Euro Trip 2009|Travel Photography
Last Updated: Friday, April 30, 2010 at 9:28:55 PM

01_090923_Paris (50 | 01_090923_Paris (50I could easily say that the Europe trip Rob and I did in September of 2009 is one of the best and most memorable experiences of my life, and not because we went on an expensive holiday, but because I got to experience this great adventure with the man I love. I got to share this thrill with him and experience history and culture of other countries together. This adventure engraved amazing memories in me that I often go back in my mind and relive it once again. I have wanted to share this and write about it for quite some time now, but have not found the spare day needed. Now that I finally have the new website built (thanks to my sweetheart for the hard work on building and designing it, he is a genius), I need to put the story on paper, or on file.

So, it's been a long time coming for a trip like this one for both of us, it was time and we both had our own reasons of why this was needed, which reasons are personal and will not be shared; needless to say we both had to go somewhere, plus he has been excited about learning where I come from and what it is like in Bulgaria since we first met. At first I thought he was just trying to sweep me off my feet, but with time I understood and felt that he actually did want to see and learn, and what better way to teach him than going directly to the source - Bulgaria:)

00_090923_Paris (29) | 00_090923_Paris (29)After many conversations we dreamt about our big adventure when the time finally came one night we sat down in front of the computer and booked everything we needed. Our first stop was Paris, France then off to Bulgaria where Rob is to meet my family and then to Athens, Greece, but just for a night, because the next day we were to go to beautiful and romantic greek island Santorini. After we had everything booked, the anticipation was painful, first because I couldn't believe it was happening and second because I  couldn't wait, and if you know me well you know that Patience is not a known feature of mine:). I am surprised that I didn't start packing the same night we booked our tickets. Finally the time to leave for Europe came and off we went.

"Paris is the capital and primate city of France. It is situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Ile-De-France (or Paris Region). The city of Paris has an estimated population of 2,203,817 (January 2006), but the metropolitan area has a population of 11,769,433 (January 2006) - one of the most populated metropolitan areas in Europe.

Paris the City of Lights is one of the world's leading business and cultural centres and its influence in politics, fashion, education, media, entertainments and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world's major global cities.

Paris is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The Paris region receives 45 million tourists annually, 60% of whom are foreign visitors." ("Paris." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia Wikipedia Foundation, n.p. Web. April 23, 2010)

01_090925_Paris (326)We arrived in Paris around noon and even though we were exhausted from the long flight we managed not to go to bed right away, instead we went out site seeing. That night we walked a lot, I mean allot to the point where I felt pain in my legs 3 days after the fact. We walked along the river all the way to the Eiffel Tower. It was a beautiful night, it was warm and I was so happy to be there and do that long walk with my man (even though I was bitching about my feet hurting towards the end of the walk). It was busy. There were tourists everywhere, bikes driving everywhere, even on the sidewalk and squeezing themselves in between the crowd. Shops were opened late, little market type streets can be found in every couple of blocks where they had vegetables, fruits and everything in between. I loved the bakeries 01_090925_Paris (327)and there was one right beside our hotel. The cappachinos we had every day were the tastiest ever, Starbucks is so out of business there and Timmies coffee did not cross my mind once while we were there. I loved how the local artists were settled along the banks of the river selling their art work; paintings, photos, souvenirs and more. We walked allot that night and even got lost, but we did manage to get to the Eiffel Tower, because there was no way I would go to Paris and was not take a photo of this famous attraction. We held hands like teenagers while walking, it was a fantastic night....

01_090925_Paris (177) | 01_090925_Paris (177)Rob had planned our entire vacation, day by day, time by time, attraction by attraction and other things, on paper in a little binder book and we were to go by schedule. Having said that our second day in Paris, we were to go visit the Louvre as per Rob's schedule (he likes to be in control of things, and I let him, but shhhhh). Louvre: Wow...It would literally take you a full week if you wanted to look at everything. I love art and I was really excited to visit this museum, take photos of everything and have my feet hurt again from all the walking. When I was in college I took Art History and when we were learning about that era of Art, I was thinking how great it would be if one day I can visit it all in person and experience it live, as supposed reading it in a book, and there I was, that one day had come. We spend(2) | (2) more than half a day inside that place, I took photos of everything, I think, and so did Rob, yes we each had a camera. Rob loved the place, it has been his dream too to visit the great museum of art and history.

