Ceausescu's Romania and Zhivkov's Bulgaria
A CLASSIC EASTERN EUROPEAN ADVENTURE across the ruins of a fallen ideology
Timisoara – Bucharest – Constanta – Varna – Plovdiv – Bezludzha – Sofia
Regular monthly departures: this tour is offered regularly once a month. Let us know your desired departure month by clicking on the ask-us button below and we will match your preferences with the relevant scheduled group departure. If you are unsure about the month you wish to travel in, then simply tell us a period or a season of the year and we will give you a wide range of scheduled group departures: just pick up yours!
Our scheduled group departures don't suit your plans? If you are travelling with friends and there are 5 or more of you, you can set your own dates and we will organise a tour just for you without charging any additional fee. If you are travelling solo or with less than 4 companions we will organise a slightly more expensive tailored tour according to your time schedule and specific geographical preferences.
Beware: this is a tour with an extremely strong focus on Socialist Heritage. If you are more into classic attractions (i.e. monasteries, ruins, churches, temples and museums) and/or natural wonders (gorges, lakes and gentle slopes alike), we can easily design a bespoke itinerary according to your own specific preferences. Get in touch for more details on our tailored routes in Romania and Bulgaria.
Day 1 - Timisoara
In the morning you will meet your tour guide in the lobby of the designated hotel (exact hotel address and meeting time will be communicated well in advance per email; private airport pickup and shuttle service available for a small additional fee).
Introductory briefing about the region and the route of this journey.
We'll spend the day touring Timisoara, one of the main cultural and economic centres of the country and the birthplace of the anti-regime protests, which led to the Ceausescu’s downfall.
Our visit will be mainly focussed on the impressive socialist heritage of the city and the anti-communist revisionist violence of the late 80s, but we’ll have also time to admire the well-preserved elegant palaces, houses, churches and monasteries dating back to the pre-communist era.
Lunch, dinner and overnight in Timisoara.
Day 2 - Pitesti
From Timisoara we’ll move deep into mining heartland of the country and head to the Jiu Valley, the rough-and-ready, nitty-gritty former basin of the Romanian coal industry during the productive years of the here-much-missed communist regime.
Travelling across a somber landscapes of abandoned pits, decaying industrial architectures and half-empty model towns such as Lupeni (epicentre of one of the largest miners’ strikes in the history of the country), Petrosani and Petrila, we’ll continue onto Scornicesti, the birthplace of Nicolae Ceaușescu and one of the bleakest village in the entire country.
After lavish lunch and a nostalgic toast to Nicolae’s memory we’ll travel to Pitesti, a pleasant town of high economic importance for the country (here Automobile Dacia has its main production facility) and the notorious site of the Pitesti Prison, best remembered for the reeducation experiments (also known as the "Pitesti Phenomenon") carried out between December 1949 and September 1951.
Dinner and overnight in Pitesti.
Day 3 - Targoviste
From the city of its most feared prison we’ll move on to the city where the regime met its end: Targoviste, the very place where the shameful farce trial against Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife Elena was carried out on Christmas day of 1989, subsequently leading to a pre-planned execution of the two by firing squad. Nicolae, before being murdered, famously said: “We could have been shot without having this masquerade!” and then the rifles roared.
From Targoviste we’ll head to another place of particular significance in Romania’s modern history: the mining village of Doftana, site of the Romanian Bastille, an imposing fort-cum-prison where the fascist Romanian regime (1921-1945) used to lock up commies, anarchists, and other political prison.
Our last stop will be then the booming oil town of Ploiesti, a prosperous urban construct of socialist cityscapes. brand-new skyscrapers and nightmarish refineries.
In the late afternoon we’ll eventually reach Bucharest, the sprawling country’s capital.
Dinner and overnight in Bucharest.
Day 4 - Bucharest
We’ll devote the entire day to Bucharest and its socialist heritage visiting both the main architectonic sights, such as the gargantuan Parliament and the elegant Academy, and some truly off-the-beaten-path places like the raw-concrete hinterlands of the town and the much-feared but actually friendly neighbourhood of Ferentari, the largest gypsy ghetto in Romania.
We’ll also pay a visit to Nicolae Ceaușescu’s grave in the outskirts of town, a site of pilgrimage for many Romanian hardcore nostalgics and international lefties.
Lunch, dinner and overnight in Bucharest.
Day 5 - Constanta
From Bucharest we’ll move east and reach the classy city of Constanta, the main Romanian town along the melancholic, tacky and slightly depressing Black Sea coast.
Constanta is famous for its splendidly abandoned Art Nouveau casino as well for its fair-share of elegant neoclassical buildings, exotic Ottoman heritage and ancient Roman ruins.
We’ll spend a relaxing day in town touring its many architectonic wonders, sampling delicious seafood and hunting for the decrepit remnants of its socialist past.
Lunch, dinner and overnight in Constanta.
Day 6 - Varna
From Constanta we’ll head south and enter Bulgaria, a quintessential southern Slavic nation once famously labelled as the sixteenth Soviet republic due to its close cultural, political and linguistic ties with the former USSR.
We’ll travel along the Black Sea coast crossing little fishing villages, rusty marinas and kitschy resorts until we’ll eventually arrive in Varna, the third-largest city in Bulgaria.
