon turn back the time machine. It occupies an area of 4000 square meters in the biggest mall in Varna – Grand Mall. In the museum exhibition shines most brightly a collection of over 50 cars from the era brands “Volga”, “Moskvich”, “Skoda”, “Trabant”, etc. – all of them impeccably restored. Next to them are exposed the popular bikes “Simson” and “Balkan”. The star of the retro showroom in the museum is the classic “Chaika GAZ-13” – a limo on which rode the memberships of Politburo of the Communist Party. Overnight in Varna.
Day 8 Varna; The Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria; Veliko Turnovo – Kremikovtsi – Sofia
After the breakfast in the hotel we will departure for Sofia (450 km).
On our way to Sofia we will stop at The Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria, also known as the Founders of the Bulgarian State Monument. This is a large monument built on a plateau above the city of Shumen in 1981 to commemorate the 1300 th anniversary of the First Bulgarian Empire. The monument is built in concrete in a Cubist style, and designed by Bulgarian sculptors Krum Damyanov and Ivan Slavov. It stands at a height of 450 m above sea level and can be seen from 30 km away.
We will continue to the old capital of Bulgaria, Veliko Turnovo.
The city is mostly famous with the popular landmark – the historic hill Tsarevets, which held the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire. A number of 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. There could be seen some monuments from the socialism period, although people come here because of the unique cityscapes and historic monuments.
A few kilometres from Sofia is located Kremikovtzi, Bulgaria’s largest metalworking industrial complex. We can drive alongside the complex (mots probably we would not be able to enter the area itself). The construction of its facilities began on 5 November 1960 and the first production capacities were put into operation in 1963 to produce cast iron and coke, with production extending to cover other areas in the 1960s and 1970s. On May 15, 2009, the coke production plant – one of the most controversial symbols of the company – has been shut down forever. The fate of the industrial complex is unknown, but prospects are gloomy.