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An Interview with Simeon, Your Private Guide to Historical Gems

Explore Bulgaria’s rich history and breathtaking landscapes with Simeon, a passionate private guide dedicated to unveiling the country’s hidden treasures. In this insightful interview, Simeon shares his expertise, offering a glimpse into the historical landmarks, vibrant culture, and unique experiences awaiting travelers in Bulgaria and the Balkans.

Tell us about your background and experience as a private guide in Bulgaria and the Balkans.

I started as a museum guide at one of the Bulgarian UNESCO sites in my home town Kazanlak. After that I’ve become a local private guide of the whole central Bulgaria. At the same time I graduated in History from Veliko Tarnovo university. All this time I’ve got different tours in the country. Somewhere in the middle I got my passion for cocktails and became a bartender for some time and that gave me tons of knowledge about the food and drinks, good places and red flags for bars and restaurants around the country. Then I became part of Private Guide Bulgaria’s team and started to explore more and more landmarks around Bulgaria and the whole Balkans.

What inspired you to become a tour guide, particularly in this region?

Nothing particularly inspired me to become a tour guide, it was just a lucky coincidence. This job chose me, and I fell in love on the very first day. I started to master it, and this became part of my life. I love to travel and to meet new people, and looking back in my student years, I always found myself helping foreigners in my hometown, and being something as a tour guide for them.

Which destinations and landmarks do you specialize in within Bulgaria and the Balkans?

I specialize in Central Bulgaria – Veliko Tarnovo, Gabrovo, Plovdiv, but mostly in the “Valley of roses and Thracian Kings” (Region of Kazanlak). I was part of Project Bulzludza as a volunteer, so I’m very familiar with this famous UFO monument and the whole story behind it. But day after day I started to feel the same passion for the whole country and the Balkan region. Since the beginning of this season, I started to explore the Balkans and lead tours in the neighboring counties Serbia, North Macedonia, and Albania.

Which type of food do you always recommend to your tourists?

The theme of local food is really difficult to explain in Bulgaria, because there is huge influence from all the neighboring countries (start speaking as a historian and laughing). I’m trying to find the taste of my tourists and to go to the best place for them. I don’t make compromises for the places and I know lots of great restaurants across the country.

Share some interesting anecdotes or experiences you’ve had while guiding tourists in this region?

Ok, this one is for my home town because it’s famous as “the city of guns and roses”.
– Grandpa, why are you watering rose bushes with machine oil?
– Mind your business little one, and don’t bring fire near the tomatoes.
Or “Years passing one by one and I’ve lost so many people on my way. Maybe I shouldn’t become a tour guide.

What are some lesser-known gems or hidden treasures in Bulgaria and the Balkans that you often include in your tours?

It’s a hard question because I think Bulgaria is a hidden gem by itself. All the authentic and beautiful back streets in the cities of Bulgaria. Very often I tell stories about abandoned buildings that were important at some point in History. All the mountain monasteries, the Thracian temples and tombs, and some beautiful views on our way. Always stop for the views!

Which experience can you call “authentic Balkan/ Bulgarian” and recommend to all foreigners?

I can recommend the Rose festival in Kazanlak and joining the rose picking, the renaissance villages of Koprivshtitsa, Arbanasi, Tryavna. The open air renaissance Museum Etara, and Melnik, very interesting wine towns with great history. The light show in the medieval capital of Bulgaria, Tsarevets in Veliko Tarnovo, is also a great experience.

What do you love about the Balkans?

Balkans being “Balkans”. True, authentic, and unique place on a very important crossroad in Europe. This place holds peace of so many ages and cultures and still looks unreal. I love all the locals who give you advice on how to do your job and where you should take the tourists. And giving you presents as homemade rakia or jam (or both). And mostly that we have everything in the Balkans, mountains, seas, rivers, valleys, and king castles but in a very balanced way.

Which part of Bulgaria is the most exciting for you no matter how many times you visit it?

Every part of Bulgaria is most exciting for me because I have personal memories of most of the places and great moments with tourists as well. I recommend to see as much as you can here.