Posted in Art, Beauty, Experience, Family, Feelings, Food, Friends, Health, Hotel, International Culture, Music, Place, Restaurants, Shop, Shopping, Travel

Trip to Bulgaria and Romania (Day 4)

Today is the main day of this trip: Rose Festival.

We are scheduled to leave hotel for Kazanlak at 6:45 am; as such, I took a quick breakfast at 5:30 am then Sayonara Plovdiv.

Bulgaria has rich soil so the country’s self efficiency is high.

Bulgaria imports food only during winter.

I can see many farms at the road side.

Kazanlak is famous for production of poppy, lavender and rose.

This is lavender farm, looks nice in purple.

The type of Rose suited for extracting rose oil is Damask Rose.

Bulgarian believes Damask Rose was brought by Thracians.

On the other hand, some claim Damask Rose was brought by Turkish/Ottoman.

This theory is also supported because production of rose oil was industrialized during Ottoman Empire.

Rose requires rich soil, enough sunshine and balanced humidity.

Due to above requirements, roses are commonly planted at winery grape yards to alert soil condition.

To produce 1kg of rose oil, it requires 3,000 roses; 1 drop requires 120 roses.

Once rose oil was traded equally as gold.

No wonder it’s precious.

Rose is national flower of Bulgaria.

This morning, we departed early for rose picking.

It is better to pick roses early morning to keep better/stronger fragrance.

Rose oil is commonly used as one of ingredients for major brands’ perfume to keep lasting fragrance.

Rose oil is also used as an ingredient for cosmetics because of its performance: anti-aging, antibacterial effects, moisturizing and even good for applying insect bites.

It is also used for supplement: kidney stone, constipation, etc.

When we consume rose jam, we need to be easy with it; it might force you to go to toilet often! hahaha

I bought rose oil, hand cream, jam and lokum for myself.

I can enjoy rose picking, shopping and even watching Bulgarian Folk Dance at Ethnographic Complex Damascena, Kazanlak.

Bulgarian Folk Dance and songs.

We moved to the Rose Festival Parade.

This parade started in 1903.

The total population of Kazanlak is about 50,000, but over 100 buses of tourists visit the town for Rose Festival.

They are Queen of Rose.

This parade is heart warming because it is obviously hand-made by local community.

At last, all of us (local people and tourists) dance together.

We had BBQ for lunch,

Drinks are included. Yeah!

After lunch, we visited Shipka Memorial Church, also known as Memorial Temple of the Birth of Christ.

On the way to Veliko Turnovo, we stopped by at one of parking areas to try pure water buffalo yogurt with local honey.

Both yogurt and honey are so rich and delicious that I would recommend to try it.

We arrived Veliko Turnovo and checked in at Hotel Meridian Bolyarski.

It has a tremendous view.

We had dinner at hotel restaurant.

We also enjoyed live music while eating and chatting.

We had a good time at our table.

After dinner, we went for a short walk; this town is very peaceful.

It’s been a long day.

I soaked my body to rose bath to unwind my tired body.

Good night.

Posted in Cooking, Experience, Family, Feelings, Japanese Culture, Shop, Shopping, Travel

Trip to Bulgaria and Romania (Day 3)

As usual, I started my day with a lovely omelette. hehehe

After breakfast, I had some time to relax at the room before departing for sightseeing Sofia City.

I felt Jazzy so I played Jazz station.

This is City of Sofia: view from the hotel.

The bus dropped us at a corner of the Alexander Navsky Cathedral to start our sightseeing.

The Cathedral is so beautiful under morning of soft sunlight.

We first visited the memorial stone of Ivan, the first famous Bulgarian writer.

These are the memorial for great contribution of King Boris III who protected Jewish from Germans during World War II.

This is the Mayor’s Office.

The mayor is SHE and she has been serving for 6 years.

She tries to increase greenery in the city.

One of uniqueness of this city is we can find many ruins from Roman Era everywhere.

This is the Saint Sofia Church Which was built in 6th century.

This church was converted to serve for many religions.

First it was built for Greek Orthodox, then converted to Mosque by the Ottoman Empire.

There was a big earthquake then that destroyed two towers on their holly day on Friday.

Muslims took it as a sign of bad luck so they abandoned it.

Today, the Saint Sofia Church became the most popular church for wedding among Bulgarian Orthodox.

The other side of street, there is the House of Patriarch.

I also find a memorial for the bilateral friendships between Bulgaria and Japan.

It’s time to pay a visit to the Alexander Nevsky Church which is the largest Bulgarian Orthodox church.

There are twelve domes on the roof and the bell weights 12 tons.

In addition, the weight of gold used for domes is 9 kg.

We cannot find any chairs at any Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

They participate in the service by standing.

On weekdays, the service is 20 mins, but on Sundays, the service is 3 hours.

People are allowed to join and leave any time during the service.

Another difference from other Christianity is that we cannot find any music instrument in any Bulgarian Orthodox Church because they serve/donate/praise by voice only: singing.

All these marbles are imported from Italy, Brazil and Morocco.