Ever since I was a little kid I always wanted to visit the Notre Dame, and I think it was because everyone talking about it made it sound so big. Well when we went there and I stood in front of the cathedral at the end of the big square plaza right in front of it, I finally understood what people were talking about when worshiping the sacred place during their conversations.

Notre Dame, or in English "Our lady" is a Gothic, Roman Catholic cathedral on the eastern half of the Ile de la Cite in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, France. It is the church that contains the "cathedral", or the official chair of the Archbishop of Paris. Notre Dame is widely considered as one of the finest French Gothic architectures in France and in Europe. I was amazed by the fine detail carved 01_090924_Paris (266) | 01_090924_Paris (266)into every part of the church, the massive structure looked like a fine painting. 

I read that Notre Dame was one of the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress (arched exterior supports). The building was not originally designed to include the flying buttresses around the choir and nave. After the construction began and the thinner walls (popularized in the Gothic style) grew ever higher, cracks began to occur and push outward. Afterward, the cathedral's architects built supports around the outside walls, and later they continued adding the same pattern. the flying buttresses are elements of the French Gothic architectural style.

The original construction of the cathedral began in 1163 and the final touches were completed during 1345. Few architects worked on the church adding their own elements and character. Looking up close at all the details I can see the dedication the had in building this historic piece. 

01_090924_Paris (243) | 01_090924_Paris (243)Not many people were visiting the place that day, but a lot of them were outside on the plaza just right in front of the doors, I think enjoying the sunshine and taking photographs. I think in one of my picture I caught 3 couples in a row behind each other, each couple had a stranger taking a photo of them. They were lined up in a way that they all fit into my photo frame, it was cool.

We went inside, wow was it massive. It's interesting how our perspective on size changes when we witness it in person. I mean I have read about the cathedral, I have seen pictures, I have heard stories, but never had the idea of how massive and detailed this sacred place was. I took allot of photos, flash wasn't allowed, but that didn't worry me in the slightest, with a professional high end camera I didn't need the flash.

I am so lucky to have had the chance to visit this cathedral. 

This holy place suffered quite the destruction during the French Revolution where a lot of the religious elements and history were destroyed, but the during the 19th century massive restoration project was completed, returning it to its previous state. ("Building History." Notre Dame Official Site. n.p. Web. April 29, 2010)

01_090925_Paris (303) | 01_090925_Paris (303)We walked a lot while in Paris, but I must say that the area called Montmartre was my favorite. Montmartre (18th arrondissement, right bank) is a home to the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur. Montmartre has always had a history with artists and has many studios and cafés of many great artists in that area. I couldn't miss out on the famous crapes - chocolate and strawberry - ahhhh, it was the best - perfect for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Walking up and down the tiny streets filled with wonderful cafés with fantastic food, artists settled their works on almost every corner, bikes leaning on the side of the cafés, musicians with their open guitar cases on the ground playing, it was absolutely amazing.

01_090925_Paris (101) | 01_090925_Paris (101)The next day we visited Versailles. I couldn't miss on the legendary Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI. "Versailles is a city renowned for its château - The Palace of Versailles" and it was the capital of the kingdom of France for over a century, from 1682 to 1789. "Now the city is a wealthy suburb of Paris located in the western side of the French capital." The palace was the home of four generations of kings from Louis XIII to Louis XVI until the French Revolution when it was almost destroyed and abandoned. Later Louis-Philippe saved the palace from a total ruin and turned it to a museum dedicated to all the glories of France. ("Versailles." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia Wikipedia Foundation, Web. April 29, 2010)

While walking through the palace I was amazed by all the detail and carefully chosen decor, seemed like people spent years in carving every window and door and ceiling, the paintings with their golden frames and the chairs and the vases, it was all just perfect and screaming of style royalty.

