After your travels, you will be happy to know that one of the Stone & Compass guides’ smiling face will be waiting for you at Sofia International Airport. 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 nights sleep awaits you. Sleep well as tomorrow you will be embracing Bulgaria’s vibrant capital city of Sofia for a guided walking tour.
Day Three: Sophia tour
Wake up to a full breakfast before heading out with the group to have a guided walking tour of Sofia. 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. In the afternoon you will take a tour of how Communism affected Sofia. Then depart together for Stolat, Bulgaria, your home for most of the trip.
Day Four: Veliko Tarnovo
Today we head to Veliko Tarnovo University to learn about Bulgarian Linguistics from a VTU professor. Quickly learn some Bulgarian phrases you will use throughout your stay here. After lunch, we will walk through Tsaravets Castle and enjoy the small cobblestone streets for a stroll through the city.
Day Five: Stolat Elderly Center and Theater
Today we stay close to home, walking a few minutes up the road to the center of Stolat. Meet the locals as you spend the morning getting to know some residents of the local Stolat Elderly Home. Here you will complete the first part of your service to local community members as you get to know them and hear their stories. We’ll also visit a communist era theater that is Phase 2 of Stone & Compass development. The building itself is a time-capsule of items from when the Communists left in 1989.
Day Six: Arbanasi and Gorno airport
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 (pictured), for example, dates back to the 15th century, and features impressive murals and iconostases representative of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.
In the afternoon, we will visit Gorno, where an American company has bought a 35-year lease for their airport and plans to completely redevelop it, lengthening the runways to allow passenger jets to use it. You will see modernization underway and be able to see its affect on nearby Veliko Tarnovo.
Day Seven: Farmers market and Bulgarian cooking
Today we will enjoy another local adventure, this time to a farm in Dushevno and a farmers market in Sevlievo. You will go with a shopping list and a challenge to get everything on your list using Bulgarian yourself. Hopefully you will be successful, because from there, we return to the center with all our ingredients to learn how to make traditional Bulgarian cuisine for our own dinner.
Day Eight: Emen Gorge
Get some stretching in this morning because we’re going for a hike. Explore the beautiful Emen Gorge. Traverse some harrowing (but perfectly safe) walking bridges. And get refreshed in a watering hole beneath a waterfall (pictured).
Day Nine: Rest
The rewards for your travels and hard course work have come on this day when you get a free day to enjoy the Stone & Compass Center and all the relaxing activities that abound. Explore the 2000 acres or just swim in the pool.
Day Ten: Amalipe
Today we visit the Amalipe Center for Interethnic Dialogue and Tolerance.
This is a leading Roma organization working for the equal integration of Roma in Bulgarian Society. This is an opportunity to develop a greater understanding of the Roma experience within Bulgaria.
Day Eleven: Rest #2
Enjoy a second rest day hanging out at the center. For those interested, we can arrange another visit to our friends at the Elderly Center in Stolat.
Of course, the pool and a stroll around the neighborhood are always restful as well!
Day Twelve: Devatashka Cave
Today you will try your hand at spelunking (cave exploration) in sprawling Devatashka Cave. Archaeological items from this cave date back 70,000 years! It is a huge, karst structure that once held oil silos to hide and protect them from bombing. Now it is home to a rare and endangered bat, so try not to disturb them too much.
Day Thirteen: Gabrovo and Etara
Today we head to the post-industrial city of Gabrovo. A thriving city under communism, it has struggled to establish an identity since. Here we can visit museums to both Industry and Humor.
In the afternoon, you will see how traditional arts and industry are being constructed as central to Bulgarian national identity. We will travel to ETARA an open-air ethnographic museum where you will get to see first hand traditional crafts being created right before your eyes. All powered by an amazing series of water sleuths and water-powered machinery. Get a guided tour of how all of this is done and have free time to browse around and buy yourself and your friends some truly unique Bulgarian crafts.
Day Fourteen/Fifteen: Return to Sophia and depart home
Awaken your senses with one last morning cup of coffee or tea in the barn. Breathe the fresh air and relish the peace and serenity that is Stone & Compass. Reflect on your experience as you travel back to Sofia Airport. View the landscape and imagine when you will return. . . as you will want to return!