5-day /4-night cultural tour
You will get acquainted with the history of Bulgarian Jews, with the religious tolerance of the people here and find out why Bulgaria is proud with saving its Jewish population from extinction during World WarII.
Highlights include visits to the largest Sephardic Synagogue on the Balkan Peninsula, to Arie's House in the small town of Samokov and to the Synagogue in Plovdiv.
5-day Jewish History and Jewish Heritage Tour in Bulgaria
5-day /4-night cultural tour.
Day 1: Sofia
Arrival at Sofia airport. Our guide will meet you and assists for a transfer to hotel. Check in, followed by short familiarization tour of hotel’s vicinity, showing places of interest – banks, post office and shops. Afternoon at leisure after the long transatlantic flight. Overnight.
T, Accommodation in 4* downtown hotel Downtown, or similar.
Day 2: SOFIA (50 km)
After breakfast, start the sightseeing tour of Sofia. In the city centre, three splendid buildings – a cathedral, a mosques and a synagogue – form a triangle that helps explain why Bulgaria became the only European country, apart from Denmark, to save its Jews. Visit the Synagogue and its museum. Bulgarian Jews like to point out that Jews arrived in the country as early as the second century C.E., long before the proto-Bulgarians. Although small, this museum will tell you the long history of Bulgarian Jews. Proceed with a visit to the Basilica Hagias Sophia. On the north side of the building you will see a monument, dedicated to the saving of Bulgarian Jews in World War II. Bulgaria, although part of the Hitler’s coalition, managed to rescue about 48,000 Bulgarian Jews from sending to the concentration camps. The period 1940-1944 is full of controversial events and shameful facts (10,000 Jews of Macedonia, Aegean Thrace, and Pirot was expelled and died), but due to widespread dismay and disapproval in Bulgaria, the officials were forced to stop deportations. You will hear the names of ordinary Bulgarians, who were brave to stand the official Government’s politics and became the “unsung heroes of the Holocaust” as Sir Martin Gilbert put it. Tour of the city includes a visit to the Roman ruins and the Rotunda of St. George, the impressive Alexander Nevski Memorial Cathedral, followed by panoramic sightseeing of the University, the National Assembly, National Palace of Culture. In the afternoon you will drive to visit the National History Museum en route to Vitosha Mountain and take a bird’s eye view over the capital. Only few European capital cities can boast the proximity of the high mountain. Sofia is at the foothills and the most exclusive residential areas are slowly creeping uphill. Those who wish may attend Shabbat services at the Synagogue and meet with the Jewish community at Beit Ha'am. Return to the hotel.
B, Accommodation in 4* downtown hotel Downtown, or similar.
Day 3: SOFIA –Kyustendil - Samokov – Borovets - PLOVDIV (320 km)
Full day tour to Kyustendil, Samokov, Borovets. Today you will be introduced to the story of real people who helped save Bulgarian Jews. In Kyustendil you will visit Dimitar Peshev's museum. Dimitar Peshev, as a vice-chairman of the Bulgarian Parliament, played an important role in the dramatic developments in 1943. The museum was opened on March 9, 2003 on behalf of the 60th Anniversary of Kyustendil action for saving Bulgarian Jews.
Proceed to Samokov (1,5 hrs.), enjoy the beautiful landscapes of fertile planes at the foot of high mountains (Rila, Osogovo). In Samokov visit the Arie's House and feel the atmosphere of every-day life of a rich Jewish family. Since the arrival of the rich Arie family in 1793, the Jewish community in Samokov gained great importance. Samokov now is a quiet town at the foot of the Rila Mountains, known mainly for its potatoes and its proximity to Borovets mountain resort. It looked totally different 150 years ago, when over 120 Jewish families lived in the large Jewish neighborhood.
Stopover in Borovets mountain resort. Proceed to Plovdiv, Bulgaria's second largest city and one of the oldest in Europe. Overnight in Plovdiv.
B, Accommodation in 4* Trimontium, or similar.
Day 4: PLOVDIV (50 km)
You will enjoy a morning city tour (partly on foot), including a visit to the Plovdiv's Synagogue. Some 300 Ladino-speaking families expelled from Spain, settled here in the 16th century. The Plovdiv community was the first to form a Zionist association. Close to the Synagogue, in a park where the Jewish Quarter started, there is a monument erected by local Jews after the fall of communism, bearing the inscription: ”To all who helped to save us on 10 March, 1943. From the grateful Jewish Community of Plovdiv". Meet with Jewish community in Plovdiv. Proceed with a tour of the Old Town, the 2000yrs old Roman Theatre, the Byzantine and mediaeval fortifications. Walk along the narrow cobbled streets and admire the silence and tranquility of this historic town. Optional - Lunch in the garden of a local restaurant in the Old town(extra fee).
In the afternoon drive to the Bachkovo Monastery, founded in the 11th century. Every March 9, Jews perform a most unorthodox ceremony. Here the Patriarchs Cyril and Stefan lie buried. The two clerics played major role in the dramatic days of May 1943, declaring the doors of every Christian church and monastery open to all Jews. After a Bulgarian Orthodox mass for the souls of the two clerics, the Jews say Caddish for them, paying tribute to their countrymen for saving Bulgaria’s Jewish population from the Nazi camps.
B, Accommodation in at 4* Trimontium, or similar.
Day 5: PLOVDIV - SOFIA (150 km)
Enjoy this morning at leisure, wandering around the narrow streets of Old Plovdiv. Plovdiv’s main pedestrian street is famous for the best shopping in Bulgaria. In the early afternoon drop-off transfer, drive to Sofia airport to catch your connecting flight back home.
End of services.