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Destinations

Hidden luxury in Bulgaria

March 2012

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Its tourist attractions may be a tad old-school, but high in the mountains Bulgaria's five-star rural retreats are a revelation. Tim Lott travels east and finds unbeatable luxury and some very quirky customs
The waterfall at the exit to Devil's Throat Cave, Rhodope Mountains
David Crookes for High Life magazine

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I'm intrigued to see this groundbreaking new villa, but I decide to go on a brief tour of the country's capital, Sofia

You may be under the misapprehension that the words 'Bulgaria' and 'luxury' go together like 'cheese' and 'platypus' (ie they don't). But the recently opened Villa Gella, lodged high in the thrilling landscape of the Rhodope Mountains, will make you think again, thanks to its contemporary design, spa and the option of helicopter trips to the seaside.

I'm intrigued to see this groundbreaking new villa, but before I do, I decide to go on a brief tour of the country's capital, Sofia. My sole reference is a Bulgarian I'd met in London the week before. He told me the place I should see above all was the National Palace of Culture (NDK). My stroll there is enjoyable, though the city is oddly deserted, and I make my way through the City Garden, stopping to watch two children dance to a jazz band, the singer crooning plaintively through the gusty afternoon.

The NDK is a massive building on the northern fringes of a large park to the south of the city. All the signs are in Cyrillic lettering, except one, which reads 'art gallery'. I duly follow this to my destination, where I discover peculiar carpets hung on the wall are the sole contents of the gallery and, today, I am the only visitor. The wind whistling through the doors makes a sound like a banshee. I head back to the hotel feeling faintly melancholic.

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Posted by Tim Lott

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