Definitely not the most popular destination for international tourism, but I must admit that Bulgaria surprised me after a three-day trip during which I have been in contact with a rich nature and wild, learning about the country's agriculture and its capital, Sofia. The chance to explore the eastern border of Europe came during the 11th edition of the strawberry Festival. This Country, of just over seven million inhabitants, with an area that size approaches that of Italy, is full of contradictions and as such has its own special charm. Most of its inhabitants are concentrated in few cities, including Sofia. The rest of the country is dotted with tiny clusters of living, many of them deserted because of the land collectivisation in Communist period, After the collapse of the Soviet regime in the 1990s because of the strong drive towards industrialization in the cities.
My tour was concentrated in the region of Montana, on the border with Serbia, and Pàzardzhik, between the centres of Sofia and Plovdiv, where are located the biological fields Rigoni di Asiago. Bulgarian biodiversity is a true heritage to be protected: the country has over 13 thousand of species of flora and fauna 12,360, 12 national parks and 250 native plants. All this biodiversity is apparent simply by taking a walk in the countryside in spring, where in the midst of a wild and luxuriant vegetation meet rane, dragonflies, Mantis, storks, a long variety of beautiful butterflies. Yet, Despite this splendor and the kilometers of unspoiled Woods and meadows, where nature has room to express themselves, the Bulgaria is also struggling to improve air pollution levels of some specific areas where some large coal power plants, that provide energy to the country (also equipped with a nuclear power plant).
The fields of Rigoni, having its headquarters in Italy in Foza, in the province of Vicenza, is present in Bulgaria since 1993: over 1,400 hectares of farmland all organic producing strawberries, Ribes, more, raspberries and in recent years also apples, Plums, sour cherries, hazelnuts, including nurseries for the production of seedlings of various species. The camps are employed mainly Roma ethnicity binders, that here are sedentary: some of them were even in Italy, to collect fruits and vegetables in the fields of the South, in Campania and Calabria, but as soon as they could have returned in Bulgaria, where the salary paid by Raghava is higher than the average of those Bulgarians. Directing farming there are responsible for Italian and Bulgarian companies half half, Ecoterra and Ecovita. What about? That organic strawberries I tasted directly from the plant are the best I have ever eaten. During the various walks in the fields I did cram black mulberries and cherries and, the strawberry Festival, held annually on the grounds around Karabunar, the triumph were the strawberries dipped in dark chocolate and white. An unparalleled goodies, among other things enjoyed with the blessing of the pope during an impressive Orthodox ceremony for the harvest.
A little’ sore, I have to admit, the chapter on food (strawberries aside!) : I can't say for sure that Bulgaria is a country for gourmets. According to my brief but intense experience, the best dish are the salads. Bulgarians are used to start each meal with a big salad of raw vegetables fresh and crisp: tomatoes, Roasted Peppers, cucumbers, onions, all accompanied by a typical local cheese, They call "Syrene", basically the equivalent of the Greek Feta Pdo, However, the country's exclusive Greek logo. Should you find yourself in Bulgaria and be a little’ at loggerheads with local food, order a Syrene po shopski and you will not regret, is a traditional Mediterranean Salad in full. There are also some cold soups, including the Tarator, resembling a gazpacho. The rest of the meal is composed mainly of roast beef (especially chicken and pork, but also beef), usually overcooked, accompanied by vegetables and vegetables. Beverages include beer, rakia (a kind of brandy very, very strong) and the wine. Among the desserts, I tasted the typical, that is called "garash": a kind of very dense tiramisu, made with a cream made with eggs, hazelnuts and cocoa. Do try the Baklava. I recommend, instead, try the Bulgarian food takeout, the ' local ' street food, made mostly of kebab, mixed meat dumplings (as the kebapcheta) and tasty treasures of a great puff pastry (the Bulgarians are known for working with this type of pasta) stuffed with cheese (as the cake Banitsa), vegetables or meat, Maybe combined with a refreshing drink yoghurt, water and salt that you'll easily in all markets, starting from the central market. The costs are really low: the Bulgarian currency is the lever and the prices of food and everything else are virtually halved compared to Italy. Buy and take home as a souvenir a honey jar: It is cultivated by peasants bulgari (they sell it on the streets outside the city) and it's yummy.
Sofia was a good find: stroll through the historic center of the capital means pass within a few metres from the old Communist ambience in an Islamic and Ottoman. The old "Serdica", beloved by the Roman Emperor Constantine, today is called Sofia in Greek sense of the term, that indicates the wisdom. And it's just a coincidence that the patron saint of the city is Saint Sophia, whose statue dominates the Centre of the city. Sofia is located in the heart of what once was Thrace and Macedonia. In the historic centre (easily accessible by an all-new metro from the airport), There is the magnificent Orthodox basilica of Saint Alexander, built in honour of the Russian Czar Alexander II of Russia, called the liberator, because it was under his leadership that Bulgaria was liberated from Ottoman rule, which here lasted five centuries. With its domes decorated with a flow of pure gold, the basilica, begun in 1882 and completed in 1912, It's really impressive, both in the complex external façade, both within, that exudes an air of solemnity and prayer.
In my quick tour to Sofia, I tried to visit the main monuments, and I have to say that I walked incessantly for hours. You should not miss the Russian church of St. Nikolai, that reflects the style of churches in Moscow; the ancient basilica of Santa Sofia; the bridge of Lions, dominated by leonine statues that cost the life of the artist who created: It is said that, realizing that you forgot to make the language of beasts, He threw himself into the River as it does not bear the error. I saw the Banya Bashi mosque, built in the 16th century, and currently the only active in Sofia, and the city market: inside you can buy typical Bulgarian Road foods that I recommended. I was able to visit the outdoor Bazaar, where you can live the most authentic and simple soul of the city: fresh fruit exposed in large quantities, with cherries, potatoes, Peppers, strawberries, fresh cheese, small terracotta objects (of course a small decorated pot is now part of my collection). In the heart of Sofia, I recommend you visit the third largest Synagogue in Europe. While the oldest church in Sofia is located behind the Sheraton Hotel, almost hidden by facades of 19th century buildings and the Church of Saint George: a little gem included in Unesco heritage list (the Bulgaria boasts a total of 9 sites included in the Unesco World), rich in frescoes dating from the tenth century a.d..
Sofia has no shortage of a more modern shopping centre, now under restoration, Vitosha Boulevard: As always, in this beautiful Avenue be in Sofia or in any other European City does not change things much. We are the top brands, many cafes and restaurants and is a popular especially by youngsters. No shortage of impressive traces of the recent past and especially Communist architecture. To visit at least the National Palace of culture: a 12-story building now used for conferences and exhibitions, from the top you can enjoy a view of the whole city. As for the hotel, I recommend that where I slept: theHotel Expo, a four star hotel situated in the zone of new sky line of Sofia, well located on the subway line that leads to the Centre and to the airport, in a matter of minutes and at low prices.