We’ll spend the day touring Varna, a true architectural paradise by the sea where Ottoman, Neo-Renaissance, Neoclassicism, Art Nouveau, Art Deco and - most importantly - socialist shapes blend, more or less harmoniously - together.
Lunch, dinner and overnight in Varna.
Day 7 - Veliko Tarnovo
From Varna we’ll head west and towards the Bulgarian heartland and aim for the historical city of Veliko Tarnovo.
On our way to Veliko Tarnovo we’ll make several socialist-architectural stops and particularly in Targoviste, famous for its modernist and brutalist buildings, and Shumen, home to the impressive concrete Monument to the Founders of Bulgaria.
Once in Veliko Tarnovo we will spend the rest of the day touring the interesting urban landscape of the town where neoclassicism meets medieval architecture and socialist brutalism all at once.
One of the main architectural attraction in town is the very hotel we will be staying at: the Interhotel Veliko Tarnovo, a dystopian concrete monster from the good old commie days surrounded by steep cliffs and lush vegetation.
Dinner and overnight in Veliko Tarnovo.
Day 8 - Plovdiv
Leaving Veliko Tarnovo we’ll move south to the ancient city of Gabrovo, home to an impressive Soviet-style modernist town-hall-cum-clock-tower.
From Gabrovo we’ll head to the Shipka Prohod, a scenic mountain pass through the southern Balkan Mountains, part of the Bulgarka Nature Park and historical theatre of a series of conflicts collectively known as the Battle of Shipka Pass, fought between Bulgarian freedom fighters, aided by Russian volunteers, and the Ottoman Empire.
The battle is remembered by the Pametnik Shipka, an austere stone monument from the 30s, and a few kilometres down a detour route we’ll find ourselves in front of what is arguably the most famous landmark in Bulgaria and a holy grail for every architecture-and-communism geek out there: Pametnik Buzludzha, the impressive Monument House of the Bulgarian Communist Party built on Buzludzha Peak by the Bulgarian communist government to commemorate the events of 1891, when a group of socialists led by Dimitar Blagoev assembled secretly in the area to form an organised socialist movement that led to the founding of the Bulgarian Social Democratic Party, a forerunner of the Bulgarian Communist Party.
After having spent the right amount of time at Buzludzha and paid our respect to the history it represent, we’ll drive further south to the small town of Kalofer, home to yet another monumental memorial dedicated to the national hero, poet and revolutionary Hristo Botev, who died in the aftermath of the 1876 uprising against the Ottoman Empire.
In the late afternoon we’ll eventually reach Plovdiv, an extremely pretty southern metropolis and the notorious home to Stolipinovo, the second-largest gypsy neighbourhood in Eastern Europe after Shutka in Macedonia, which we’ll tour together with local human rights activists before heading to our hotel for the night.
Dinner and overnight in Plovdiv.
Day 9 - Sofia
After spending the morning touring the Plovdiv old town (with the irrevocable addition of the local Soviet memorial), we’ll head for Sofia, the no-nonsense capital of the country.
We’ll then devote the rest of the day to Sofia especially focussing on the communist architectonic and cultural heritage of the city before eventually closing our tour with a gargantuan Bulgarian dinner washed down with locally brewed booze.
Overnight in Sofia.
DAY 10 - Flight back home or transfer to further destinations
After enjoying a last Bulgarian-style breakfast together we'll take care of your transfer to the airport/train station of choice.
For those flying out: we will arrange transfer to Sofia International Airport.
For those wishing to take the train/bus to reach further destinations: we will arrange transport to the central train/bus station.
For those wishing to take further trips to communist-era places of remembrance within the country such as Pravets (Zhivkov’s hometown): we will organise tailored short extensions accordingly.
End of the tour.
4 to 9 participants: 1450 €
The price includes: double/twin room accommodation (breakfast included; single supplement: 25 euro/night), private transport in the region (car or minivan), entrance fees to the attractions listed in the itinerary, guiding and translation service.
The price does not include: international flights and any other flight not explicitly included in the tour price and itinerary, meals, drinks and tips, transport to and from the airport of arrival/departure (35 euros/ride), visas if required, entrance fees to attractions not listed in the itinerary, insurance.
The route of this tour has been carefully designed after several research trips in the region. It is, however, always possible to slightly modify the itinerary according to the needs and the suggestions of the participants. Our motto is flexibility.
Please note: It’s advisable to arrive in Timisoara one day before the actual tour begins. You should notice, however, that you’ll have to take care of your accommodation for any day and night preceding the actual start date of the tour. Without any additional charge we will readily and gladly reserve a room for you at our hotel of choice and you’ll be able to pay for it by cash or credit card once you check-in. If your flight lands on the same day as the tour begins and you prefer to rest a bit before going out sightseeing, you will then meet your tour guide and the rest of the group at the designated hotel in the late afternoon.
Airport transfer/pickup in Timisoara and Sofia is available for just 35 euros per ride.
WHERE THE HECK AM I TRAVELLING TO?
BELOW YOU CAN SEE THE DIFFERENT TOUR STAGES MARKED ON A MAP OF THE REGION YOU ARE GOING TO EXPLORE WITH US
POSSIBLE TOUR COMBINATIONS FOR THIS ITINERARY INCLUDE
Albania and/or Balkanistan