Bulgaria's Jewish Heritage

Departure Date: from 01-03-2019 to 30-11-2019 Status: Open for booking Price: 550 Duration: 8 days

Bulgaria famously rescued 50,000 of its Jews during the Second World War, but almost its entire Jewish population emigrated to Israel in the late 1940s. Though it has a vibrant Jewish legacy dating back to the 2nd Century CE, Bulgaria is no exception to other East European states where the Jewish heritage has been destroyed, neglected or abandoned to the elements. Many of Bulgaria's synagogues have been converted into art galleries or sports halls, and some crumble to pieces in disrepair. This tour id designed to take you to the main sites as well as to some lesser - known places that have a Jewish relation, in an attempt to acquaint you with a culture that was once rich and vibrant but that inevitably belongs to the past.


Day 1 (Thursday) Arrival. Sofia. 
Arrival in Sofia. Visit to Sofia's Central Synagogue, the largest Sephardic synagogue in Sofia. Visit to the Jewish Museum in Sofia, a part of the synagogue. Dinner at the Chabad Kosher Center in Sofia. In the evening: screening of a film about the Rescue of Bulgarian Jews. Overnight stay Sofia. 

Day 2 (Friday) Sofia
Visit to Sofia Jewish Cemetery. A guided walk through Sofia's former Jewish neighbourhoods. Friday evening prayer at the synagogue. Overnight stay Sofia. 

Day 3 (Saturday) Sofia. 
Sabbath. Free time in Sofia. Overnight stay Sofia. 

Day 4 (Sunday) Sofia - Samokov - Dupnitsa - Kyustendil - Sofia
In the morning: Drive to Samokov, visit to the former Samokov synagogue and to the adjacent Arie House, the former home of a wealthy Jewish family and now a museum. Walk to Bayrakli Mosque, on whose porch Jewish tombstones have been used. Short drive to Belyova Church out of town, where Jewish tombstones have been used to construct the water fountain. Drive to Dupnitsa. Walk in the centre to take in the two black marble plaques commemorating Jewish soldiers perished in the 1912-1918 wars. Walk to the Jewish cemetery. Drive to Kyustendil. Coffee at the Jewish Market, built on the site of the former synagogue. Visit to Dimitar Peshev's museum. Visit to the cemetery. Return to Sofia. Overnight stay Sofia. 

Day 5 (Monday) Sofia - Vidin - Rousse
Early morning drive to Vidin. Visit the former synagogue, the Jewish cemetery, the mosque, and the Baba Vida medieval fortress. In the late afternoon: drive to Rousse. Overnight in Rousse.

Day 6 (Tuesday) Rousse - Silistra.
Walk through the distinct Ashkenazic and Sephardic neighbourhoods. Note Nobel Prize Winner Elias Canetti's birthplace. Visit to the Jewish Community Centre, a former Ashkenazic synagogue, and the former Sephardic synagogue.
In the evening: Drive to Silistra. Overnight in Silistra.

Day 7 (Wednesday) Silistra  - Varna - Bourgas
Visit to Eliezer Papo's shrine in Silistra.
Drive to Varna. A walk through old Varna, noting the former Sephardic Synagogue (now in ruins) and the former Ashkenazic Synagogue (reconstructed as a business centre). Lunch at the Chabad Kosher restaurant.
Drive to Burgas (brief stop at Varna's Jewish Cemetery on the way). Overnight in Burgas.

Day 8 (Thursday) Bourgass - Plovdiv
Visit the former synagogue in Burgas, now an arts gallery. Drive to Plovdiv, stopping in Karnobat to view the largest and oldest Jewish cemetery in Bulgaria. Overnight in Plovdiv.

Day 9 (Friday) Plovdiv
Whole day in Plovdiv. Visit to the Revival Period quarter as well as the Jewish cemetery. Friday evening service at the Zion Synagogue, the only functioning synagogue in Bulgaria outside Sofia. Overnight in Plovdiv.

Day 10 (Saturday) Plovdiv - Sofia. Departure
Return to Sofia. Departure.

Tour leader: Renowned international journalist Anthony Georgieff has worked for the BBC/World Service in London as well as in Germany, the Czech Republic and Denmark. In 2011 he co-authored "A Guide to Jewish Bulgaria," the first comprehensive guidebook to this country's Jewish heritage.