Gastro tour “The great riches of the poor Northwest”

Daily Tour 2 days, 1 night
3460 Chiprovtsi, Bulgaria Tour Guide: Екатерина Терзиева

If you’ve ever heard the Torlaks dialect, you probably remember that you didn’t understand anything. And we did not understand anything on our first contact with this bizarre and authentic Bulgarian community, which inhabits about 30 mountain villages in Vidin and Montana from Salash and Stakevtsi through Chuprene to Chiprovtsi and Govezhda. The Torlaks are the people in white clothes, whose origins are still disputed by scientists. Some define them as heirs of the ancient Thracians, others see in them descendants of proto-Bulgarian warriors. The faith of Christ unites Orthodox and Catholics to build schools, churches, and monasteries here. They call these silent, closed, and strange people Torlaks.

And what is Torlaks cuisine? Poor and lean, but tasty and healthy with dishes such as pickles, potatoes, nettle, “kerkele”, “bel muzh” – all names of dishes. The most popular is “bel muzh”, which is made from sheep’s, cow’s, or goat’s unsalted cheese, which is fried, and flour is added to it.

The Northwestern region is one of the little known to tourists in gastronomic, wine, and cultural terms. It stretches between the Danube, Iskar, and Stara Planina. There are traces of human presence here from 1.4 million years ago. From prehistoric times are the famous wall paintings in the Magura cave. During the Roman Empire, the region experienced a real boom, and many new cities appeared along the Danube.

“Vrachanski Balkan” Nature Park in the Western Stara Planina is the second largest in Bulgaria. Belogradchik rocks are one of the wonders of the world – sculpted by wind and rain more than 200 million years ago. In the wonderful Northwest is the only fully preserved medieval castle in Bulgaria – the fortress “Baba Vida” in today’s Vidin.

The tradition of producing Chiprovtsi carpets is inscribed on the UNESCO list as part of the intangible cultural heritage. Chiprovtsi carpets are made from the wool of rams of the Replyanski sheep breed, so in the past well-developed carpet weaving flourished here.

Place of departure / arrival

Sofia and every regional city

Departure hours:  8.00 am from Sofia. Possible transfers from Plovdiv, Stara Zagora, and other cities by prior arrangement. For travelers from Sofia – a meeting in the parking lot of “Martinelli Auto” on “Lomsko Shosse”.

The price of the tour includes:

  • One breakfast

  • Two lunches

  • Tastings

  • Dinner

  • Overnight

  • Transport

The price of the tour does not include:

  • Entrance fees for the museums and sites visited

Opportunity to purchase

Opportunity to buy fresh and natural farm products (different types of cheese, milk, cheese, honey, wine, jam, jams, eggs), monastery wine and monastery brandy at producer prices.

What to expect?

The gastronomic tour “Guests and feast at the Torlak people” is an exciting meeting with the little known Torlak community, its language, cuisine and traditions, among the beautiful and untouched nature of Northwestern Bulgaria. We will visit Berkovitsa – the city about which the great poet and writer Ivan Vazov writes: “And what a wonderful nature here! What a beauty in this unknown paradise. On days off, I made happy horseback rides with a young group from Berkovitsa, with the doctor and the manager through the dense beech forests that cover the foothills and hips of Stara Planina, intoxicated by the noise of the crystal mountain streams, the breath of grass and flowers, his youth and from everything, from everything. During a trip to the majestic Kom, I saw the whole of Western Bulgaria and Eastern Serbia in the palm of my hand. Infinite breadth, vast expanses, air, skies. No, pleasant memories will never be erased.We will visit the Lopushanski and Chiprovtsi monasteries, the Historical Museum in Chiprovtsi, where centuries-old samples of the famous Chiprovtsi carpets are kept.

We will meet the people and stories behind:

  • Goat farm of a former television producer who produces Ricotta and Tuscan cheese; 
  • Strawberry and Blueberry farm; 
  • The beekeeping farm of the youngest beekeeper in the Montana region; 
  • Homemade pastry crust factory in Chiprovtsi, where they are called “obgi”; 
  • The hen and jam farms of two women, former workers, survived the explosions at a nearby military plant.


Day 1: From the eternal strawberry fields, to the honey, the Italian cheese and the secrets of the Lopushan Monastery

We visit a goat farm, owned by a former TV producer. He has replaced the brilliance of television with the coziness of a goat farm where he makes Italian types of cheese – “ricotta” and “kachotta”. We arrive in Berkovitsa, where we will walk near the house of the famous Bulgarian poet and writer Ivan Vazov. We will see the exhibits in the Ethnographic Museum and the ancient Clock Tower from the XVIII century. Lunch in Berkovitsa will be with dishes from the Torlaks cuisine.

There are three areas in the world-famous for strawberry production – the state of California in the United States, the Cesena region in Italy, and the municipality of Berkovitsa in Bulgaria, so in the afternoon we meet with producers of strawberries and blueberries in the Berkovitsa region. We will try the honey of a hereditary beekeeper who inherited the craft from his grandfather. We will visit Lopushan Monastery “St. John the Forerunner ”- a favorite place of Ivan Vazov, who created here a part of his novel “Under the Yoke”. That monastery is home to an icon of the Virgin Mary, believed to have wept for the first time in 1923, following the tragic events surrounding the September Uprising.

Day 2: Chiprovtsi carpets, the magic of forest jam, and herbal lamb

After breakfast, we go to the workshop for Chiprovtsi crusts. Pies are a traditional dish here. The most unusual among them is the pie with white grapes. We go to the Historical Museum in Chiprovtsi, where centuries-old samples of the famous Chiprovtsi carpets are kept. They are made from the wool of the Replyan sheep breed rams. In the past, Chiprovtsi carpets were known and appreciated not only in the country but also far abroad. We visit the Chiprovtsi Monastery “St. Ivan Rilski ”, founded by Bulgarian Catholics in the 10th century. During the period of its existence, it was destroyed and rebuilt six times. At noon we meet two women who survived the explosions at a nearby military factory – one setting up a farm for happy chickens and the other a workshop for homemade berry jam. We have lunch with farm food. In the afternoon we go to a sheep farm about “herbal” lambs.

Villages like a pastoral picture, nestled in the lush meadows between the rounded mountain hills, with fruit-heavy trees, fragrant strawberry fields, clean springs. Here there are vast pastures with cotton-white flocks of sheep, stones from the foundations of Roman cities, magnificent specimens of religious orthodox and catholic architecture. And it is just a part of the Northwest, which grabs the attention of the Bulgarian writer Ivan Vazov and inspires him to write some of his greatest masterpieces. The Bulgarian Northwest is like a pure, lost child who expects to be found, embraced, and loved.

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