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May 5 – 17, 2023
Flagler College Students
Over the first 6 days on the trip the writing and site visits focus on allowing students to better understand the history and culture of the Bulgarian people prior to immersing themselves into interviews and more deep connections with the locals. The breadth of their writing focus can be broad as we visit the two most important cities in Bulgaria, the modern capital of Sofia and the ancient capital of Veliko Tarnovo. Students will have an opportunity to photograph and write about the sights and sounds of what Bulgarian’s view as cultural and historical significance and talk to individuals who help keep the history, culture, and traditions alive.
We will take a late afternoon/early evening flight from Orlando to Sofia Bulgaria. This will be an overnight flight with a stop in one of Europe’s large cities. Arrival in Sofia, Bulgaria is on the afternoon of day 2 considering the 7-hour time difference.
In the early afternoon we will arrive in Sofia, Bulgaria. We spend the night in Sofia and adjust to our new surroundings. You can explore in the late afternoon before heading off to a Welcome Dinner.
Today we step back in time to Ancient Serdica. Serdica during the 3rd and 4th century CE was considered the second largest city in the Rona Empire. A major trading center along the Roman Road, this city is still largely covered by modern day Sofia. It was in ancient Serdica, in 338 CE that the EDICT OF TOLERATION was decried by Emperor Galerius thus officially making Christianity the main religion of the entire Roman Empire.
Students will explore the catacombs, visit the archaeological excavations, walk on the Roman road, and meet with local officials to learn how Sophia preserves ancient history while continuing to develop their modern city. We will also visit the National Archaeological Museum and talk to directors from the Balkan Heritage Foundation, the largest archaeological excavation nonprofit in Eastern Europe. Your students will have ample time to journal about the sites in Sophia and how tourism and travel has become a main source of economic revenue for the nation. Students will also talk to locals who call Sofia home and ask questions about how things have changed post-communism.
In the late afternoon we will head to the Stone & Compass Center.
On this day we travel to the ancient Roman Complex Nicopolis Ad Istrum. The city at one time boasted over 10,000 inhabitants and was one of the first commercial centers to utilize the idea of a “downtown” section of the city for commercial storefronts. Incredibly laid out, this vast complex has only been 15 percent excavated. We will meet with the director of the dig and learn more about the future of excavations along with a detailed lecture on the history of the city. What makes this day particularly special for writing and photography is that the Roman complex is set out in rolling hills away from anything but nature. Tall Oaks line the ancient Roman road and there are many places where students can escape and write and muse.
Today you will visit an ethnographic open air living museum “Etara” where you will get to see craftsmen working on traditional water powered machinery. A great place to sample traditional sweets and baked goods and watch crafters create unique traditional items all by using 18th and 19th century water powered machinery. We will meet with the managers of this facility and learn how Bulgaria is utilizing ethnographic tourism as a way of creating new opportunities to increase economic welfare in rural areas. The setting is a great place for writing as it is surrounded by brooks and small waterfalls. The” town” of crafting houses is truly authentic and students will find themselves transported back in time as they reflect upon the full breadth of section one of the program and overall, each student will have gained a much deeper understanding of what it means to be “Bulgarian”.
Over the next 5 days students will have the opportunity to write about, interview, and photograph local people who call the villages home. Students will not only interview Bulgarians but also have a unique opportunity to interview individuals from the Roma community. Students will travel to neighboring villages and over the course of section two they will be able to begin weaving together the story of the people.
Today we get to start local interviews! Students will gain access to the Elderly care home in the village of Stolat and begin interviewing residents. Most of these individuals grew up in the area and have seen incredible change from the oppression of the Nazi regime to the rule of communism, to the rise of democracy and now the slow demise of village life. Students will also get a chance to photograph the village and write about what they see. In 1988 the village of Stolat had 1894 residents. Today that number is 257. Yet all the buildings and structures remain. Into this void came the Roma settlers which has brought about a dynamic that students will be able to document with their writing and photos. Video will be utilized as students begin to put together an archive of material that encapsulates life in the village.
Spend the early part of the day researching the Center’s history and looking at Communist-era leaflets, pictures and artifacts that were found in the governmental offices of Stolat. Spend time in the center of Stolat and around the surrounding community interviewing agricultural workers, the mayor, local villagers, and even our own Bulgarian Stone & Compass staff who now call Stolat home. In the afternoon we will head back to the elderly home for more interviews.
Today students get to interview individuals from the Roma community. There can be challenges when attempting to document Roma life and engage in discussions with the Roma community and the experience for students in attempting this will be a great lesson. Translators and staff will help to facilitate the interview process. In the evening we head to the village of Sennik for dinner and a chance to meet with locals who run the restaurant in the village.
On this last day in Stolat, we will enjoy the center to its fullest! Take a hike, enjoy the amenities, and play in the pool. In the evening we will have traditional dancers and musicians arrive for a traditional Bulgarian cookout and celebration! Students will even be able to interview and film the dancers and musicians who are helping to keep the culture alive.
During this final section of the program students will travel to some of the most scenic areas in Bulgaria. By this time students will have had an opportunity to learn all about Bulgarian culture and history, interview and meet Bulgarians and Roma, document through video and pictures rural village life, and now in section three of the program students will see and learn about the importance of nature, the environment, and preserving their ancient past all as one.
On this day we head to the famed Thracian tombs located in the valley of the roses. The Thracians rose to power in the 10th Century BCE and lasted a millennium. Their famous Gold Horde now housed at the museum in Varna, along with the excavated tombs, showcase the wealth and power of this ancient empire. Students will have time to write and reflect upon a place and people that have been part of the land for the past 10,000 years. Moving through the Rose Valley we will also learn about and better understand the single most important plant and crop to the Bulgarian people…the rose. Bulgaria produces over 70 percent of the worlds rose oil. For a country roughly the size of New England with less people than New York City, that is quite an accomplishment. Afterwards, we will head back to the center for our last evening in Stolat.
After breakfast we head into the mountains and stop at the famous Shipka Pass; the site of the final battle between Bulgarian and Russian forces to overthrow the Ottoman Empire. In the late afternoon we will arrive in Plovdiv! This ancient city formerly known as Philipopolis was founded by King Philip, the father of Alexander the Great. Enjoy an incredible tour of this city before we head West towards the Rhodope Mountains. We will meet with the head of TRAKART; a museum that is redefining how historical objects can be utilized without removal from sites. Head up to the famed Roman Amphitheater and enjoy meandering through the cobblestone roads of this ancient city.
Today we start our morning with a visit to Rila Monastery! This site is the most visited place in Bulgaria. In the afternoon enjoy a true natural wonder as we head up 7000 feet into the mountains! Take a gondola to the ridge of the seven lakes and spend the afternoon hiking the glacial lakes. In the evening we head back to Sofia.
Wake today and cherish the memories you have made as we head back to the US.
Payment can be made in full or following the payment schedule below. Tuition for FlagSHIP programs is provided by the college, students will not be charged for tuition, however, you will receive 3 credits. More details including how payments can be made can be found here.
Includes $75 study abroad administrative fee added upon course registration
Due: June 1, 2022
Due: October 1, 2022
Due: March 1, 2023