Many people believe that Friday the 13th brings bad luck. We in Association 365 are convinced in the opposite.
On August 13, 2010, Friday the first Free Sofia Tour was led by Christian Mitov and consisted of only one guest. Following Christian’s dream/idea, five years later and with the efforts of more than 80 people, 365 Association grew from one project, one guide and one guest to an organization of seven active projects, 35 guides (both in Sofia and Plovdiv), over 100 000 visitors in Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna from over 150 countries.
How was all this possible?
The idea of free walking tours was born in 2005 in Berlin. This type of tours quickly gained popularity and spread throughout Europe, and later worldwide. The model is so successful because it targets the modern traveler – one who planned their trip using modern technologies. These are mainly young people who are traveling alone or in groups of two-three people, mostly on low budget who prefer alternative accommodation such as hostels, airbnb, couchsurfing. Their entire trip is planned via the internet. Until 2005, the market did not target those type of toursists. The model proved to be successful and today there are more than 100 free walking tours around the world.
The first such tour in Bulgaria was the Free Sofia Tour, led by Christian Mitov on August 13, 2010.
Shortly after, the project was joined by Vanya Nikova, Teddy Zareva and Boyko Blagoev. The four became convinced that in order to develop the project they must make it a legitimate organization. So on October 22, 2010 association “Free Sofia Tour” was registered, later in 2012 was renamed to Association “Three Six Five”. The foundation was set and the founders were filled with desire and enthusiasm. Step by step through the winter and spring of 2011, the team expanded, Free Sofia Tour gained popularity, numerous media interviews and appearances were performed, and the number of guests skyrocketed.
On August 6, 2011 the Association launched its social program
On every sixth day of each month, the donations left by visitors of the tours are put into a special fund. The fund and social program aim to help children deprived of parental care, part of minorities or unprivileged social status. The aim of the Social Program is for the children to directly benefit from our efforts and actions. Currently the program works with children from the home for “Children Deprived of Parental Care” in the village of Doganovo, as well as children from “Dreams Without Borders”
Following the successful year in 2011 our team reached the conclusion that the tourists in other Bulgarian cities have to be allowed to explore Bulgaria through free walking tours. That is why we selected Varna and Plovdiv.
The Free Varna Tour started on April 13, 2012 and was followed by Free Plovdiv Tour on the 13th of July the same year. Both tours continued the tradition of Free Sofia Tour to start on Friday the 13th.
Varna was a logical choice to be the second city where to conduct free walking tours.
Being the sea capital it attracts large number of tourist our idea was to show them that our Black Sea’s seaside is not only for fun and sunbathing, that is why we aimed to present the cultural heritage of Bulgaria as well.
The city was also selected for another reason. Both Vania Nikolova and Denitsa Todorova from the team of Free Sofia Tour were born precisely there. With much effort and with the help of relatives, friends and classmates, they managed to run tours in Varna. Free Varna Tour was an active project for three seasons during 2012, 2013 and 2014. For these three years we managed to show the sea capital to more than 4500 people, to become the number one attraction in TripAdvisor for Varna and have the pleasure to work with more than 20 guides.
The third Bulgarian town with a free walking tour organized by the 365 Association was Plovdiv – the second largest city in Bulgaria, which attracts many tourists all year round. Over the years, Free Plovdiv Tour managed to become a successful project and thanks to the efforts of many people it organizes tours everyday (twice a day from May to September). The popularity of the city as a cultural destination contributed to the development of the project, especially after the declaration of the city as European Capital of Culture for 2019. As of September 2015, Free Plovdiv Tour has welcomed and introduced more than 10 000 people to the millenniums history of the city and was ranked first place In TripAdvisor. Thus far more than 30 people have been a part of the project.
365 Association started it’s activity with free walking tours, but over the years included and developed many different initiatives. Some of the most popular are:
- The exhibition “Sofia before the blue zone parking”, accomplished in cooperation with the Sofia Municipality, the websites Old Sofia and Lost Bulgaria, Association for Development of Sofia and Sofia Insider’s Guide.
- The exhibition “Guests of Sofia” part of European Mobility Week 2012, which was carried out with the support of the Sofia Municipality, Association for Development of Sofia and Olympus Bulgaria
- Tours for refugees, conducted over the years in Bulgarian, English, French and Arabic. The initiative was carried out together with the Association “Multi cultured team” and in cooperation with the State Agency for Refugees (SAR).
- Vanishing Sofia tours (Sofia), The Trap and Tobacco city (Plovdiv), were held in September and October of 2014, as part of the 2014 One Architecture Week.
- Themed tours of the European Union, the history, the present and the role of Bulgaria and Bulgarians held in the month of May 2015
- Children’s tours specially designed for students between the age 7 and 12.