We could take photos inside, but we need to buy an approval ticket for 10 leva.

The church is beautiful to consider this payment as donation to the church.

After visiting a beautiful church, we started walking around the city to visit iconic buildings and places in Sophia.

The Statute of Tsar Alexander II

He is Russian Emperor who contributed to liberated Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire.

Saint Nicholas Orthodox – Beautiful Russian Church

Old Palace, today it serves as History Museum.

City View

Central Bank

Presidency Building

Prime Minister’s House

Saint Sofia – Owl on her shoulder and crown of laurel in her hand.

Many ruins from the Roman Era (2nd Century) found underground of Sofia.

These are discovered in 1955.

As a Japanese, I love Onsen (hot spring).

There are 5,000 sources of hot spring in Bulgaria.

Hot spring water could be hot and cold like Japan.

Of course, I washed my hands to make them look 20 years younger!!! hahaha

This scenery is symbolic of Bulgarian, living in harmony.

Majority of Bulgarians are Bulgarian Orthodox; here we can find Mosque and Jewish Church in the same area.

The building in the center is the market.

When we passed by Mosque, we can see the ruin of the large bath for Muslims purifying themselves before entering to the Mosque.

This is the market.

We can find ruins everywhere.

Roman Bath

Church of Saint Petka of the Saddlers – this church is partially buried into the ground to show the respect to Ottoman (lower then any mosques) during its ruling allowing them to continue practicing.

Peaceful city view

We returned to the Presidency Building to watch the ceremony of changing of the guards at every o’ clock.

At the back of the Presidency Building, there is Saint George Rotunda.

This small church brought peace to my heart.

National Museum of Archaeology which is located in front of the Presidency Building.

At this museum, we should check treasures of Thracian.

There are many more precious pieces in this museum.

I need to keep distance (70 cm) from exhibits not to trigger the alarm.

I found interesting pieces as well.

VERSACE

An old plate with Japanese Emperor’s symbol (chrysanthemum) as if it belongs to him.

2nd June is special for Bulgarians.

At noon, the siren started and all Bulgarians pray for ancestors.

The guards at Presidency Building performed a special ceremony/formation.

This time police officers guarded the guards…?

Suddenly, he appeared and unfortinately, he blocked my view.

We had a famous Bulgarian cold yogurt soup – Tarator – for lunch.

We departed Sofia for Provdiv.

The buildings in Provdiv is unique; the second floor is larger than first/ground floor to avoid paying taxes, but to enjoy larger space.

Museum of Ethnographic – to learn local and traditional culture and industries.

The building itself represents local culture.

The Church of Sveti Konstantin & Elena – lovely church; therefore, this church is also popular for wedding.

Today, it is a restaurant, but this building was built in 19th century as Dervish Monastery.

We can understand it’s history on he wall of restaurant.

There are many more unique buildings on the street.

Roman Ancient Theatre

This is how it looks from the stage.

Back Stage

The special path was used by Emperor.

The Holy Virgin Orthodox Church

We reached to shopping area.

Again, there is Roman Stadium buried under shipping area.

Further walked down the street.

Oh, there are marks on the street indicating the other side of stadium.

Central Post

Ramada Hotel Trimontium

The main dish for tonight was Bulgarian famous meatballs.

After laughing over dinner, went to a local supermarket to buy souvenirs and own consumption.

(Top Left) Ice Cream, Lokum (Bulgarian candy), chocolate and candies/cough drops and Linden tea bags.

Posted in Experience, Family, Feelings, Food, Nature, Place, River, Shop, Shopping, Travel, World Culture

Trip to Bulgaria and Romania (Day 2)

I started my day with a nice simple buffet breakfast.

Ingredients are indeed fresh to enhance a breakfast.

We departed hotel for Rila Monastery.

It is about two hours away from Sofia; therefore, we stopped few places before we reached there.

Rila Mountains

The area is famous for production of cherries.

We stopped at SMALL cherry shop to buy local delicacy.

We also stopped at small town to look for nests of storks.

In Japan, we believe a stork brings a baby to a family and I was told that in Bulgaria, a stork is also a symbol of good luck.

I could see a head of storks at chimneys; how cute!

Then we reached Rila Monastery; it is located over 1000 m from the sea level and opened by Saint Ivan about 960 years ago.

This monastery is the largest and most significant Monastery in Balkan Peninsular.

We are welcomed by Saint Gabriel, Jessica and Saint Michael at the gate.

There was a fire in 19th century to burn all down except the stone tower.

Those days, 500 people served at Rila Monastery, today there are only eight.

Rila Monastery is equipped with 300 bed rooms, a wine cellar, bakery, cheese factory, vegetable farms, kitchen and even library.

Rila Monastery survived during Turkish Yoke by paying taxes because they earned income by selling wine, reads and cheese.

There is a cute little post office.

Wow, this place has everything within the premises.

First, we visited the museum to learn more about the history of Rila Monastery and beautiful crafts of Eastern Orthodox.

This is the tower that survived from a fire in 19th century.

