Baraka Journeys

Romania and Bulgaria

September 8-October 4, 2014

Detailed Itinerary
All itineraries subject to slight changes.  Please contact Baraka Journeys for most current itinerary.
Day 1 Monday, September 8, 2014
Depart US destinations.

Day 2 Tuesday, September 9,  Bulgaria
Arrive in Sofia, Bulgaria.  Travelers will arrive with different flights and schedules.  Transfers into the hotel in Sofia are included in the tour.  Dinner and overnight at the 4* Best Western Plus City Hotel in Sofia.  1st of 3 nights.

Day 3 Wednesday, September 10, Bulgaria
You will enjoy morning and afternoon sightseeing and lunch in Sofia.  Dinner and overnight Best Western Plus City Hotel.  2nd of 3 nights.

Day 4 Thursday, September 11, Bulgaria
Today enjoy a half day trip to Rila Monastery, (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and the most famous monastery in the country.  Rila has a long, checkered history from the time of Ivan Rilski, a hermit who founded it in 927.  During the very lengthy Turkish rule over the country, the monastery became a beacon of Bulgarian culture.  Lunch, dinner and overnight in Sofia, Best Western Plus City Hotel. 3rd of 3 nights.

Day 5 Friday, September 12, Bulgaria 
Depart for Plovdiv, the 2nd largest city of Bulgaria, situated about 200 km from Veliko Tarnovo, on the two banks of Maritsa river.  This is where you will have lunch.  In the afternoon a sightseeing tour of Plovdiv will be offered, including the Roman city (viewing the ancient theatre, stadium, forum, odeon, etc).  Also wander through the old city with its medieval streets, churches and mosques.  Dinner and overnight in Plovdiv at the Leipzig Hotel. 1 night.

Day 6  Saturday, September 13, Bulgaria
Today will offer more time to visit Veliko Tarnovo, located on the Yantra River.  This town is modern now but was founded in the Middle Ages.  It is a candidate for the “European Cultural Capital “in 2019.  Veliko Turnovo has a very rich history and was the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire and has a long, important place in the culture of the country.  The city is rich in museums and historical sites which you will have a chance to experience.  Dinner and overnight at the Premier Hotel in Veliko Tarnovo.  1st of 2 nights.

Day 7 Sunday, September 14, Bulgaria
The morning will start with a visit throughout Veliko Tarnovo’s most famous attraction: the medieval fortress “Tsaravets” from the 11th century.  This is now an architectural reserve and during excavations, the remains of more than 400 homes, 22 churches and 4 monasteries were found.  During Bulgaria’s peak period the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (1185 - 1393) the Bulgarian emperors (and the Patriarch) had their palaces here. 

In the afternoon, visit Arbanasi located 4 km from Veliko Tarnovo on a plateau.  This village was the first home to Albanians during the 1400s and then became a major trading city in the 1500s when many large stone houses were built there.  In the late 1700s the village was almost completely destroyed by Turkish invaders.  Today Arbanasi is a popular destination for Bulgarians and many wealthy families have large holiday houses in this region.  You will visit the 15th century monastery of the Assumption of Virgin Mary that is in use today.  The monastery has many icons from the 1600s and 1700s and a particular icon of Mary is said to fulfill wishes.  Dinner and overnight at the Premiere Hotel.  2nd of 2 nights.

Day 8 Monday, September 15 to Bucharest, Romania
After breakfast depart towards Romania by crossing the Danube river (a natural border between Romania and Bulgaria) at Giurgiu/Ruse.  The distance between Veliko Tarnovo and Bucharest is 190 Km.  There is no highway, so the journey to Bucharest may take 5 hours including border crossing formalities and lunch.  Dinner after arrival in a restaurant with traditional foods and a dance show and overnight will be at the Intercontinental Hotel. 1st of 3 nights.

