Travelling in the Bulgarian countryside in the summer is particularly fascinating, for it is then that sunflowers are in full bloom, creating a colourful cacophony with their yellow, orange and brown hues.
In Sofia, there is a place where you can see a representative sample of modern-day Bulgarian society in just about a couple of square miles and in less than a few hours. This is the National Palace of Culture, or NDK. On its vast square, teenagers skateboard and flirt, elderly people have coffee with friends and mothers stroll with their children, while buskers and icecream sellers vie for customers. In the evening, people heading for some festival or concert at the NDK's Hall 1 flock in front of the main entrance. It has about a dozen doors, but typically just one is open. The bars around are packed, and those who can afford it head for the luxury restaurant on the top floor.
The Bulgarian southern Black Sea coast might be overdeveloped, but a few corners of pristine nature and immaculate beauty still survive amid the concrete, the lack of proper sewage systems, the hideous new buildings and the jam - packed beaches. Sinemorets, one of the last Bulgarian villages before the border with Turkey, is one of those places.
As a city that remembers its glorious past as one of Bulgaria's mediaeval capitals, and its importance in the 19th century as the nascent Bulgarian nation struggled for independence and recognition, Veliko Tarnovo has a collection of churches that have witnessed or played a part in many historic events.
Being a flight attendant was a glamorous job during Communism. Uniformed beauties on calendars for Balkan Airlines, the state air carrier, reinforced that the job as an aspirational one, while for the more practically minded, the profession had another advantage. When local shops lacked essentials like toilet paper, working on an international fight meant having the opportunity to buy foreign luxuries (whisky, perfume, fur coats and Levi's jeans) and sell them for a good profit on the eager Bulgarian black market.
Mighty stone arches loom over a tiny river, the moist air hangs over misty greenery, and the flutter of wild birds' wings is amplified in the dark caves; the atmosphere of Bozhi Most, or God's Bridge, is as intriguing as its mysterious name.
Folk memory moves in mysterious ways. One of the best examples is Krali Marko, the legendary hero venerated for centuries throughout the Balkans as the mighty man who protected lands and people from the Ottoman invasion. For centuries, legends and epic songs were told and sung; they spread, transformed and became more and more elaborate, telling the story of the larger-than-life Krali Marko. The owner of a wondrous spotted horse, he encountered fairies, braved invaders and traitors, participated in heroic competitions, and freed thousands of enslaved men and women. It is hardly a surprise, then, that a number of locations in modern Bulgaria, Serbia and Macedonia bear his name.