The United States Department of State provides advice on travel to international destinations. Go to travel.state.gov and find Country Information. In the information will be known risk factors. The Department of State has issued 45 travel warnings and alerts so far in 2015. It’s interesting, and scary, to read them. Three destinations that Americans have been warned not to travel to somewhat surprised me–Mexico, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.
Ruth and I went to The Balkans earlier this year and a couple of the countries we visited have been in the news lately. They are pass-through places for Syrians and others heading for Germany and other European countries. Bulgaria wasn’t one of them. I checked to see if Bulgaria is considered safe for U.S. travelers, and it is despite some fairly typical warnings.
We felt safe in Bulgaria, wandered around Sofia a lot on our own, and never had an incident. However, we almost always went places with others. On our last day there we walked from our hotel to a grand opening. Most big destination cities have an instantly recognizable icon–the Eiffel Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Taj Mahal, etc. In Sofia, it’s the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. The State Printing House used to be behind it, but that building has been transformed into the National Gallery Kvadrat 500, the newest museum building in Bulgaria. There used to be a National Gallery of Foreign Art in this city, but in 1999 the Ministry of Culture decided to combine it with Bulgarian in a new National Gallery and sought EU funding. By 2010 the money was there and an architect was designing a building with lots of glass that gracefully blended the old with the new.
Lucky for us, it officially opened on May 28, 2015, when we were there. 42,000 works of international and domestic art were moved, and about 2,000 of them were chosen to be displayed in 28 galleries on 4 levels for the opening. Both the building and the art were 5 Compass. I had never seen any Bulgarian art, so this was a chance to get a bit familiar with it via 1,000 paintings, sculptures, etc. I was impressed with its originality and quality. A couple of examples are below.