Most countries in the world have adopted an animal to symbolise what their nations think of themselves. Australia has the emu, South Africa the springbok. Canada has the beaver, China the panda. In Europe, the countries are almost equally divided between those – Germany, Poland, Albania and so on – which cherish the eagle as its national animal, often putting it on their coats-of-arms. Then there is Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Belgium and of course England which venerate the lion. Bulgaria belongs to the second group.
With its rolling hills and uninspiring towns, the central part of northern Bulgaria appears unexciting and dull, a place you pass through on your way to somewhere else. However, as so often happens in Bulgaria, appearances are deceiving. Leave the main road and you will discover that the rolling hills hide intriguing natural phenomena.
Apart from St Sofia in the capital, the marvellous mosaics of the Bishop's Basilica and the Small Basilica in Plovdiv, and the remains of the metropolitan church in Nesebar, traces of the early Byzantine era in Bulgaria are scarce and little known. They do exist, however: forgotten remnants of the time when the Eastern Roman Empire was trying to hold back the invasions of the Barbarians in the Balkans. Most are nothing more than low crumbling walls, almost invisible in the undergrowth and interesting only to archaeologists. Others, however, are still striking, despite time, neglect and the depredations of those seeking second-hand building materials.
Choosing your next travel destination in Bulgaria is tough. If you are yet to become acquainted with this country, it is easy to get lost in all the opportunities.
Tourist crowds tend to spoil places and Begliktash is not an exception. Located near Primorsko, on Bulgaria's crowded southern Black Sea coast, the Thracian megalithic shrine gets crammed in the holiday season. There are package tourists, there are independent visitors, and there are garish and sometimes rather kitschy reenactments of ancient Thracian rituals organised by the local authorities.
When you travel around Bulgaria, from the capital to the smallest of villages, you will inevitably encounter monuments of stern men and sometimes women, with guns in their hands and passion in their eyes. Made of stone or bronze, these monuments adorn squares and streets, peek over the trees by roads, and form whole, often overgrown compounds.