Long Russian New Year holidays is a good time to put photographs in order. I was in Bulgaria from 22 to 30 June. My former Washington housemate invited me to spend there several days together, she was born in Bulgaria, she has relatives and friends there and comes to see them each year. Her friends took us almost all over the country in five days—from Sofia to Varna through Veliko Tarnovo, Silistra and Kaliakra. Then already the two of us came back from Varna to Tarnovo by bus, and I went to Sofia to my plane back home.
The country is very nice, although one can see it’s not too rich. As to the economy, the locals complain of almost the same problems as in Russia: the heavy industry doesn’t work, it’s difficult to find a job outside Sofia, salaries at academic institutions are the same microscopic as in Moscow (literary the same: €300 a month is all right). The main difference that can be seen immediately are fields in cultivation. After abandoned Moscow area it makes an impression. They say, however, that most of the fields belong to big agricultural holdings, there are not so many small farmers.
As to living conditions, it was a surprise for me that there are no baths in bathrooms, both in hotels and in houses: all four bathrooms I could see had only shower, and the floor of the shower was not even separated from the rest of the bathroom’s floor. Seemingly they have no tradition of taking a bath. One more interesting thing are small room woodfuelled stoves, usually metallic; we don’t use anything like that in Russia.
The sights are numerous, Bulgaria even officially is older for centuries than Russia, and has a rich antique legacy. We saw a lot in a week, but one can come here for a month if desired. I rented a room at a three-star hotel in Sofia for 60 Bulgarian leva a night (lev has a fixed exchange rate, just under two leva for one euro). For the same price we rented an apartment in Varna with two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen and a balcony for four adults and a child. I can imagine a dinner for 15 leva, but I could never ‘eat’ more than 10 leva myself ;-) Intercity buses are rather cheap as well.
The language is more different from Russian than, for example, Ukrainian (there is a difference in grammar, not only in vocabulary), but written text is mostly quite understandable. As to oral speech, I could understand it only in TV news ;-) Bulgarians seem to understand Russian better than we understand Bulgarian, I don’t know why. In older generations, one can meet people who have learned Russian (this is one of those few parts of the Soviet legacy that’s really a pity to lose), but to younger people, you’ll have to talk in English.
Now the photographs. The first two days I spent in Sofia. The historical centre remained mostly uncorrupted, but there are modern buildings nevertheless, in place of those destroyed during the war. Local volunteers, by the way, organize walking excursions in the centre of the city in the evenings. They are free of charge and quite informative, the only problem is that it’s not convenient to take photographs in such a regime. So I have only a few pictures from Sofia:
On the third day we went by car from Sofia to Veliko Tarnovo. The road goes through Balkan Mountains:
The central part of modern Veliko Tarnovo is also on a hill, and its streets are really beautiful:
From Tarnovo we went to Silistra:
On our way from Silistra to Varna we passed a factory that recycles plastic bottles, near which there were several sculptures along the road, made of those very bottles. I managed to take a picture of one of them:
It was sad to go away. I certainly want to visit this country once more :-)