Wednesday, 18 March 2015

5 Fun and Crazy Skiing World Records

When it comes to winter sports, sometimes going up and down the slopes simply isn't enough for some individuals. Whether it was by accident or on purpose, these individuals have given us some of the most unbelievable world records around and it is in this article where we will highlight five of these record-breaking achievements for your reading pleasure...
 
1. Most Fingertip Pull-Ups While Wearing Skis
 
On the 21st December 2013 in Big Bear, California, ski enthuasist Andreas Weaver set the record for the most fingertip pull-ups while wearing skis when he set a record of 13 during a holiday to improvise a workout while skiing.


Check out Andreas setting the record here
 
2. Most Countries Skiied in 20 days
 
On March 21, 2014 in Riddarholmen, Stockholm, Jamie Stevenson set the record for the most countries skiied in 20 days in order to raise money for Disability Snowsport UK. Covering most of Europe, Jamie even skiied in Spain during the challenge.


You can watch each day of Jamie's record here
 
3. Most Vertical Feet Skied Uphill In 24 Hours (Female)

Dina Mishev climbed 34,546 feet in 24 hours, a new world record. Using climbing skins, she repeatedly trekked up a 1502-foot trail, checking in with officials at the top off the trail, before skiing down and checking in with officials at the bottom. She did this 23 times in 24 hours. The record was set on February 8, 2009 during the 24 Hour Sunlight Challenge at the Sunlight Mountain Resort in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.
 

4. Longest Time To Ski On One Foot

 
On Mars Hill in North Carolina on January 8, 2008, experienced skiier Alex Kleinschmidt set a new world record using only one ski for 25.1 seconds. As most of us struggle to stay up on two feet, this record is certainly worthy of the praise it receives.
 

Check out Alex's record breaking video here

5. Most Consecutive Days Skiing


Paul Schipper's skiing "streak" began in 1981 at age 57 and continued through until 2005 at age 81. He skied every single day that Sugarloaf ski resort in Carrabassett, Maine was open for 3,903 consecutive days. He skied through bouts of cancer, pneumonia and near blindness in one eye. Sadly Paul Schipper, known as "The Ironman of Skiing" died on February 16, 2009 at age 85. Sugarloaf named a trail in his honor on April 4, 2005, by calling a section of the famous Narrow Gauge Trail as “Schipper’s Streak".

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The Two Sides of Bulgaria's Heavy Snowfall

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! When the forecasters predicted a fantastic ski season for the Eastern European region back in November, no one knew for sure just how much of the white stuff was actually going to fall and when. Having already been a fairly good ski season for the Bulgarian resorts of Bansko, Borovets and Pamporovo, mother nature decided to deliver a phenominal amount of snow across the resorts this week, which was beyond every skier and snowboarder's wildest dreams. 

Since Friday, March 6th the snow has continued to fall in huge amounts across much of the country layering up to 3.5m of snow on the slopes of Bansko, Borovets and Pamporovo creating superb skiing conditions for those in resort. According to our latest reports the snow is continuing to fall and is expected to keep falling until Sunday, 15th March.

Whilst this is welcome news for many tourists seeking a great value last minute holiday in one of Bulgaria's premier ski resorts, a thought must be spared for the thousands of Bulgarians whose towns and cities are not as thankful for the snow and are currently having to deal with a number of emergency situations. Our thoughts are with those who have been affected by the snow conditions and we would like to voice our appreciation to the many teams of emergency workers aiding and assisting the locals as they deal with the situation.

If you're heading off to Bulgaria skiing this week, please take care on the slopes and enjoy your time in the snow but please do not go off piste as there is a significant risk of avalanches due to the snowfall.

Here are some pics of the recent snowfall in Bansko and Pamporovo plus a superb short slow motion video of Borovets:

Holidaymakers walk through a tunnel dug in the Bansko snow

Bansko resort has seen up to 3.5m of snowfall this week

A holidaymaker in Pamporovo is covered waist high in snow

These cars in Pamporovo do not look like they're going anywhere



video

3 reasons to put Montenegro on your to do list

There's a lot to love about the country of Montenegro, the very name of which sounds as though it has come straight from a fantasy novel. Find out why we think it's one of the most magical places on Earth.

1. Because some of the colours here don't exist anywhere else

Sometimes there's a vibrancy to a green that can only be described as emerald, or a flair to a red that more closely resembles crimson. Throughout Montenegro's wild gorse-coloured mountains, Adriatic beaches and enticing cities, you'll find aquatic blue waters, vibrant violet flowers and terracotta orange roofs. Everywhere you look, there are incredible hues, spectrums and sights - this is a photographer's dream.


