This post is written by our colleague Tihomir, part of the Melon Inc. sales team, an easy-going fella and a hiking enthusiast.
“Explore Bulgaria to love it!” – Aleko Konstantinov
They say travelling makes you feel alive and I (i.e. the guy in the funky blue shorts) could not agree more. I have always loved travelling: by foot, bus, or plane – it does not really matter as long as I am headed to a new destination.
I am a bit ashamed of this, but even though I am a Bulgarian, I often do not consider our beautiful countryside when I think of my next adventure. I usually dream of visiting foreign locations – from the exotic ones, such as Africa, and even the Antarctic (exotic for Eastern Europeans, that is) to the world’s biggest metropolises: the Big Apple, Hong Kong, Istanbul.
A couple of years ago, however, my travel philosophy went through a drastic change after one friend introduced me to a tiny booklet called “100 National Touristic Sites in Bulgaria.” In this booklet you can collect stamps from every listed historical or geographical location you visit. When you reach a certain number of stamps, you receive a bronze, silver or golden badge from the Bulgarian Tourist Society – a moral recognition of your touristic prowess.
So I started collecting stamps, while discovering some of the most beautiful places in my country. All was great until I lost three copies of my booklet, and every time I had to start collecting the stamps from scratch.
Sometime after the third time I lost my booklet, I installed the 100 NTO (national touristic objects) app for Windows Phone (did I mention that I am a Microsoft fan?) because I was asked by my colleagues to test the app before its official launch. So I did. And I started walking around, collecting real and electronic stamps. Step by step (quite literally, too) I stopped being an app tester and became instead an active app user as I started enjoying it.
The good thing about having such an app is that apart from the handy list of many, many touristic sites, I can see each location in much more detail, such as GPS coordinates, working hours, history and interesting information, images and so on – so much more, than the paper booklet. To me, the even cooler part is that thanks to the integrated GPS locator on my phone, I can find the distance to any site or what close-by museums I can visit, displayed on a map. Another feature I really like, is that all data is stored locally, so you can access all the info without using your data connection – in fact, you do not need any network coverage at all. Just perfect for the wilderness (for example, mountain tops and huts), where telecoms offer scanty service. 100 NTO is not a navigation app, of course, so there are no directions within, but there is another app for that. Oh, I almost missed one more feature I really love, “Add to favorites,” letting me create a “Wish list” of locations I’d like to visit so I can plan my trip ahead. Nice, eh?
The only downside is that you have to be close enough to the site in order to mark it as visited. So, I guess I will have to climb Bulgaria’s highest peak, Musala, once again because I forgot to stamp it in the app…:)
Meanwhile, the week is almost over, so I have added to my favorites a few new sites to visit and I am off for the weekend. Want to have a stamp from the second highest peak in Bulgaria? Then grab your hiking shoes and meet me at 41.75670, 23.41638!