Romania and Bulgaria: On Private View in the Balkans
Our group milled around outside a building that appeared to be a stone farmhouse, waiting to go in. When I finally stepped through the low door and my eyes adjusted to the light, hundreds of red-winged angels and gold-haloed saints danced across the ceiling and walls of the Nativity Church at Arbanasi. An hour later I reemerged into the sun and knew my last-minute decision to join a tour to Romania and Bulgaria had been the right one.
I’ve long been fascinated by these once forbidden lands behind the Iron Curtain, the east west crossroads with painted churches, gypsies, and post-communist struggles, but I knew very little beyond my curiosity. I discovered the two Balkan neighbors are like rival siblings competing to impress the world with their riches—sixteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites between them, treasure-filled monasteries, world-class music festivals, good beer and wine—and even Dracula, if you can find him. And thanks to Europe’s current difficulties, visitors have the countries to themselves. Read on.