2. Because there is much to be done here

Despite being less than half the size of Wales (the country, not the sea creature), Montenegro certainly packs a lot in. Deciding where to start is likely to be your biggest problem. With a landscape that plunges and soars like a drunken dragonfly, there are plenty of adrenaline-inducing experiences abound. White water rafting through the Durmitor national park is certainly a highlight - the narrow free-flowing valley is fringed with stunning trees of exactly the shade of emerald we mentioned earlier. Then there are glittering beaches to lie on, unique cities to explore and a one-of-a-kind culture to experience. One thing is certain - you won't be bored here.



3. Because the beaches are worth the flight alone

Spectacular stretches of coastline are something of a trademark for Montenegro. The resorts of Budva, Petrovac, Sveti Stefan and Becici attest to this in terms of extraordinary beauty - picture stunning white sand shelving away into a clear-turquoise ocean. Lying here, surrounded by nature and yet catered for by the modern amenities of a modern resort town, you'll feel completely at ease with yourself and the world - which is surely the best feeling a holiday can give you.





Find out more about our range of Montenegro Holidays or book by visiting our Montenegro Holidays page.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Sites in Bulgaria

Bulgaria is a popular holiday destination, well known mostly for it's beautiful ski and seaside resorts offering incredible value for money holiday opportunities. Every year millions of tourist are attracted by the sun-drenched golden sands, blue waters and white mountaintops of Bulgaria. However, there is another side to this small, but rich in history and tradition country. There are a number of interesting historic and cultural sites to discover while on your holiday to Bulgaria, nine of which are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Below is a small selection of these beautiful attractions.


Boyana Church
The medieval orthodox church complex in the outskirts of Sofia has been a world heritage site since 1979. The church is one of the best preserved and most complete example of medieval arts. It consists of three buildings and it was built in three stages. Its oldest parts are from the 10th century, then some parts were added in the 13th and in the middle of the 19th century. The frescos in the middle church from 1259 depicting 240 human figures, are some of the best examples of medieval painting. The frescos were restored and cleaned between 1912 and 19, then again between 1939 and 1944. The church was closed for renovation between 1977 and 2000, when its historical monuments were also conserved.



Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak    
The burial site, discovered in 1944 near the town of Kazanlak has been a world heritage site since 1979. It is part of a Thracian necropolis, and for its size, it was probably a burial site of a richer family within, from around the 4th century BC. The frescos on the wall of the tomb chamber are the best preserved masterpieces of Hellenic civilisation in Bulgaria. The original tomb chamber cannot be viewed, only its accurate replica.


Rock-hewn Churches of Ivanovo
The complex of rock-hewn orthodox churches, chapels and monasteries near Ivanovo, 20km from Ruse, has been a world heritage site since 1979. Its medieval frescos are especially precious. Monks lived here from the 1220’s until the 1700’s, they created chambers in the chalk and later connected these chambers by corridors. The complex was closed between 1980 and 2002, the frescos got conserved by 2002.


Rila Monastery
The monastery, founded by St John of Rila in the 10th century, has been part of the UNESCO world heritage since 1983. This is the most sacred shrine oth the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, and one of the most important, most famous cultural, historic and architectural monuments and tourist attractions of Bulgaria. It is located 65km to the south from Sofia, 1147m above sea level. The monastery is situated in a breathtaking scenery: high mountains, creeks and forests surround it. It was destroyed by a fire in 1833, but got rebuilt between 1834 and 1862 in renaissance style. Its area covers 8800m2, it consists of  the main church, a four-storey residential building and the monastery museum.


Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari
The tomb chamber is 2.5km from the town of Sveshtari. The tomb from the 3rd century BC was discovered in 1982 and became a world heritage in 1985. Its architectural décor is unique.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Exceptional Winter Holidays in Bulgaria

Ski holidays to Bulgaria are fast becoming a popular choice for holidaymakers and this is evident with Bulgaria being one of twenty worldwide countries recently nominated in the World Ski Awards.


Not only are ski holidays to Bulgaria great value for money but they also offer something for every type of winter sports enthuasiast. Pamporovo and Borovets have some amazing runs geared at Beginner and Intermediate skiers and snowboarders. Where as Bansko has some nifty and challenging runs for the Advanced skiers and snowboarders. Nether the less all of Bulgaria's ski resorts still cater for all levels of ability.