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Paris was wonderful and we both had an amazing time. Even though we were only there for four days we did see few attractions and our time together painted memories for a lifetime. We are looking forward to the next time we are able to visit the City of Lights. 



00_091003_Bulgaria (43) | 00_091003_Bulgaria (43)Next we were off to Bulgaria, I was anxious to show Rob my home land, with crazy drivers, suicidal pedestrians and great customer service. We arrived at the airport and of course as usual they had to find something to be anal about, like my bulgarian documents - apparently I should have an identification card, for some reason a Canadian passport was not enough. Go figure.... Jealousy = Evil





00_091001_Bulgaria (17)We rented a car from the airport which we had booked prior to leaving Calgary, it was a cute little thing, a Nissan Micra, small and compact, perfect for the European streets, kind of like the Smart car except it doesn't look like it had lost its back end.

00_090930_Bulgaria (84)My grandpa came to meet us at the airport and was taking a ride with us, I think he was thrilled to spent a nice road trip with us, I think the last time I was in a car for that long with him was when I was a kid and him and grandma were taking us to the coast in the summer. It was great, I was happy he came to meet us.

When we arrived at my grandparents house my grandma had made dinner and the table was set. We settled our matching luggages upstairs in the room that used to be my aunt and uncle's room before they built their house, that was many years ago.

00_090930_Bulgaria (2) | 00_090930_Bulgaria (2)I love that house, I have missed it. I missed the great drapes of vines over your head as soon as you walk in the yard, the beautiful flowers and the garden behind the fence with all the vegetables like a garden market, the animals at the back, it was all coming back to me like it was yesterday when I used to spent every weekend and summer there.

It was wine season when we went, meaning that grapes were everywhere getting ready to be prepared in the kegs and turned into wine. My grandpa has always made his own wine, and even though he is getting older and can hardly walk, he still tries to climb the ladder and pick grapes, what a true wine lover. 

The next day we got up early, had breakfast and on the road again we went to the city I was born in. Not much to see there as attractions, was not like Paris, but we needed Internet connection.

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We visited the "Samara Flag" which is one of the most important military symbols of the Bulgarian Army made by local nuns and given to the Bulgarian Volunteers in the  Russian - Turkish war in 1877-78 by the citizens of the russian city of Samara on 18 May 1877, it became famous when it was heroically prevented from being captured by the Ottoman forces in the Battle of the city, with many soldiers perishing while protecting it from00_090929_Bulgaria (4) the enemy.

 Our next historical place to visit was the Shipka Memorial Church and Shipka Memorial.

the Memorial Temple of the Birth of Christ known as the Shipka Memorial church is a Bulgarian-Orthodox church built between the years of 1885 and 1902 dedicated to the Bulgarian and Russian soldiers that died for the liberation of Bulgaria in the Russian-Turkish War, 1877-78.

The church was officially opened on September 800px-92_Altaar_in_kerk_Shipka | 800px-92_Altaar_in_kerk_Shipka28, 1902. The opening and consecration of the Shipka Memorial Church coincided with the 25-year anniversary of the Battles of Shipka pass. In 1970, the temple was proclaimed a national monument of culture.

"The church's bell tower reaches a height of 53 m and its bells, the heaviest of which weighs 12 tons, were cast from the cartridges that were collected after the battles. In the temple itself, the names of the Russian regiments and Bulgarian volunteers are inscribed on 34 marble plates. The remains of the perished are laid in 17 stone sarcophagi in the church's crypt." ("Shipka Town." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia Wikipedia Foundation, n.p. Web. April 30, 2010)

