Stefan: And I see it in your eyes! You go to "Eastern Europe," you think of potatoes, kraut, and heavy meat, but this is — it feels more Mediterranean. Although the couple is separated, Rick is … Join Rick on a fascinating voyage, exploring four of Europe's most intriguing islands: Malta, Capri, Skye, and Orkney. And the theater remains part of the community to this day. Rick takes you behind the scenes as he films Italy's Cinque Terre, five charming villages hidden in the rugged Italian coast. see our FAQ. Video: Watch "Egypt's Nile, Alexandria, and Luxor," an episode of the Rick Steves' Europe TV show. From ancient Greeks and Romans to fearsome Slavic warriors, from Ottoman pashas to Cold War communists, each left its mark. Stefan: Absolutely! These scenes show the 40 days of trials your soul goes through after death. Peasant women cluster around a fire, knitting as they eke out warmth. While most tourists stick to the cobbled old town, modern Plovdiv has plenty to offer as well. Rick: To your health — nazdráve! 4:24. see our FAQ. To find the road up, look for the turnoff along the main road between Kazanlak and Shipka, marked by the stoic communist-era statue standing by a pillar. And people have enjoyed it for a very long time: Plovdiv claims to be one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. The town's hillsides are blanketed with both traditional homes and dreary concrete housing blocks. Everything you need is here. Stefan: Yes. Bulgaria's complicated history has made it a melting pot. It's never too late to enjoy Rick's live Monday Night Travel party with our weekly video recordings. Down in the valley, golden domes mark Shipka Church, which honors the sacrifice of those Russian and Bulgarian troops. Today, you can drive up, up, up into the mountains and stand before this decaying souvenir of a failed system. The heart of every single Bulgarian belongs to this place, belongs to this monastery here. It was ruled by the Asen dynasty. The church is dedicated to Russian soldiers lost in that fight.) Craftspeople keep traditions alive, and roses offer a fragrant harvest. Rick: And the people, why do they like this so much? Bulgaria is a great place to travel. Thanks for joining us. Rick Steves was born in Barstow, California, United States. Thanks for joining us. Four centuries before Christ, back when Socrates and Plato were doing their thing in Athens — about 300 miles to the south — Bulgaria was known as "Thrace." A mountain monastery cradles Bulgaria's spiritual soul. A guardian angel accompanies the soul — represented by a small child — through a gauntlet of temptations. In the fourth century B.C., it was called Philippopolis…the "City of Philip" — he was the father of Alexander the Great. 5. Terms of Service | Privacy, previous recordings of Monday Night Travel, Watch with Rick Steves — Great European Festivals, Watch with Rick Steves — Ethiopia: A Development Story, Holiday Special! ET | REGISTER Stefan: We celebrate Bulgaria, and the Bulgarian experience. Credits: Rick: Hi, I'm Rick Steves, back with more of the Best of Europe. It's fascinating to explore and easy to enjoy. She proudly tops a column marking the center of town. Rick: Ne. Stefan: Ne. He hosts tours, publishes guidebooks, speaks at … Thanks to some progressive policies, the graffiti in this neighborhood seems to add to, rather than detract from, the ambience. Rick: It's warm… Relatively unknown and underappreciated, Bulgaria is a country I've long enjoyed for the surprises it offers the curious traveler. It's dedicated to the Russian and Bulgarian troops (now buried in the crypt) who fought fiercely to defeat the Ottomans in 1877. Rick: You like it? ET | REGISTER. The town is shaped like a natural amphitheater. Today's locals have different aspirations. The importance of community is celebrated — and each weathered face tells a story. The red star, which for 50 years capped the city's grandest edifice, no longer inspires. [shaking head] And tourists are amazed by its pristine setting (tucked between mountains and forests), the reverent spirituality that fills its stony courtyard, and the vivid art that decorates its church. Tombs held a trove of golden treasure, now displayed in museums throughout Bulgaria. Throughout the country, school's out — and people are celebrating. Rick: Now, this is funny in Bulgaria — you went "yes," like… [swivels head around] They kick off Plovdiv's liveliest pedestrian boulevard, where people promenade in style — past inviting parks and sidewalk cafés. Thanks for joining us. This pivotal battle led to the eventual demise of the Ottoman Empire, and to the creation of the modern, independent country of Bulgaria. The monastery is still home to a handful of monks, who host both tourists and pilgrims. Registration is open to everyone but only 3,000 can join the live event. Bulgarian is a cross of all civilizations — between north and south, east and west. At this crossroads of civilizations, today's Bulgarians have blended old and new into a culture distinctly their own. Rick: You come here and celebrate Bulgaria. The monastery was founded in the 930s by Bulgaria's patron saint, St. John of Rila (or Ivan Rilski, as Bulgarians call him), who came here seeking a hermetic way of life. Like much of the Slavic world, Bulgaria uses the Cyrillic alphabet. It's more vertical than horizontal, with a mix of blocky modern construction and traditional Bulgarian homes. S11 Ep1106 | 26m 15s For coronavirus (COVID-19) travel information, Its cascading gold and copper domes are striking from every angle. In this town that's more vertical than horizontal, going for a walk around the block feels like climbing a ladder. Today--with 70,000 inhabitants, and a prestigious university with around 18,000 students — it's called Veliko (Great) Tarnovo to honor its illustrious past. Spokane, Washington Est. The wedding was conducted in St Thomas of Villanova, and the reception took place at Saint David Gold Club. A crossroads of civilizations, it offers a fascinating story. One of Europe's most dramatically set cities that bunny-hops through a misty gorge at a sharp bend of the Yantra River. Rick: How many springs in Sofia like this? Over the next 25 years, he