For non skiers and non snowboarders there is plenty to offer from Spa treatments, Skiddo's, Winter Fishing, Horse Riding, Monastery visits are just a few of the day excursions offered along with the various apre-ski excursions. There is something for everyone to be kept busy throughout their stay.


Just one and a half hours from Sofia airport, Borovets has the shortest transfer time making it an ideal resort for families with young children looking to get off the plane and checked in as quickly as possible. Although Bankso and Pamporovo have longer transfer times, many customers would agree that once you arrive, surrounded by the picturesque breathtaking scenery, the longer transfers are definitely worth it.

Bulgaria have not switched to the Euro and still use the Leva currency meaning your money goes further when in resort with fantastic prices on everyday holiday items like meals and drinks. Ski holidays to Bulgaria also provide great value on pre-bookable ski extras with a Pamporovo Learn to Ski Pack starting at only £115.00. Learn to ski packs include lift pass, ski hire, boot hire and lessons (4 hours a day) for 6 days. Its also worth noting that these ski extras prices are a fraction of the price that you would be expected to pay in many other European ski resorts.


Flying from Bristol, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, Manchester, East Midlands and Newcastle and offering a vast range of accommodations that suit all customers requirements, Balkan Holidays are your number one winter specialist to Bulgaria so ensure you visit our winter holidays website today to find out more or to book your next ski or snowboard holiday to Bulgaria.

Top 5 Things to See & Do in Golden Sands

As a popular alternative to the southern Bulgarian resort of Sunny Beach, holidays to Golden Sands provide holidaymakers with everything they need from a summer break plus so much more. Located just a few kilometres from the bustling historical city of Varna, Golden Sands offers a fulfilling mix of entertainment and relaxation all set in one of the most picturesque natural environments found in the Balkan region. Named after the nearby national park, the resort of Golden Sands extends a warm welcome to all who visit it with wooded hillsides sweeping down to meet one of Europe's most beautiful coastlines, the Black Sea Coast.

Holidays to Golden Sands
Escape to a summer holiday by the sea with glorious scenery in Golden Sands

The resort's pristine EU Blue Flag awarded beach is perfect for lazing around in the hot Bulgarian sun or simply spending quality time together with friends or family in the soft golden beach sand. Although this may already sound like your ideal holiday destination, Golden Sands doesn't stop there with a wide range of excursions and activities on hand to complete your summer holiday experience. Here is our list of the top 5 things to see and do when on your holiday to Golden Sands:

1. Day trips to Romania 

With its northern position close to the border of Romania, holidays to Golden Sands give you the opportunity to experience another incredible country in just one day. Setting out in the morning you travel across the border to the city of Constanţa, also known as the ancient city of Tomis, Romania's oldest extant city founded around 600BC. There, a guided bus tour of the city awaits providing a perfect opportunity for you to take in the many sights and sounds of this great city including the Port of Constanţa, Casino, Great Mosque and Roman Catholic Cathedral. Once the bus tour is complete there is free time to explore the city or visit the enlightening archaeological museum. In the afternoon the tour moves on to the nearby seaside resort of Mamaia for a light lunch and more free time to dip your toes or go shopping in the impressive resort shopping mall. Before the day is out you will find yourself back in Golden Sands ready for a night out to celebrate and talk about the days highlights.

Romanian Casino Constanţa
The impressive Constanţa Casino building is popular with visitors to the city
 
2. Lazy Day Cruise 

If you are looking to add a bit of romance to your holiday a lazy day cruise is the perfect activity for you. Spend the day with your loved one slowly cruising along the Black Sea Coastline stopping off at various scenic locations. The lazy day cruise gives you the opportunity to try your hand at fishing or take a swim in the warm sea water culminating in a delicious lunch served on board. The panoramic sights of the coastline and romantic cruise atmosphere is sure to bring you and your partner even closer on your summer holiday to Golden Sands.

Black Sea Coast Cruise
Holidaymakers enjoy the unique views of the Black Sea Coast the cruise offers

 3. Country & People 

You've seen the commercialized beach resort but perhaps you want to experience the authentic everyday lives and culture of the local Bulgarian residents in their natural environment? The country & people excursion gives you the chance to visit one of the many nearby villages to talk with locals and see inside their houses and local church. Sit down for lunch with a typical Bulgarian household before heading off to a privately run bee farm with a chance to sample some home made yoghurt too. You are then taken for a donkey cart drive before tasting selected Bulgarian wines and brandy in the local town wine cellar. One thing the excursion is sure to guarantee is a fascinating and insightful day, giving you a new profound understanding of the Bulgarian culture.

