Less accessible than most of the rest of Central and Eastern Europe, Bulgaria is most easily reached, if not by air, then by crossing the southern border of Romania or by travelling north-west from Edirne or Istanbul in Turkey.
Remote from western Europe, though it is - and beyond the frontiers of the newly expanded European Union - the borders of Bulgaria conceal a formidable landscape of forested mountains and river valleys: a showcase of natural beauty.
The socialist-era metropolis of Sofia is somewhat dominated by brutalist concrete architecture and leaves something to be desired.
But the old town of Plovdiv, Bulgaria's second city, is more bohemian and friendly. And in the Pirin national park, north of the border with Greece, remarkably old settlements and orthodox christian monasteries still extend a hospitable welcome to travellers.