Translated by: Gréta Kojsza
This entry came into life with real difficulties. The main reason is probably that we spent only a short time in this country. In the other hand, we didn’t have the chance to meet too many people either. Our acquaintances, who put us up were busy with working, so we didn’t have time to talk. Let’s see, how we felt in Bulgaria.
Entering to the country, compared to Serbia ґwe didn’t see any differences when it comes to clarity. Maybe a little bit cleaner, but I wouldn’t swear on it. You can find plenty of garbage by the road on both sides. We firstly thought that we’re going to have to deal with abandoned dogs, but the county developed in this aspect (I spent the autumn semester of 2005 in Sophia with Erasmus exchange program, so I had the base for comparison)
Some of roads are in terrible conditions. The highroad 8 between Sophia and Plovdiv is impassable, we struggled with it even though, we travelled by bikes. The motorway otherwise seemed ok, at least on that 40 kilometers way we took (but don’t tell it anyone).
The driving style of Bulgarians-which is hard to define-but let’s say, they prefer driving fast, confident and sporty to driving slowly and thoughtful. If we don’t want to be sophisticated, then we could say that they drive like brutes. The preferred situations for overtake took place in bends, at the double white line, on slopes upwards and overtaking the other who’s going right on in the band, turning to the left and so on. The best scenario ever is the one, when a on 2 banded road it was the 4 of us next to each other. So I was overtaken by a car, then that one was overtaken by a more determined one and there was another car as well, coming regularly from the opposite direction. The road was quite broad, but still…The cars represent the current social state of Bulgaria, the middle class is really small. 60% of the cars worth a lot, 30% counts as the cars in bad conditions, imported from the west and the other 10% for the average. We somehow suspect that the mentioned Bulgarian driving style has something to do with the high number of crashed luxurious cars by roads or in used-car dealerships (you can never know what pleases to the buyer). The usage of traffic circles is common, but people don’t understand what is good for exactly and how do they supposed to drive in and out of it.
Shopping, prices, dishes
Bulgaria is noticeably, around 30% cheaper than Hungary. You can anything in shops, there’s a huge variety of local and imported goods as well. Beers are delicious (alcohol is basically cheaper), they’re getting better in vines, cheeses are good and ayran can be bought everywhere (a very weak yogurt drink). You must try “bánica” (pastry, resembles to strudel with filling inside) with “szirene” (white cheese), apple, spinach. A huge slice costs 1 leva (around 150 Hungarian forints). “Bánica” shops can be found on each corner of the streets. One night we went to a restaurant. Bulgarian cuisine is amazing, dishes are very delicious and creative. They use a lot of vegetables, meats are well prepared, mainly on the grill. If you order salad, don’t be surprised if you get a huge stack of it. It’s not like in Hungary, that you get 5 slices of tomato floating in the dressing. They start at 300-400 grams, but you can find even 800 grams on the menu on a very reasonable price. Eating in an authentic restaurant in Sophia is obviously not the cheapest option, but you can see the waiters dancing roundelay with the guests, with the help of the official entertainment employees. We saw it once, which was more than enough.
We already told you, that we lack experiences with the locals (this time), but what else could we do, we have to evaluate like this. I have to tell you, that Bulgarians are not the most polite nation, they’re not attentive and no one should expect being premised in the door. In my view, exemption doesn’t strengthen the rule (I have no idea who invented that one exemption would strengthen a rule, but there’s no point in it), but you can find some of them. They don’t speak English, maybe only youngsters in bigger cities.
Cities, nature, architecture
Sophia is located in a beautiful place, right next to Vitosha-mountains. It has some very pretty buildings and places to visit, but altogether the city is not beautiful. Most of the smaller cities are really socialists, grey and depressing. The villages next to roads looked the same. Same houses without plaster-work on the walls, or only on some parts of the walls for example: only the balcony (probably the main reason is the lack of money). The balcony is usually situated on the floor or on the ground floor, the houses are cubical in most cases. Plovdiv is a wonderful city, I mean its Old Town. So don’t miss it if you’re in Bulgaria. We haven’t been to the sea-coast, but we know that great places are situated there as well and the lovers of mountains can find suitable destinations for their passions. Bulgarians love putting old, useless jet-fighters on the top of columns, god knows why…
Bulgaria is an exciting country, with plenty of surprises and novelties. Do not expect for long sightseeing tours, except Plovdiv and maybe Veliko Tyrnovo and Nessebar. There’s nothing special about sea-coast, the mountains are romantic, suitable for days or weeks long hikes. Those who are interested in monasteries won’t be disappointed either. Going on bike trips is not the best idea, due to the previously mentioned Bulgarian driving style, but don’t panic, the situation is not life-threatening yet.
If you’re in Bulgaria, do not miss:
- Rila Monastery
- Try Bulgarian cuisine
- The church of Sveta Nedelja and the cathedral of Alekszander Nevszkij in Sophia
- post-communist something on the top of the Buzludzha-mountain
The knowledge of Cyrillic alphabet is highly recommended, but there’s no need for anti-rabic injections (abandoned dogs) for a holiday at Golden Sands.