Day 9 & 10 Tuesday and Wednesday, September 16 & 17, Bucharest
Today start a sightseeing tour of Bucharest the capital city, including the House of Parliament.  One lunch will be at “Carul cu Bere “ (Beer wagon).  Here you will experience a remarkable ambience which vividly portrays the beginning of the century when one could encounter leading personalities in the arts, literature and politics.  Another lunch will be at Manuc Inn.
Visit the Village Museum and the Museum of the Romanian Peasant (one on each day).  
At the Museum of the Romanian Peasant you will see national costumes, handicrafts, ceramics, textiles, painted eggs, naturally dyed woolen rugs and ingeniously put together pieces of peasant furniture and folk arts from all parts of the country.  This is one of the most interesting ethnographic museums in Europe and won “Best Museum of the Year in 1996”.  The collections are displayed in an exceptionally aesthetic manner which maximizes the architectural space and creates a unique atmosphere.  
Discover more of Bucharest on foot, walking in the old part of the city.   See the Stavropoleus Church, art galleries, artisan shops, etc.  
Dinner and overnight at the Intercontinental Hotel Bucharest. 2nd and 3rd of 3 nights.
Day 11 Thursday, September 18, Bucharest to Brasov via Sinaia. 
Depart towards Brasov, via Sinaia, where we will stop to visit the Castle Peles and the Sinaia Monastery.  After the visit, we will stop for lunch in Azuga, where we will have a wine and champagne tasting.
Built in 1892, the Rhein Azuga Cellar was the former ‘Supplier of Romania’s Royal Court’, and since April 2006 has been designated ‘Supplier of His Majesty King Michael the First’. The cellar is considered the oldest at which sparkling wine is produced using a traditional method.
The Rhein Pension is located in the midst of the majestic Carpathian Mountains.  Dinner at Carpathian Stag with traditional foods and folk dancing and singing.  Overnight at the Hotel ARO in Brasov.  1st of 4 nights

Day 12 Friday, September 19, Brasov
Today you will visit the medieval citadels of Prejmer, Rasnov and Bran Castle (aka Dracula’s Castle).  Lunch at Cheile Gradistei (in the Gradistei Gorges) a very picturesque place in the middle of forests and mountains.  In the afternoon you will return to Brasov.  Dinner at Cetate restaurant a place of medieval inspiration.  Hotel ARO.  2nd of 4 nights.

Day 13 Saturday, September 20, Brasov
Head towards Sighisoara, in the historic region of Transylvania.  In the 12th century, German craftsmen and merchants known as the Transylvanian Saxons were invited to Transylvania by the King of Hungary to settle and defend the borders of his realm.  Settlements here dated from 1191.  

The city played an important stratetic and commerical role at the edges of Central Europe for several centuries.  Sighișoara became one of the most important cities of Transylvania, with artisans from throughout the Holy Roman Empire visiting the settlement.  The German artisans and craftsmen dominated the urban economy, as well as building the fortifications protecting it.  It is estimated that during the 16th and 17th centuries Sighișoara had as many as 15 guilds and 20 handicraft branches.  The Wallachian prince Vlad Dracul (father of Vlad the Impaler (Dracula), who lived in exile in the town, had coins minted in the city.  

Lunch will be in Danes at the Dracula Danes Guesthouse, located along the Tarnava Mare River.  It is in a wonderful natural setting, close to the settlement of Danes and only a few kilometres away from the legendary citadel of Sighisoara.  At the guesthouse you can admire the outstanding Transylvanian scenery from the terrace or by the pool, enjoying international and local cuisine specialties and discovering the fascinating equestrian world created around the horses ... everything in the most authentic Transylvanian style.  In the afternoon you return to Brasov for dinner and overnight at the Hotel ARO.  3rd of 4 nights.

Day 14 Sunday, September 21, Brasov
Today a visit to a social service organization will be arranged and later you will be driven to Poiana Brasov (the best mountain resort especially for skiing but also with summer activities like hiking, etc.)  Lunch will be in a very picturesque place “The outlaws Hut” (Coliba Haiducilor).  In the evening you will have dinner  at the home of Zina, the wood carver.  Overnight Hotel ARO Hotel Brasov.  4th of 4 nights.

Day 15 Monday, September 22, Miercurea Ciuc
After breakfast, you will depart towards Korund, a place where you will visit pottery artisans at their workshops and houses.  The entire village is an open air museum.  Lunch will be on the way.  Dinner with Szekely folk music and dance.  Overnight at Hotel Bradu Miercurea Ciuc. 1 night.

Day 16 Tuesday, September 23, Piatra Neamt
After breakfast depart for Piatra Neamt via the Bicaz Gorges.  On the way, stop to take scenic photos of the gorges and lake Bicaz, lunch will be on the way.  Arrive in Piatra Neamt in the afternoon.  We will visit the history museum there, where the famous and oldest Cucuteni Culture pottery (dating from 7000 BC) is exhibited.  Here we can also visit the first wooden synagogue in Romania from the beginning of the 17th century (Baal Shem Tov).  Piatra Neamt Synagogue represents a rare example of wooden Jewish religious architecture in Romania.  Conservation work has allowed the synagogue to remain open and serves to educate visitors about the history of the Jewish community in the region in a historic context.  Dinner and overnight at the Ceahlau/Central Hotel. 1 night. 

