Looking at Post-Communist Eastern Bloc Countries and the left-over Russian Influence in today’s societies and how democracy has changed the Balkan Region.
May 5 – 15, 2022
Any Major U.S.A. International Airport (flights not included)
Flagler College Students
Overnight flight to Sofia, Bulgaria
Welcome to Sofia, Bulgaria’s 7000-year-old capital and begin your adventure with a stroll down Vitosha Boulevard. We will have a fully guided communist tour of the city and meet with Bulgarian officials who will discuss what it was like to live in Communist Bulgaria and how things have changed over the past 30 plus years. In the evening we will attend a traditional welcome dinner and meet with Balkan Heritage Foundation and discuss how the Bulgarian Culture has been preserved over time.
After Breakfast we take walk down the “Yellow Brick Road” as you pass through the historic section of Sofia and view sites from the time of Constantine the Great to post-communism and through to the modern day. Walk on a Roman road in the Ancient Complex of Serdica, see iconography of the Eastern Orthodox church at Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, and shop for unique souvenirs at the antique flea market. Break for lunch with the Bulgarian Vice Minister of Government and learn more about the rich history and culture of Bulgaria. In the late afternoon head to the Stone & Compass Center. After checking in we will be treated to a full Bulgarian dance and music concert.
Today students get a firsthand look at Bulgarian village life. We visit three villages and have discussions with elders who lived through the Communist era. Students will gain firsthand understanding of what life was like and how things have changed. We will also take a tour of Veliko Tarnovo the historical capital of Bulgaria. Climb the steps of the medieval fortress of Tsarevets for panoramic views of this city and the river that winds around it. Learn about local history on a private tour with the director of the Regional Museum of History – Veliko Tarnovo. Shop for gifts and souvenirs or enjoy a gelato in this city where old meets new. Overlooking Veliko Tarnovo, Arbanasi is a quaint village that rose to prominence as a trading center in the 17th century. Visit the 15th century Church of the Nativity of Christ where an experienced guide will explain the unique and unusual murals and icons not typically seen in other churches. Dine overlooking the river and the city aglow with light.
In the early morning we head to Bucharest! This capital city has a deep history with Russia and Russian influence in architecture, art, and style is still very much on display. We will tour the entire city and take a deep dive into what it means to be both a Western leaning nation with ties to the EU and NATO and an Eastern leaning country with many historically connected cultural ties to Russia. We will also visit the holocaust museum and learn about what Romania went through during World War Two and the rise of the communist regime post-war. In the evening we attend a Romanian Theater performance.
After breakfast we head to this ancient land steeped in legend and lore. We will visit the famed Bran Castle and look at folk traditions and cultural norms for both the Romanian and Roma (Gypsy) people who call this region home. We will also look at how modern adaptations of Transylvanian folk lore have carved out a unique perspective (Vampires, Werewolves, and more) In the evening we visit a traditional village restaurant and enjoy “being local”.
Today we head out into the environment. One thing that bonds the culture together is love of nature and the natural elements found in Romania. We will take a hike in the national park area outside of Bucharest and also spend time at the Danube River discussing the importance of the river for commerce and border control. We will look at how Russia utilized the Danube and the factory output that has now become much less utilized with democracy.
Travel to Serbia stopping at historic sites along the way.
Today we head to Belgrade! This incredible city will be a cornerstone for students looking at how the wars of the 20th century were shaped through Serbian influence and how this influence helped usher in a communist dominance post WWII. We will visit Belgrade castle and the outdoor War Museum and also get a personal tour of the entire city by a local guide Bojan Catic who will give a lecture to students on how Serbia has changed since the fall of the Eastern Bloc. In the evening we get to do something truly wonderful as we are all invited to Bojan’s family home for a traditional Serbian dinner with locals from the village he lives in! This cultural opportunity will be a highlight of this trip.
After breakfast we head out to view the agricultural industry and visit local farms as students get a deeper understanding of the important role farming plays in Serbia today and how Russia during communism thought of Serbia as the breadbasket of the Communist Empire. In the evening we head back to Belgrade for a wonderful farewell dinner.
After a final look around and hearty breakfast we head back to the USA.