450px-Shipka3 | 450px-Shipka3Driving up the Shipka Pass we get to the Shipka Memorial. The Shipka Memorial is on Stoletov Peak near the pass, reached by a flight of steps or a short road. It is a memorial to those who died for the Liberation of Bulgaria during the Battles of Shipka Pass in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78. It was opened with a ceremony in 1934 and designed by architect Atanas Donkov and sculptor Aleksandar Andreev. The monument is a 31.5 m (98-foot) high stone tower in the form of a truncated pyramid. A giant bronze lion, 8 m (26 feet) long and 4 m (13 feet) high, stands above the entrance to the tower, and a figure of a woman represents the victory over the Ottoman forces. A marble sarcophagus housing some of the remains of the Russian and Bulgarian casualties is located on the first floor. There are four other floors where one can find replica of Bulgarian military flags and other relics, and the top of the tower reveals a panorama of Shipka Peak and the surrounding area." ("Shipka Pass." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia Wikipedia Foundation, n.p. Web. April 30, 2010)

00_091002_Bulgaria (83) | 00_091002_Bulgaria (83)Driving through the Shipka Pass over the mountains that divide the south part from the north part of the country, we get to my home town; beautiful Veliko Tarnovo known for its houses built on the rocks by the river one on top of another like birds sitting on a wire.

Veliko Tarnovo, also translated as Veliko Turnovo, is located in the north part of the country and it is famous as the historical capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire often visited by many tourists for its unique architecture. Often referred as the "City of the Tsars" or to make sense in english - City of Knights. The old city is situated on three hills Tsarevets, Trapezitsa and Sveta Gora.

Tsarevets | TsarevetsTsarevets was the home of the palaces of the bulgarian emperors, the fortress spreads across the entire hill and it is a big historical attraction during the day and night with its fantastic show "Sound and Lights". "Trapezitsa was known for its many churches and as the main residence of the nobility. In the Middle Ages it was among the main European centres of culture and gave its name to the Tarnovo Artistic School of architecture, painting and literature."

Veliko Tarnovo is an important administrative, educational, cultural and economic centre of Northern Bulgaria.

00_090929_Bulgaria (179) | 00_090929_Bulgaria (179)The city grew quickly in the middle ages and became the most important political, economic and religious centre of the Empire. "In the 14th century as the Byzantine Empire weakened, Tarnovo claimed to be the Third Rome based on its preeminent cultural influence in the Balkans and the Slavic Orthodox world. As the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, Tarnovo was a quasi-cosmopolitan city, with many foreign merchants and envoys. It is known that Tarnovo had Armanian, Jewish and Roman Catholic merchant quarters, besides a dominant Bulgarian population. The discovery of three Gothic statuette heads indicates there may have also been a Catholic church."  ("Veliko Tarnovo." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia Wikipedia Foundation, n.p. Web. April 30, 2010)

00_091002_Bulgaria (125) | 00_091002_Bulgaria (125)The city continued to grow for over 200 years, but on July 17 1393 after "after vigorous resistance to a 3-month siege Veliko Tarnovo was seized and the whole Bulgarian Empire was destroyed by the invader  — the Ottoman Empire. The beautiful villages, monasteries and churches, were burnt to ashes.

"On 7 July 1877, Russian general Joseph Vladimirovich Gurko liberated Veliko Tarnovo, ending the 480-year-rule of the Ottoman Empire. In 1878, the Treaty of Berlin created a Principality of Bulgaria between the Danube River and the Stara Planina mountain range, with its seat at the old Bulgarian capital of Veliko Tarnovo."  ("Veliko Tarnovo." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia Wikipedia Foundation, n.p. Web. April 30, 2010)

Now the city it is a primary tourist destination with its many historical monuments and landmarks such as:

* The ruins of the castle Tsarevets

* Church of St Demetrius of Thessaloniki

00_091002_Bulgaria (81) | 00_091002_Bulgaria (81)* Church of SS. Peter and Paul

* Archeological Museum, which keeps numerous founds and remains of the ancient history of these lands

* Samovodska charshia, the old trade street which was the home of skillful craftsmen through the Revival Period and even today many of the houses and the workshops are fully restored and working.

* The House with the Monkey and the Mother Bulgaria monument, both on the main street of the city.

* Gurko Street with the typical architecture of the Revival period, often artists are seen drawing there as it has a great view of the city and the Yantra River.