Day 17 Wednesday, September 24, Gura Humorului
This morning you will head towards Gura Humorului, stopping for visits to Varatec monastery where the nuns produce weaving of a high quality.  You will receive explanations on the various procedures and see their workshops.  The next stop on the way will be in Tarpesti where you will visit the famous masks makers.  Lunch will be with an artistic family and you will have a chance to see their work.  Dinner and overnight in Gura Humorului at Hilde’s residence.  1st of 2 nights.

Day 18 Thursday, September 25, Gura Humorului
Today you will tour and enjoy the painted monasteries of Moldovita, Sucevita.  Lunch will be in Radauti where you will visit the ethnographic museum and the Colibaba workshop where you will see its excellent Kutty Pottery.  On the way back, you will stop over in Marginea where you will visit several workshops of black ceramics.  In the evening you will experience a bonfire at Hilde’s Residence where you will overnight for the 2nd of 2 nights.

Day 19 Friday, September 26, Gura Humorului
Today you will visit Humor and Voronet monasteries (the Sistine Chapels of the East, designated as UNESCO Cultural Heritage sites).  You will also visit weavers families, with demonstrations of their craft work and lunch.  Continuing your journey you will visit egg painting artisans.  Dinner and overnight in Gura Humorului. 1 night.

Day 20 Saturday, September 27, Sighetul Marmatiei
After breakfast depart towards Maramures, specifically Sighetul Marmatiei, via a scenic road.  On the way, you will stop for pictures, visit old wooden churches and have lunch in the Iza valley.  Visit the Elie Siesel House.  If time permits, visit the “Museum of Arrested Thought.”  Dinner and overnight will be in Sighetu Marmatiei at the Perla Sigheteana Hotel.  1st of 2 nights.

Day 21 Sunday, September 28, Sighetul Marmatiei.
Today, after breakfast you will enjoy a steam train ride the “Mocanitza” (on a very narrow rail).  Initially the train was used to carry logs from up the mountain.  Now besides this function, it is used also as a tourist attraction.  Lunch on the way.  Dinner with a folk show and overnight in Sighetul Marmatiei at the Perla Sigheteana Hotel.  2nd of 2 nights

Day 22 Monday, September 29, Sighetul Marmatiei
A visit to the “Merry Cemetery” in Sapanta is the first visit of the day.  This cemetery is famous for colorful tombstones with naive paintings describing (in an original and poetic manner), the people that are buried there as well as scenes from their lives.  Later visit the village of Botiza, where entire village is populated with weaver artisans that are using only natural dyes for coloring their rugs.  Lunch with a weaver family.  Dinner and overnight at Perla Sigheteana. 3rd of 3 nights.

Day 23 Tuesday, September 30, Savadisla
After breakfast you will head for Maramures via Baia Mare and Cluj Napoca.  Enjoy a sightseeing tour of Cluj Napoca town with its monuments and history and where you will have lunch in town.  Dinner and overnight will be in the Hungarian village of Savadisla, where you will enjoy not only local food but also folklore.  1 of 1 night.

Day 24 Wednesday, October 1, Sibiu
Today you will head towards Sibiu via Alba Iulia, the citadel where kings were crowned; full of vestiges dating from the Roman Empire.  You will stop in Sibiel for lunch at a farmer’s house.  Here too, you will see famous icons painted on glass with an unique technique.  Visit the Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization “Astra”.  Dinner and overnight in Sibiu at the  Imparatul Romanilor Hotel.  1st of 2 nights.

Day 25 Thursday, October 2, Sibiu
You will start your day with a walking sightseeing tour of the citadel.  Visit Paltinis and observe the shepherd’s settlements.  Lunch will be near the shepherd’s village of Rasinari where traditional foods are served.  An evening farewell dinner will be offered in a restaurant in the old town part of Sibiu.  Overnight Imparatul Romanilor Sibiu.  2nd of 2 nights.

Day 26, Friday, October 3, Bucharest
Following breakfast you will leave Sibiu towards Bucharest via the Olt Valley.  Stop in Horezu for its famous pottery and lunch there at the monastery.  Dinner and overnight at the Intercontinental Hotel Bucharest. 1 night. 

Day. 27 Saturday, October 4 
Transport to the airport for various flights home.

This printed itinerary is a basic outline.  While destinations will remain the same, the order of day-to-day visits may be adjusted according to the schedules of crafts people and site opening dates and times and possible national holidays which may affect attraction hours. Arrive in Frankfurt for optional overnight at the Sheraton Airport Hotel or continue directly to US destinations.