“After years of putting together group trips for friends and family, I decided to let someone else do the work this time. And what great work was done!!! Iva’s planning made this trip easy, enjoyable and educational.

Bulgaria is a place we wanted to visit for its fascinating history and scenic beauty.  We were hesitant to tackle the country on our own due to the language difficulty (specifically, the Cyrillic alphabet). We found that by having a Bulgarian-American host, we could learn about the country from two perspectives; a local’s viewpoint as well as an emigrant’s.  Iva engaged special guides to provide expertise on history and architecture in several cities. She even arranged a special day trip to Bucharest for those of us that wanted a peek into Romania.

The rowing element appealed to us as it ensured we would be traveling with other active people, we’d have something in common with fellow travelers and we would see some places outside the normal tourist spots. We were right on all counts. We are relatively new to this sport as our combined experience is less than 3 years. However, we found we were among the more experienced rowers in the group as many people were drawn to this tour based on their erg experience with Iva’s studio and had little or no time on the water.  By using her rowing connections in Bulgaria, Iva was able to make it a great rowing experience for all levels. We met and rowed with young Bulgarian rowers who were seemingly as curious about us as we were about them.  The interaction with the locals made the trip so much more meaningful. Iva coached the new rowers and the local rowers went out with the rest of us. They even spoiled us with “boat valet” services. I hauled down a few oars, but that was it! Quite a luxury in the rowing world. The rowing locations varied in size and amenities and each provided a unique experience.

As to touring essentials; Hotels were thoughtfully chosen for prime locations as well as quality and availability of amenities; Food was plentiful and delicious; Transportation was comfortable with competent and courteous drivers. I definitely couldn’t have planned this wonderful trip on my own!

Memorable Moments:
– Early morning tour and free time in ancient city of Nesseber, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The light was spectacular and we were there before the crowds.
– Discovering Bulgarian massages and spa treatments- what a treat!
– Seeing the country with a local host who included us in her daily rowing routine. This included a mile and a half walk, a subway ride and a local bus ride (each way).
– Riding through miles and miles of sunflowers in bloom.
– Climbing the hills of Plovdiv and finding each hill had something special at the top.
– General merriment of the group. When you can have fun at gas stations, you know you are with the right people.
– Above all, the Bulgarian people were so welcoming and charming. It was a delight to spend time with Iva’s family, friends and acquaintances.”

– Shari Ross, LBRA rower

 

“Iva’s rowing tours offer a unique opportunity to experience the full spectrum of rowing, from rowing individually or as part of a crew, sweep or scull, across a large swath of Europe. Suitable for all ages and all levels of experience, they provide an opportunity for beginners to learn to row, and for experienced rowers to consolidate their technical skills. Moreover, the tours are, first and foremost, great fun. I attended the Bulgarian rowing tour in 2015 and we were supported and coached by many enthusiastic young Bulgarian rowers, several of whom are Olympic hopefuls. Their passion was evident not only in the boats, but also as we got to know them, chatting and drinking excellent cold Bulgarian beer together. When not rowing there are visits to cultural centres, and the outstanding hotels and restaurants provide an opportunity to indulge in great wine and fabulous cuisine, well-deserved after a good day of rowing. A tour represents the trip of a lifetime, and participants return not only a little more cultured and knowledgeable about rowing, but healthier in both mind and body also.”

Jonathan Easton

 

Bulgaria with iTours in 2014.  A trip through time to five cities where we explored their colorful culture through the eyes of one of their own, Iva Boteva, who planned the trip with great attention to detail clearly fueled by her passion for sharing her homeland.  My mother and I joined the tour group filled with a vast array of very interesting people of varied backgrounds and ages…and we plain and simple all had a blast together.

A rower I am not.  I took a handful of lessons before we left with Iva and her talented (and very patient) instructors in Mike McKay and Liz Wilson.  Like iRow’s other trainers, Mike and Liz have top national level racing experience yet they had the ability to make rowing fun and simple for me.  The trip balances rowing, sightseeing, experiences, and FOOD.  Rowing on the lakes is beautiful and rowing on the national venue of Plodiv was really impressive.  We even were treated to row wooden boats used to race in the Olympics from the 1960’s and meet their national team’s coach, Tsoniu Grigorov, and were joined by Iva’s former team members as well as current local and national team rowers who were just delightful.

Food.  Yummy yummy yummy.  Locally grown fruits, vegetables, and beef, chicken, and lamb in traditional Bulgarian dinning setting was delicious.  On a number of occasions dinner was followed traditional Bulgarian music and dancing so let’s talk about something to wash down the food…beer and wine!  If you’ve ever spent time in Europe, their beer is at another level from the US beers…so I was hopeful for the same experience and the Bulgarian brands of Zagora, Kamenitza, Astika, and Ledenika fully delivered.  I was also excited to learn that Bulgaria is also known for their wines and their vineyard tours, which thrilled everyone…including my mother who stole my suitcase to bring back a case to share with her “book club”.  Might have to join one of those myself…

Memories.  Looking back, the 2014 Bulgarian tour makes me smile and I still keep in touch with fellow adventurers.  Iva put together a very unique and intimate experience that joins the top ranks of my many global adventures.

Ethan Bloomfield – Bulgaria 2014

 

“As a participant, I want to congratulate and thank IRow/Iva for the excellent 2016 Slovenia/Croatia Row Tour. You picked four extraordinary row clubs and towns, great hotels, restaurants on occasion we jointly dined, and informative history and site guides. Beginning at row world class Lake Bled, you well chose the Istrian peninsula Rovinj and historic towns of Zadar, and Split, ending with a couple of days at the amazing Dubrovnik. Everything went smoothly and we were well accommodated by the row club leaders because you did such a great job of planning. I look very much look  forward to your future row tours.”

Barry Fisher, VP, Los Angeles Rowing Club.

 

“I had the most amazing time on the Slovenia-Croatia tour this fall! The countries and culture were incredible, but the rowing aspect of the trip really opened me up to the people and the natural beauty of each stop. I was nervous about being in a boat again after so much time away, and especiallya scull, but the coaches and other rowers were very supportive and it felt so good to be back on the water. And rowing at these local clubs was an amazing way to interact with locals and local rowing culture, in a way I never would on my own. And I appreciate that we didn’t have to have TOO early of a start 🙂

The typical day had a row, delicious breakfast, free time to shower/rest/shop/explore and then usually a tour of the cities most interesting points by a local expert, which usually ended at some fabulous seaside restaurant for an amazing meal of the area specialties. And wine! I had no idea Croatia was a wine country! The accommodations were excellent; especially the hotel Argentina in Dubrovnik, which was flawless. I dream of it every night.
It was a very easy and excellent trip; I thought it would be a once in a lifetime, but now I have my eye on next year’s trips!”

Annelisa Gross