If you’re looking for an off the beaten path attraction in Bulgaria, I recommend visiting the Cars of Socialism Museum in Peshtera. It’s a unique experience, a chance to step into a not-so-distant past that left its mark all over Eastern Europe.
Where is Peshtera Bulgaria and How to get there?
Peshtera is a town in southern Bulgaria, close enough to Plovdiv and also from Sofia for a day trip. The town is in the Rodopi Mountains, so you can make the most of your trip and explore some of these beautiful mountains too.
The most convenient way to reach Peshtera is to rent a car either in Sofia or in Plovdiv and design a full-day itinerary. It takes less than one hour to reach Peshtera from Plovdiv. From Sofia, the driving time is about 1,5 hours.
There is also a direct train from Plovdiv to Peshtera, and the ride takes about one hour. However, there are only a couple of trains every day and the hours are not very convenient.
Even if there are plenty of things to do in Plovdiv, a day trip is always a good idea. This is definitely not something you see every day and I also have a few other recommendations for this particular trip.
The Cars of Socialism Museum in Peshtera Bulgaria
The unusual museum is very easy to find in the center of Peshtera. Just look for Heat Hotel on the main street, the museum is inside. The Cars of Socialism Museum was opened in 2016 in the old movie theater in Peshtera.
As soon as you enter the museum hall, the colorful cars dating from the Soviet era will catch your eye. You’ll be standing above the ground level with a full view of the room. At the other end of the hall, a giant poster makes the cars on display look like they’re driving on a street in Sofia.
But as you start descending the stairs, other things will catch your eye as well. Aside from the retro cars, you will discover objects people had in their houses in the socialist period, namely from 1945 to 1989. Anything from TVs, cigarettes, toys, phones (remember those?!).
For young visitors, it’s a great opportunity to learn about the day to day life during those times. Some of the Bulgarian elders even visit this museum with a sense of nostalgia.
Wherever you are coming from, the Cars of Socialism Museum is well worth a visit, for a glimpse into the past. You will probably spend around 30 minutes inside, it’s not a large museum.
The Cars of Socialism Museum in Peshtera is open every day from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM. A full ticket costs 6 BGN (roughly 3€).
Other Things to See in Peshtera
Outside the museum, Peshtera is a quiet town. There’s an ethnographic museum in a traditional house, an old clock tower still working, and a pedestrian street with shops and a few cafes.
However, if you explore further you will find more hidden treasures of the Rodopi Mountains. Snezhanka Cave is one of them. It’s about 5 km away from Peshtera and some signs are pointing the direction to the cave. The road is pretty bad, but you can leave the car farther from the cave and walk the rest of the way. It’s an uphill and somewhat difficult walk through the forest. At the end of it, you will be rewarded with some great views once you reach the entrance to the cave.
Snezhanka (Snow White) Cave is not very large, it was three accessible rooms and it is almost 150 meters long. You will see some beautiful formations, stalactites, and stalagmites. It takes about 45 minutes to see everything.
The cave can be visited every day from 10:15 AM to 5:15 PM. The 5 BGN (about 2.5€) entrance ticket includes a guided tour that starts every 15 minutes or so. However, the tour is only in Bulgarian, so you won’t find out too many things, probably.
One more thing, inside the cave the temperature is around 8 degrees Celsius at any time. Bring a sweater or something, even if you visit in the middle of summer.
If you want to explore even more, about 25 km down the same road, you will reach Batak Reservoir. The lake is quite popular with Bulgarian looking for camping sites. You can drive along the lake and find a place you like for a break. There are a couple of areas where you can eat or try some water activities.
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