There are two parts to the city: Old and New. In the old part of the city all historical and architectural style is of the Mediaval period, restored and well maintained. The new part of the city, the main street has become a truly modern metropolitan area with hints of the old 00_091002_Bulgaria (208) | 00_091002_Bulgaria (208)style. Many independent fashion designers have stores on the main street with variety of clothing designs. At the other end of the city the recently built Mall hosts many modern stores, bowling alley and movie theater.

When in Turnovo we visited the historical, now resort type, village and slept in a authentic hotel made like a fortress lit by lights that were changing constantly, very pretty, our room was great with a jacuzzi tub, despite the fact that it took 2 hours to fill. It was amazing because I got to be there with the man I love.

The next day we went to the monastery where I was baptized when a child, but I guess even the nuns takes lunch breaks and go shopping, well they were out to the grocery store and not fashion shopping.

We strolled through the old part of the city, checked out few shops, bought a few things. We also went by my old school, I was able to see the classrooms through the window. They now have a security guard at the front door, hmmm....other than that its pretty safe.

We walked through the old trade street "Samovodska Charshia" as the picture above shows, the ladies are still hand crafting and selling their goods, sitting in front of the store trying to get as many customers to come into their store as possible. The best part was that Rob loved my home town the most and said it was the prettiest.

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We couldn't spend much time in my home town as we only had a week in Bulgaria and so many places to visit, so off we went on the road again and back to my grandparents' house. The next day we were off to the sea coast to visit one of the best coast cities Varna and also to visit my cousin. We got a really nice hotel located centrally right beside the beautiful Botanical Garden, with a sea view and a bathroom bigger than the bedroom, it was fantastic. Rob loved the place.


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After we settled in we went out for a walk and later met up with my cousin to check out the main street.

Varna  is the largest city and seaside resort on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast and in Northern Bulgaria, third largest in Bulgaria after Sofia (the capital) and Plovdiv and 92th in the European Union.



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Varna also is referred to as the marine capital of Bulgaria and it is a major destination not only for tourism, but business and university centre, seaport and headquarters of the Bulgarian Navy.
During the Ottoman rule the architecture was mainly wooden houses and stone walls and bridges, but today is mostly modern in Western style with local interpretations of Neo-Renaissance.


"Stone masonry from demolished city walls was used for the cathedral, the two elite high schools, and for paving new boulevards. The middle class built practical townhouses and coop buildings. Elegant mansions were erected on main boulevards and in the vineyards north of town. A few industrial working-class suburbs (of one-family cottages with small green yards) emerged. Refugees from the 1910s' wars also settled in similar poorer yet vibrant neighborhoods along the city edges.

During the rapid urbanization of the 1960s to the early 1980s, large apartment complexes sprawled onto land formerly covered by small private vineyards or agricultural cooperatives as the city population tripled. Beach resorts were designed mostly in a sleek modern style, which was somewhat lost in their recent more lavish renovations. Modern landmarks of the 1960s include the Palace of Culture and Sports (1968).

450px-Varna_Bulgaria_architecture | 450px-Varna_Bulgaria_architecture


With the country's return to capitalism since 1989, upscale apartment buildings mushroomed both downtown and on uptown terraces overlooking the sea and the lake. Varna's vineyards (????, lozya), dating back perhaps to antiquity and stretching for miles around, started turning from mostly rural grounds dotted with summer houses or vili into affluent suburbs sporting opulent villas and family hotels, epitomized by the researched postmodernist kitsch of the Villa Aqua.

With the new suburban construction far out pacing infrastructure growth, ancient landslides were activated, temporarily disrupting major highways. As the number of vehicles quadrupled since 1989, Varna became known for traffic jams; parking on the old town's leafy but narrow streets normally takes the sidewalks. At the same time, stretches of shanty towns, more befitting Rio de Janeiro, remain in Roma neighborhoods on the western edge of town due to complexities of 800px-Sport_Palace_Varna | 800px-Sport_Palace_Varnalocal politics.