Local towns in Varna
Visitors are welcomed by the local Bulgarian people on a visit to their town
 
4.  The Sea Garden

As one of the oldest and perhaps largest parks in Bulgaria, the park was built at the request of municipality in 1894. There is a long alley in the park focusing on the Bulgarian revival with busts of the most honorable figures from the era. The Park is a perfect place for a pleasant walk, bicycle ride or outdoor sports. It is also home to a zoo and terrarium. The waterfront promenade of the park is lined by a string of beach clubs offering a vibrant scene of rock, hip-hop, American-style pop, house, and chalga (Bulgarian pop folk). The city beaches, also known as sea baths are dotted with hot sulphuric mineral springs and punctured by small sheltered marinas. The Garden is a national monument of landscape architecture.

The Park is a perfect place for a pleasant walk, bicycle ride or outdoor sports

5. Balkan Fiesta 

Easily the highlight of any holiday to Golden Sands, the Balkan Fiesta gives you a rare chance to enjoy the magic of Bulgarian dances, the colour and rhythm of the variety show and the best live music ever! Set in the hilly forest, guests are treated to a magnificent show with unlimited wine and soft drinks accompanied by a delicious buffet style dinner to ensure an unforgettable evening of joy and laughter. The evening ends with a demonstration of the Bulgarian fire walking ritual which will leave you amazed.

Golden Sands Fiesta Bulgaria
The Balkan Holidays Fiesta offers a night of fun and dance for all ages
 
Making our top 5 was no easy task as there is such a variety of exciting and interesting things to see and do when in Golden Sands, but if you are planning on visiting the resort be sure to speak to our friendly Balkan Holidays representative for a comprehensive guide to the activities and excursions available. To find out more about our Golden Sands Holidays or to book early & save visit our website.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Bulgaria: A-Z Tips & Important Information

We at Balkan Holidays would like to wish you an enjoyable and memorable stay in the beautiful country of Bulgaria so we created this list especially for you to provide all the information you will need for a safe and pleasant holiday along with some interesting facts about your chosen destination.

 

ALPHABET

The Bulgarian alphabet was created by two brothers, Cyril and Methodious, and it is called Cyrillic, after one of them. Bulgaria is the only country in the world that has a national holiday celebrating their alphabet which is held on the 24th May each year.






BANKS
We recommend that you use First Investment Bank for all your banking needs. This is the safest place to exchange money at. A branch of First Investment Bank can be found next to the main Balkan Holidays Office in the centre of resort (next to Globus Hotel)

BATHROOMS
Bulgarian bathrooms tend to be rather basic compared to western standards. It is quiet common for showers not to have trays, but a hole in the bathroom floor. Most hand basins are lacking a plug as it considered unhygienic to wash in still water. Please request a foot towel or bath mat if one is not in already in place.

 




CHANGING MONEY    
                                                              
Do not change money on the street as this is illegal and there is a good chance you will be cheated. Money should only be changed at reception desks or banks in the resort. It is recommended that you check commission rates beforehand. Most places will not accept Sterling notes that are torn or written on. Scottish notes are generally not accepted.

CREDIT CARDS
Please do not rely on credit cards for local purchases. You can use your credit cards for drawing cash from the ATM.

CURRENCY
The monetary unit in Bulgaria is called a “lev” (Plural “leva”). The coins are called “stotinki”. One lev comprises of 100 stotinki. Banknote denominations include 1,2,5,10,20, 50 and 100 leva.

CHEMISTS
All major resort areas have a chemist in the central part of the town/resort. It is possible to buy most kinds of foreign medicine that you are used to, or sometimes you will be offered the local equivalent, whichever is usually cheaper.

CIGARETTES & SPIRITS
Bulgarian cigarettes and the large selection of local spirits are of excellent quality. Imported spirits are more expensive compared to the national ones. Cigarettes are generally cheaper in Bulgaria than in the UK.






EXCURSIONS
All excursions and activities can be purchases through the Balkan Holidays representative and their ground handler (Balkan Holidays Partners) who will confirm your purchase with the officially licensed local provider. Rogue traders are known to operate in the resort selling unofficial excursions and for your own peace of mind, we recommend that you only purchase your excursions which are officially licensed by the local authorities. 






FOOD
Part of the fun of being on holiday is trying local meals. Soon you will find that Bulgarians consider it unhealthy to eat food piping hot. Therefore, if you get served a meal that is not hot enough, the easiest thing to do is to ask your waiter to heat it up so that it is hot enough for your liking. Bulgarian cuisine is completely different to yours and it is definitely worth trying!






