Bulgaria & Romania with Balkan Trails

By: Susan Purcell
This item appears on page 25 of the September 2017 issue.

If your travels ever take you to Romania and/or Bulgaria, I’d like to recommend a tour company there whose owners developed a wonderful 3½-week journey for my companion and me, Oct. 13-Nov. 3, 2016.

After an extensive Internet search, I found Balkan Trails (29 Mihail Sebastian St., Bldg. S7, Ent. A, Apt. 37, Sector 5, Bucharest 050784, Romania; phone +40 723 578 452, www.balkantrails.com), run by Vlad Trestian, a Romanian, and his wife, Zoe, a Bulgarian. Both Vlad and Zoe were quick to respond to my questions and offered helpful suggestions.

I chose their Bulgaria/Romania tour, customized to include Moldova. I compared their itinerary to five similar ones offered by other companies, and, while the price was ever so slightly more than the others, Balkan Trails’ offered “more bang for the buck.”

Arriving in Bulgaria. we were picked up by Marina Zareva, a wonderful, thoughtful, intelligent young lady who spoke excellent English.

After shuttling us around her lovely country for six days and seeing sites that included Sofia, Rila Monastery, Koprivshtitsa, the Thracian Cult Complex at Starosel, Plovdiv, Bachkovo Monastery, the Kazanlak Thracian tomb, Nessebar, Varna, the Madara Horseman, Veliko Tarnovo and Arbanassi, she drove us up to the Romanian border, where we jumped out of her car and moved in with our Romanian guide, Razvan Miroiu, who took us to Bucharest for the night.

Razvan also spoke very good English and was a wonderful guide. He showed us everything Romania has to offer, with the exception of the very western part of the country near Serbia and Hungary.

Cities and sights included Sibiu; Curtea de Arges¸ Monastery; Poie­nari Fortress; Hunyad Castle; Alba Iulia; Turda Salt Mine (not half as good as Poland’s salt mines); Surdesti wooden church; Sighetu Marmat¸iei; the painted monasteries of Voronet¸, Humor, Sucevit¸a and Moldovit¸a; Bicaz Gorges; Sighis¸oara; Biertan; Bran Castle; Bras¸ov, and the village of Viscri.

We traveled across several mountain chains, and, this being October with the trees turning, the colors were breathtaking. Razvan also took us to the small country of Moldova, where we spent three nights in Chis¸ina˘u.

There, he accompanied us and our great Moldovan guide, Valery Bradu. Val, too, spoke great English, and I really enjoyed his upbeat personality and sense of humor as he showed us Chis¸ina˘u’s highlights and took us on an excursion to the massive wine cellars of Cricova.

Incidentally, the wines of Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova are fabulous and inexpensive. You can buy a decent bottle at a gas station, of all places, for about $5.

Val also took us into the self-proclaimed but unrecognized republic of Transnistria, where we spent about six hours in its capital, Tiraspol. (In retrospect, the excursion was not worth the effort it took to get in and out of that “country.”)

 We covered a lot of territory in our 3½ weeks and stayed in nice accommodations, one of which was a 5-star. All breakfasts were included as well as several dinners.

I think Vlad and Zoe did a terrific job of orchestrating our journey. I also was very impressed with the guides. The cost of this trip was about $3,500 per person, not including international airfare or tips. Considering the fact that this was a private tour for just two people, I felt the price was fair. 

SUSAN PURCELL
Troy, MI