The beach resorts were rebuilt and expanded, fortunately without being as heavily overdeveloped as were other tourist destinations on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, and their greenery was mostly preserved. New modern office buildings started reshaping the old centre and the city's surroundings."  ("Varna." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia Wikipedia Foundation, n.p. Web. April 30, 2010)


800px-VarnaRailway | 800px-VarnaRailway

Varna is a very beautiful and modern city, too bad we didn't have more time to spend there and enjoy the beaches. We were there during the off season so not many tourists, which was nice, but most places such as resorts and entertainment venues were not open.




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We also did drive through Golden Sands where we did a little bit of shopping as everything was on sale after the season is over, they were glad to see five people walking through the beach market, then we drove to Kaliakra, known for its steep cliffs of about 70 meters reaching down to the sea. It was very windy, we didn't see any dolphins (it is usually a place where they come out and play), we  did a quick tour of the fortress and off we went back on the road to go home to my grandparents.


01_091005_Athens (43) | 01_091005_Athens (43)We were to leave for Greece the next day for a week, couple nights in Athens and four days in Santorini, the most beautiful and romantic place, I didn't believe when people said it before I went there.

We arrived in Athens late at night and of much to do but settle into the hotel and rest, we will be walking allot again the next day sightseeing. Despite the crazy road rules they have in Greece, basically there are no rules, I mean nobody uses a lane and they honk at each constantly as if the traffic will move faster if you honk, Athens was beautiful. We arrived 01_091005_Athens (52) | 01_091005_Athens (52)on an election night in Athens and it was a full chaos, I thought there must have been a soccer match or something that important, but no it was election night with roads closed and a cab driver that did not speak english, at one point I was loosing hope in him knowing where to take us.

Our hotel was gorgeous, very unique and modern style, "The Fresh" hotel, I guess it did give us a bit of freshness after a bumpy flight and insane driving skills we experienced.

After we dropped off our luggage into our room we went to check out the bar which was 00_091005_Athens (253) | 00_091005_Athens (253)located on the top floor and overlooking at the Acropolis. The bar had a romantic setting with couches and coffee tables on the terrace and swimming pool above. The view completed the romantic feel, but being there with Rob completed the romance.

The next day we took a walk through the Plaka, the markets and went to visit the Acropolis. Pretty much everything was under construction, but we were still able to see it all. A lot of stairs, climbing and rocks. It was beautiful.

We tried the local restaurants and cafés, couldn't miss out on the authentic food while there. The shops were very interesting as every store offered different fashion, very creative and unique.

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Early the next morning we were on the ferry to Santorini, seven hours ride. It was cool, although I thought about Titanic lots while there, still it was fun. The sunrise was absolutely amazing, we watched it from the terrace and took a few photos. The little ship stopped at few islands on the way, I couldn't wait to arrive in Santorini. As the sun rose up in the sky we approached the island with its known blue dome churches and pale white houses piled on top of one another.


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Santorini is essentially what remains of an enormous volcanic explosion, destroying the earliest settlements on what was formerly a single island, and leading to the creation of the current geological caldera.

Our hotel was situated at the end of the Caldera in Oia, the sunsets were incredible and the best part of it, as Rob had said, was watching the sunsets from our balcony enjoying a glass of wine, greek salad and each 01_091007_Santorini (109) | 01_091007_Santorini (109)other's company.

The ladies at the hotel were very helpful and polite, breakfast was included and each morning we went downstairs for coffee and breakfast, the was so comfortable it felt like we were one big family, it was very welcoming.

 During the day we walked everywhere on the main street through the windy little pathways and climbed a great amount of steep stairs. We checked the old port and enjoyed a meal of fish, couldn't go without being on the sea and not have fish.

A lot of cats and dogs on the island and it seemed like they changed shifts as the cats were out during the day and the dogs were out at night.

We went to the market every day and bought vegetables, salami and a bottle of wine and then retired to our hotel for our sunset watch.

We took a lot of photos, all together of the whole trip we took about 7000 photos between the two cameras.



Our Euro trip was amazing. I got to experience the wonders of history with the man I love and I got to show him my home land and heritage, and the fact that he loved it means the world to me. I can't wait for our next adventures.









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