We went outside from another entrance to take a look of Rila River.

Rila means lilac in Bulgarian, but for Rila Monastery, it means the source of water.

Rila River

The Virgin Mary’s Church.

The church is nicely decorated by frescoes.

With no exception, these beautiful frescoes made the monastery famous.

There are significant frescoes.

For example, the judgement day: there is a door to the heaven and a path to the hell.

I found the Virgin Mary and her son (Jeasus).

I had trout for lunch at the river side restaurant.

I had my trout with Bulgarian local beer and cherry juice.

A bottle of Rila Water was provided to each of us so I happily took it back for my own consumption!

Again, food is simple, but I enjoy its simple ness.

After lunch, we visited another UNESCO World Heritage: Boyana Church (1979).

The first section was built in 11th century; the second extension was built in 13th century; the last (third) section was built in 19th century.

We can see the period clearly from the side of church.

The door to enter into church is made by wood (surface) and steel (inner) in 14th century though the building was built in 19th century.

The entrance is small to make us naturally humble to bow before entering.

Boyana Church became famous because of frescoes – so emotional.

It is very unfortunate that I won’t be able to share how beautiful these frescos are.

This was the last sightseeing spot of the day.

We returned hotel for dinner.

We enjoyed buffet dinner at the terrace.

After good laughs, time to hit bed!

Posted in Beauty, Family, Feelings, Flower, Food, Gadget, Hotel, Movie, Place, Shop, Shopping, Surprise, Travel, World Culture

Trip to Bulgaria and Romania (Day 1)

I joined a 10 days tour package to visit Rose Festival (once in a year event) in Bulgaria and Romania.

I departed Narita Airport for Sofia, Bulgaria by Austria Air.

This is my first time traveling by Austria Air.

Austria Air started operation again after a year and 8 months absence.

Austria Air stopped the operation between Vienna and Japan because the number of Japanese tourist dropped due to active terrorist attracts in Europe then.

I quickly walked through immigration because I had shopping to do.

I usually get my supply of cosmetics at Narita Airport.

It could be cheaper to buy cosmetics in overseas duty free shops but the quality of cosmetics are better in Japan because the stores always get new supplies due to the large number of shoppers to visit the shop.

I learned this through my experiences.

I bought cream eye shadows at the overseas duty free shop but when I open it, one of them was cracked and others are firm though it’s Chanel cream eye shadows, these must be already dried.

The shop is too far to complain or ask for replacement…

This time, I get mascaras (Chanel one’s in gray. I look forward to wearing it) and nails.

I didn’t have much time to rest at the lounge, but it’s okay.

Austria Air shares the lounge with ANA so I’m already familiar with their food and facilities. hahaha

Then time to board!

The facilities are nice: thick blanket, nice headset, beverages, food, desserts, even COFFEE!

These are in a bag of amenities.

I had lamb as my main dish for dinner.

I also enjoyed Austria dessert wine (a blend of Chardonnay and Welschriesling) with cakes.!

I was amazed by the coffee; there are so many varieties.

I tried Maria Theresia: an exclusive Wiener Coffee which is black coffee with delicious orange liqueur!

I enjoyed watching movies with a nice headset and sleep on a comfortable seat.

Look what I found at the laboratory.

I found stain remover for clothing; how thoughtful they are!

I kept them in case I need them.

I had roasted chicken breast broccoli potato pepper gratin for breakfast.

I love having my breakfast with a glass of champagne. hahaha

I enjoyed my flight and safely arrived Vienna, Austria.

I still had to catch a connecting flight for Sofia, Bulgaria.

I haven’t visited Vienna yet so I will make sure to return here.

It is international flight, but it took few hours to reach Sofia, Bulgaria.

I had snacks on the flight; we can choose from either sweet and salty.

By the time we reach Sofia, it was already dark; of course, we landed at 11 pm.

We finally reach to our hotel: Hilton Sofia.

I soaked my body into a tub to relax.

It was a long day due to long journey and time zone. Zzzzzzz

Posted in Family, Feelings, Food, Hotel, Nature, Place, Restaurants, Tokyo, Travel

Long Weekend @ Kamogawa, Chiba (Day 3)

It’s time to return to Tokyo.

I took a morning bath; then the last breakfast at Kanpo no Yado Kamogawa,

After breakfast, I played with niece at hotel’s children play area till I get tired.

I’ve been playing with her for three days.

She never stops playing!!! hahaha

I drove through woods, then Aqualine to reach Umihotaru (Sea Firefly) Parking Area for sightseeing and lunch.

This parking area is located on the highway Aqualine which is crossing Tokyo Bay between Kisarazu, Chiba and Kawasaki, Kanagawa.

I can see Tokyo skyline on the horizon.

I had Chiiiba Don (Chiba Local Food Rice Bowl) for lunch.

I had after lunch coffee at Starbucks.

This is Chiba’s mascot charactor: Chiiiba-kun.

I couldn’t take many photos today because I was driving.

I safely arrived home and ready to go to bed early tonight.

It was a nice family gathering.