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Bulgaria is New European Tourist Sensation September 17, 2006

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Bulgaria is poised to become the next big thing in European tourism, this year's Croatia. It's still a little ways off - maybe the next big thing after the next big thing. For now, it's a compellingly fascinating, unspoiled, off-the-tourist-grid destination for slightly adventurous travelers, US San Francisco Chronicle reads.

Admittedly, Bulgaria, formerly one of the Soviet Union's more reliable allies, hasn't been as quick as Slovenia or the Czech Republic to slough off its grim and stodgy Eastern Bloc reputation. To many in the West, it still brings to mind poisoned umbrellas, papal assassination conspiracies and female Olympic weightlifters who looked like Ernest Borgnine in drag. But that image, I discovered, is rather outdated - sometimes spectacularly so.

Roughly the size of Ohio, the country is blessed with an abundance of the things that call us to Europe. There are haunting medieval frescoes in thousand-year-old churches, sipped surprisingly good wines in sidewalk cafes, poked around well-preserved Roman ruins and passed through rural villages where horse-drawn carts still trundle down cobbled lanes.

Like its neighbors, Bulgaria continues to turn westward. It's already a member of NATO, hopes to join the European Union next year and eventually plans to adopt the euro. That's likely to give the sluggish economy a jolt, but at present Bulgaria is that rarest and most precious of things - a corner of Europe where the dollar still swaggers.

Bulgarian Hiking- Borovets Mountain Tourism
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Borovets Mountain Tourism- Hiking Trails in the Rila Mountains