We took an AMAwaterways Danube River cruise from Budapest to Bucharest with an extension to Istanbul at the end of the cruise. We went by bus (coach) from the Danube to Istanbul with an overnight stop in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
Our first stop after departing the AMAwaterways ship was at Veliko Tarnovo, an ancient post-Roman Empire capital of Bulgaria. Veliko Tarnovo is more or less west of Bucharest across the Danube River Plain on the edge of the Bulgarian Alps. Our bus followed a river valley into the mountains, and then made a precipitous climb up the side of the valley to Veliko Tarnovo which is impressively perched on a high but relatively flat plateau at the top of the cliff.
After lunch at a hotel near the center of the old town and some free time to explore and shop, we headed across the Bulgarian Alps with a scenic but cold (it was November) stop at the top of the pass for another snack (we counted one day on the river. AMA provided 7 meals and snacks, not mandatory).
Dropping out of the Bulgarian Alps on the scenic mountain road, we crossed the Valley of Roses. Wikipedia says, “Rose water is a flavoured water made by steeping rose petals in water. Additionally, it is the hydrosol portion of the distillate of rose petals, a by-product of the production of rose oil for use in perfume. It is used to flavor food, as a component in some cosmetic and medical preparations, and for religious purposes throughout Asia and Europe.” and apprantely Bulgaria''s Rove Valley is the top produce of the roses used for this stuff”. Then we came to the border separating Bulgaria from Turkey, and a big delay because we were leaving the Shengen Zone so passport control going from Bulgaria to Turkey wasted two hours in the middle of nowhere on a concrete island surrounded by the expressway.
Enjoy a private day trip to 2 UNESCO sites- the Rila Monastery and the Boyana Church.