After your overnight flight, you will be greeted at the Sofia International Airport by a smiling face of one of the Stone & Compass guides. Getting settled into your room at the Premier Best Western Hotel and taking a nice hot shower may be your first choice to get ready for the adventures ahead. After a little rest the group will gather for a welcome dinner and then a much-needed night's sleep awaits you. Sleep well as tomorrow you will be embracing Bulgaria’s vibrant capital city of Sofia for a guided walking tour.
Wake up to a full breakfast before heading out with the group to have a guided walking tour of Sofia where you will see the Archeological Museum, Nevski Cathedral, Catacombs under St. Sofia Church, and many other sites. After a traditional lunch, deepen your cultural knowledge of Sofia’s history with a lecture/tour at the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Museum or enjoy more sight seeing before taking off to drive to the Stone & Compass Center in Stolat, Bulgaria.
Enjoy a little rest and relaxation as you awake at The Center and take in the views of the mountains and 2000 acres that the property has to offer. This day will focus on class lectures/discussion. You will get an in depth understanding of how business has grown in Bulgaria primarily centered around tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing. You will also take part in a discussion on the post communist transformation in business development. As the lecture portion of the day ends enjoy an afternoon traditional Bulgarian dance lesson that will prepare you for the evening’s cultural performance and dinner in the barn.
Today you travel to just outside of Veliko Tarnovo to see two starkly different sights which will illustrate different periods of Bulgaria's long history. Nikopolis ad Istrum was a Roman and Early Byzantine town. Among the ruins are the remains of a cannonade, a theater, public baths, and buildings and shops around the agora, or central square. In the fourth century, the Gothic alphabet was developed here, and the Bible was translated from Greek to Gothic. Set in a valley nestled between small villages, this cultural wonder is trying to increase tourism to the site. Enjoy a discussion with the wardens and learn more about how they are using marketing and government funding to develop the area more for tourists.
Arbanasi is an ancient village with beautiful architectural monuments, many dating to the 17th and 18th centuries, when it rose to prominence as an important craft and commercial center, and others dating to the Bulgarian National Revival period of the 19th century. Arbanasi is especially well-known for its numerous old churches. The Church of the Nativity of Christ, for example, dates back to the 15th century, and features impressive murals and iconostases representative of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Small businesses including hotels, restaurants and small craft areas have blanketed this area utilizing the church as a central theme for creating economic viability. Tour the area and meet some of the local business owners and visit a former communist presidential residence that has now been turned into a hotel.
Step back in time as you enter the gates of Etara, a living museum featuring a traditional craft marketplace. Waterwheels power machinery used for woodcarving, pottery, weaving, and silversmithing, among others. Try traditional apple pastry from the bakery or Turkish coffee brewed over hot sand while you watch the artisans at work and shop for unique handcrafted items. This complex has grown into one of the main cultural businesses in central Bulgaria and is visited by thousands of visitors each year. Meet one of the directors and learn more about how ETAR is managed and prospers in an area of the country that is typically impoverished.
isit Dryanovo monastery, founded in the 13th century and rebuilt in the 17th century, was used as a preparation site by revolutionaries for liberation from Ottoman rule. There is a restaurant and traditional craft shopping within the complex. A short walk offers views of a waterfall and the picturesque cliffs of the Dryanovo river gorge, as well as an opportunity to explore the caverns of Bacho Kiro Cave. Learn how Monasteries are one of the biggest tourist draws and how they have turned into large businesses throughout Bulgaria.
Visit the mountain town of Tryavna. Learn how this particular town has used business and marketing to transform into a bustling day tourist destination. As a unique example in an otherwise desolate geographic area, Tryavna is continuing to expand and grow using the concept of small business and light manufacturing.
On this class day you will get to see the traditional Bulgarian yogurt production. Visit a working family farm and harvest produce for this evening's meal at the center. After a visit to the Sevlievo Farmers Market and the local grocery story you will have collected enough items to come back to The Center and learn how to make a traditional Bulgarian meal
Explore Veliko Tarnovo, the capital of Second Bulgarian Empire. Climb the steps of the medieval fortress of Tsarevets for panoramic views of this city and the river that winds around it. Inside the reconstructed church atop the fortress you will see unique modern frescoes reflecting the long history of this site. After trying your hand at an ancient pottery technique in a master class you will have time to visit a museum of local history, shop for gifts and souvenirs, or enjoy a gelato in this city where old meets new. Veliko Tarnovo is truly going through an economic boon. With a new downtown pedestrian mall under construction, new highway linking the major city of Ruse’ and plans set for a new airport, students will have a chance to see up close how commercialism is transforming this city.
Take a day hike and swim under a waterfall when we travel to Emen Canyon located 20km from Veliko Tarnovo in the foothills of the Central Balkan Range. Formed by the currents of the Negovanka River, the area boasts several rapids, waterfalls, pools, and recesses beneath cliffs that rise as high as 90m. Divided into an Upper and Lower Boaz, the Canyon has been a reserve protected by the state since 1980, especially important due to the diversity of bat species that live in the caves. These caves reveal evidence of human habitation dating back to the Neolithic period, and Romans later built an outpost nearby. The name Emen comes from a Turk who owned the land during the Ottoman Empire; both the Canyon and nearby village still bear this name. The village of Emen has a population of about 100, but nearly triples during the summer months, as the area is appealing to both domestic and foreign visitors.
Today visit SEVLIEVO TOWN CENTER & the restaurant DAN KOLOV Take part in meetings and lectures at a mattress manufacturing plant and an American fixture company “Ideal Standard”. Learn how these businesses are creating economic stability in the region. Next travel to our favorite local restaurant and get a more in depth understanding of the challenges people face in trying to create and sustain businesses in small rural villages in Bulgaria.
In the evening you will pack your bags and stargaze one last night at The Center as tomorrow morning begins the journey back toward Sofia . . . but don’t worry the journey is over a mountain and through a valley that has been inhabited for over 7000 years!
Dan Kolov Restaurant
Travel through the Thracian Valley of the Kings and over the Balkan Mountains with a stop at the Shipka Church and Shipka Pass Monument celebrating liberation from 500 years of Ottoman rule.
This mountain pass is impressive but so is the destination of the ancient city of Plovdiv, one of the oldest cities in Europe. Boasting over 200 Thracian, Greek, and Roman archaeological sites, this “city of seven hills” has been selected as the European Capital of Culture for 2019. Sample traditional Bulgarian, Turkish, and Armenian fare as you walk the cobblestone streets of Ancient Plovdiv, lined with restored houses from the Bulgarian Revival period. We will spend the afternoon exploring an ancient theatre, the TrakArt Museum and all the sights of this beautiful city before heading on to Sofia where you will sleep one last night before departing for home.
Today you wake and reflect upon all your learning and exploration as you either head home or off to your next adventure.