reveled in bright colors with a childlike exuberance, slapping thick, Van Gogh-like brushstrokes onto the canvas. A fattened pig being slaughtered for Christmas; above the victim, each weathered face could tell a story. I'm joined by my Bulgarian friend and fellow tour guide, Stefan Bozadzhiev, who's my teacher for all things Bulgarian — including some fun little insights. Its capital has a stunning cathedral. Experience the fun, conviviality, intimacy, and spontaneity of joining Rick in his living room as he drinks his favorite wine and shares his inspirational and sometimes hilarious behind-the-scenes stories. And we'll enjoy an intimate taste of contemporary culture: the yellow brick road of Sofia; the gregarious craftspeople of the medieval capital, Veliko Tarnovo; and the thriving pedestrian zones of cosmopolitan Plovdiv. Rick: So what is this drink then? Art gallery celebrating Zlatyu Boyadzhiev (1903-1976), who was already a well-established artist when his health took a terrible turn. This event was recorded on January 11, 2021. Rick: So, "no" [nods]…"yes" [shakes head] — yes? Between the Thracian Plain and Veliko Tarnovo run the Balkan Mountains. According to legend, the Asen brothers planted a sword on this spot and said, "Here shall be Bulgaria.". Their pragmatic solution? Stefan: We have the Thracian king, who is buried here. With the end of the Cold War and the arrival of capitalism, Buzludzha was abandoned. Newly revitalized, this artsy district is where foodies and creative young people congregate. Rick: I'm feeling better already. As if stowing away on an actual shoot, you'll meet the crew and hear in their own words how America's most popular travel show is made. And the royal banquet, with the gods, musicians, servants, horses. This time I'm surrounded by Slavic culture…it's Bulgaria! Rick Steves Classroom Europe® is a free online video library for teachers, students, and parents. 4.0 out of 5 stars 42. Kazanlak, the main town of the valley — is especially festive in May. The Best of Israel - Video - Rick Steves' Europe For coronavirus (COVID-19) travel information, see our FAQ . The Thracians were an impressive civilization. Stepping inside, you enter a world of glittering icons, a rich haze of incense, and hundreds of tall, skinny candles. Prices are low here, making even a splurge like this surprisingly affordable. From Sofia, we visit Rila Monastery, head north to Veliko Tarnovo, explore the Thracian Plain, and finish in Plovdiv. Most Bulgarians — like Russians and Greeks — are Orthodox Christians, and the Orthodox tradition stretches from here far to the East. You'll see — preaching their message to each other in an empty field — the Lenin that once topped the pillar in the center of town; Georgi Dimitrov, the "Bulgarian Lenin"; the red star that capped the Communist Party HQ; and several stoic soldiers and workers. With a complex weave of modern affluence, Western secularism, and traditional Muslim faith, it's a dynamic and stimulating city, well worth experiencing. Experience the fun, conviviality, intimacy, and spontaneity as Rick hosts a travel happy hour on Zoom from his living room. With Rick Steves, Andreas Clemens, Georg Reichlmayr, Holger Zimmer. This gigantic conference hall was built in the 1980s, in the waning days of communist rule. Founded in the 10th century, Rila Monastery was a stronghold for Bulgarian faith, language, and culture during nearly 500 years of Ottoman rule. In this town, anywhere you dig, you find ancient ruins — bits of Roman Sofia. Finally, we reach Rila Monastery: fortress on the outside…spiritual sanctuary inside. In Plovdiv, as in many European cities, local leaders understand that buildings are going to be tagged anyway. From its ruined acropolis, it's easy to see the hills upon which ancient Plovdiv was built. But the couple gets divorced in 2010. [nods] Within its walls, you feel something special — both sacred and timeless. Try it! Today, the lyrics of the international communist anthem are literally falling off the walls. Stefan: This is very traditional way in Bulgaria. In this garden of communist propaganda, Lenin, who once topped the main pillar in the center of town, still faces the storm. Hindliyan House was decorated to the taste of its merchant owner. Vast fields of roses bloom overnight. And graffiti makes it clear who won the Cold War. Locals sit around a public fountain sipping glasses of wine. Kick off 2021 with a festival bash — Europe's biggest parties and festivals with an insider's look at the fun and craziness! Rick: So, why is Rila so important to the Bulgarian people? The payoff: a wide variety of rose oil products, appreciated both abroad, and at home. Worshippers show their devotion with the help of sacred images. And we say, "nazdráve" — This beautiful place has been a holy site and refuge for over a thousand years. Stefan: Ne. In 1951, he suffered a stroke, which made his right hand useless. Even amid a pandemic that has hit the travel industry hard, Steves … Capping a nearby ridge — miles from anything — is one of the most bizarre sights I've seen anywhere: Buzludzha, an abandoned monument to the Bulgarian Communist Party. Stefan: Ne [nods]. Rick Steves was married to his longtime girlfriend Anne Steves. One of the largest Orthodox churches in Christendom--and the only national church I can think of that's named for an important saint of a different country: Russia. The ruins of its fortress are a reminder of the city's importance 800 years ago. And to this day, these perpetually flowing water taps are appreciated by the locals. The 175-foot-tall steeple, flanked by bulbous golden onion domes that shimmer in the sunshine, holds a giant bell cast from discarded artillery cartridges after the battle. The Bulgarians feel a Slavic kinship with Russia — which, in 1878, helped liberate them from centuries of Ottoman rule. Stefan: This is a traditional Bulgarian drink, and it is called "rakia." Inside, you're immersed in the glow of Orthodox tradition. Stefan: Yes, actually — you're right. Boyadzhiev's best works feature timeless slices of peasant life: Back in pagan times, people prayed not in temples, but under trees. 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