King Albert II and Queen Paola tour the Rila monastery, during a private visit to Bulgaria over the New Year
Photo: © AFP
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Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg, a relative of the royal couple, chats with the king, who was his guest during the three-day stay
Photo: © AFP

A BULGARIAN NEW YEAR FOR BELGIAN ROYALS

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The largest ski resort in Bulgaria had some royal visitors over the New Year, as the king and queen of Belgium spent a three-day private visit with Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg.

King Albert II and Queen Paola were guests of the premier – who is the country's former monarch and a relative of the couple – and his wife, Margarita Gomez-Acebo y Cejuela. The foursome spent the special occasion at a former royal residence in the Borovetz ski resort, which is located in the Rila mountains.

While staying at the winter sports hotspot, the royal pair also had time to take in some of the historical landmarks in the region, including the medieval Rila monastery. The monastery, located about 120 kilometres south of Sofia, is also the location where the prime minister's father, the late King Boris III, is buried.

The 10th-century building, which was rebuilt between 1834 and 1862 after being destroyed by fire, is a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned as a symbol of the 19th-century Bulgarian Renaissance.

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