GOLDEN SANDS
Golden Sands is Bulgaria's largest seaside resort on the Northern coastline. It boasts an outstanding combination of a sunny beach and mountainous terrain. Being suitable for younger holidaymakers, the resort is situated only 20 minutes from the lively city of Varna.

GOOD BUYS
Pottery, Carved Wood, Crystal, CD's, Leathers, Suede, Embroideries, etc. 






KHAN'S TENT
The best cabaret show in the resort of Sunny Beach with live music, international dancers and acts enjoyed with a delicious four course meal. 






LINEN CHANGES
Usually in 2* and 3* hotels linen is changed on a weekly basis and towels every 3 days. In 4* and 5* hotels, sheets are changed twice a week and you receive fresh towels daily. Please check with the reception of your hotel for more details. 






MEDICAL ATTENTION
Medical services can be requested from the reception of your hotel 24 hours a day. Please note that medical services must be paid for, therefore, make sure you keep all receipts if you wish to raise a claim on your holiday insurance when you return home. If you have a major medical emergency, please contact your Representative immediately.

MOBILE TELEPHONES
It is extremely expensive to use your mobile phones to make calls to the UK. See "Phoning Home" further down for the cheaper options available.






NIGHT LIFE
There is a wide variety of traditional taverns, restaurants, bars and disco clubs. Some of them charge a small entrance fee






PASSPORT & FLIGHT TICKETS
Passports are kept at reception for 24 hours upon arrival for local registration purposes. You will not need your passports or flight tickets in resort so therefore we recommend that you keep them in the safety deposit boxes available at your hotel.

PHONING HOME
The international dialling code for the UK is 0044. You will then need to omit the first 0 of the UK area code you are dialling (e.g. 0161 444 6666 becomes 0044 161 444 6666). Internet Calling Kiosks are widely spread throughout the resort and are one of the least expensive ways to make a phone call. Calling from your hotel room or reception will cost significantly more.

POLICE STATION
The police station is situated on the main traffic road of the resort. In case of emergency, please contact the hotel reception and they in turn will telephone the police for you. Please ensure you notify your Balkan Holidays Representative as well.

POST OFFICE
Situated in the very centre of resort, you can choose to either post your letters and postcards from the post office or give them to your hotel reception to post for you






RESTAURANT OPENING TIMES
Please check the restaurant opening times with reception of your hotel as they do vary slightly. Normal opening times are usually 7:30 – 10:00am and 18:00 – 21:00pm. Any additional drinks or extras apart from your entitlement should be paid for at the end of each meal.






SAFETY DEPOSIT BOXES
Please DO NOT leave valuables in your room or carry them around the resort. Safety deposit boxes are available at reception at a small charge per day.

SECURITY
Please always remember to lock your door when you go out and make sure windows and balcony doors are securely shut. The management of the hotel will also not take responsibility for items not kept in the safety deposit boxes.

SOFIA
Sofia is the largest city in Bulgaria and has been the capital city since April 1879. Is it one of the most ancient European cities. Today there are many archaeological sights in Sofia that display the city's diverse history – the castle gates, towers of Serdica and public buildings and streets dating back thousands of years. Among the attractions of the city are the Rotunda of St. George, which is the city's oldest cultural monument. Other monuments to be found are the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, St. Petka Church and the Russian Church.

SUNNY BEACH
The biggest and most popular seaside resort in Bulgaria. One of the biggest attractions in coming to a beautiful resort such as Sunny Beach is bathing on the 8km long beach in the glorious summer sunshine! 






TAP WATER
Tap water is perfectly safe to drink. Nevertheless, if you prefer the taste of bottled mineral water, it is widely available at shops, bars and restaurants.

TAXIS
Taxis are available in resort. Your hotel can book one for you if required via reception. All the taxis should have an official meter installed but we recommend you agree the price before you get in the taxi and begin your journey.

TIPPING
Tipping is customary in Bulgaria. If you feel you have a received a good service then 10% of the bill is considered normal. For individual waiters, cleaners etc. tipping at the end of your stay is welcomed if you wish. In restaurants, please check the menu to see if a service charge is already included.

TOILET TAX
In Bulgaria many public toilets will charge you a small amount for using the facilities. If you travel further a field from the tourist resorts the facilities do become more basic and we advise you to keep some tissues with you at all times






YES & NO
Bulgarians nod and shake their heads the opposite way. Try not to get confused! 

Thank you for taking the time to read through our A-Z list and we hope you have found the information provided helpful and interesting. Have a wonderful holiday!

Balkan Holidays Team

www.balkanholidays.co.uk