The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION EUROPE -

GO: In­trepid Travel has a se­ries of re­gional pack­ages, from eight to 32 days, that fea­ture stays in Bul­garia, in­clud­ing East­ern Europe Ex­press, from $1136 ex Bucharest, from $1136 a per­son twin-share (add air­fares). More: in­trepid­ DRIVE: At Sofia Air­port, you can rent a car from sev­eral agen­cies at coun­ters in the ar­rivals area. A car is the most con­ve­nient way to get around the coun­try but drive de­fen­sively since Bul­gar­ian driv­ers tend to over­take ag­gres­sively, some­times even on blind curves. STAY: Sur­rounded by vine­yards and lo­cated near an­cient Thra­cian tem­ples, Starosel is an amaz­ingly af­ford­able high-end re­sort with a win­ery, spa and swim­ming pool. Rooms are spa­cious and dec­o­rated in an ap­peal­ing rus­tic style. More: Shi­roka Laka Ho­tel has beau­ti­fully ap­pointed gue­strooms, some of which have a view of the Rhodope Moun­tains. The ho­tel also has a spa and an ex­cel­lent restau­rant. More: shi­ DINE: In gen­eral, en­trees will cost $15 or less; side dishes cost about $3. In His­arya, the Na­tional restau­rant has a lovely sum­mer gar­den and serves top-notch Bul­gar­ian clas­sic dishes in­clud­ing shop­ska salad and kyufteta. More: na­tion­ At Starosel win­ery, the restau­rant of­fers tasty tra­di­tional dishes and def­i­nitely have a shot of rakia, a fruit brandy ide­ally ac­com­pa­nied by a salad, or a bot­tle of Starosel wine. At Shi­roka Laka Ho­tel, have the fluffy katmi, which are sim­i­lar to pan­cakes, for break­fast and the lo­cal trout for din­ner. Note: All prices quoted are in $US.

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