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Balabanova All Over

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[Dry Tortugas National Park, Dec 27, 2017] Finally, the Dry Tortugas post! B and I worked really hard to not get excited about it lest some last-minute cancellation due to weather or whatever else foiled our plans again, but we actually made it! Dry Tortugas National Park is located 70 miles West off the coast of Key West, making it one of the most remote national parks and the endpoint of the… Read More

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[Sofia, Bulgaria, Sept 22, 2017] We returned from Greece on Thursday, Sept 21. Our host Keti made us Greek coffee before we left. This was very similar to Turkish coffee, which is not surprising – both Bulgaria and Greece spent hundreds of years under Ottoman rule. Friday, Sept 22 was another official holiday in Bulgaria – the Day of Independence. I was not exactly sure how this day was different from our… Read More

[Sofia, Bulgaria, Sept 17, 2017] Today is another big holiday in Bulgaria. We celebrate St. Sophia, Vyara, Nadezhda and Ljubov. The last three names mean Faith, Hope and Love in Bulgarian, and Sophia means The Holy Wisdom of the Lord (from Greek, Agia Sophia). ¬†Everyone who carries one of these four names celebrates what we call a name day. Since I carry the name Nadezhda, today was my name day. The city… Read More

[Hamburg, Germany] Situated on the river Elbe, Hamburg is Germany’s second largest city and its own province with 1.5 million people. 2,000 bridges all over the city have earned it the nickname Venice of the North. Hamburg has the biggest number of millionaires per capita and the second largest port in Europe (Rotterdam is the largest). Two devastating fires 100 years apart – one in 1842 and one in 1943 – have… Read More

uid[Potsdam, Germany] By Wednesday, I was ready to leave the history-heavy Berlin behind and head out of town to Potsdam, where Frederick the Great (1712 – 1786) spent his summers. In Potsdam, Frederick had two places, at opposite ends of the grand Sanssouci park (a UNESCO World Heritage site). The small, more intimate Sanssouci housed his quarters and apartments for guests. Normally, a kaiser’s residence would also have his wife’s quarters, but… Read More

[Berlin, Germany] I got a hint of Germany’s tumultuous 20th century history yesterday at the German History Museum, but today I got hit in the face with it. I started with Dutch and German painters in the Gemaeldegallerie (“Painting Gallery” in German), but the day turned somber as I visited memorials dedicated to Hitler’s victims and the Berlin Wall. To get to the Gemaeldegallerie, I traveled to Potsdamer Platz. Previously a wasteland… Read More

[Rome, Italy] Arriving in Rome was a breeze. I set off from LA on an early flight to Washington, DC, where I connected on a direct flight to Rome. I slept for the majority of the second flight and when I landed in Rome at 8:30 in the morning local time, I was ready to go! My Bulgarian passport gave me access to the EU customs line, which is not actually a… Read More

[Kazanluk, Bulgaria] We left the medieval capital of the Bulgarian rulers on Saturday morning. We were headed to Kazanluk, about 90 km (60 mi) South. In the process, we had to cross the Balkan mountains and planned on visiting a magnificent monument at Shipka pass, which commemorates a battle that turned the Russo-Turkish war of 1877. On the other side of the Balkans, Kazanluk valley awaited us. Now known as the place… Read More

[Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria] We spent our day today in the town of Veliko Tarnovo. We visited most if not all of the city’s most famous landmarks, most of them preserved from the Bulgarian National Revival period in the 19th century. Our first top but was just a few feet away – the old Turkish Konak. Konak is one of many Turkish words still remaining in the Bulgarian language, and generally means a… Read More

[Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria] The river Yantra begins high up on the slopes of the Balkans, and winds its way down to the Danube. On the way, Yantra carves up gorges around the hills of present-day Veliko Tarnovo where the medieval Bulgarian Khans decided to build the stronghold of the Second Bulgarian Empire. Named Tsarevets, after one of the three hills in the area, the stronghold became the most important political, economic, religious… Read More