Observations on Bulgaria

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I made some observations on Romania, and as we only left Bulgaria yesterday, it seems only fair, and the right time, to make some comments from our limited time in this country.

Bulgaria is more orderly than Romania, has better roads and urban infrastructure, and a lot less people (7m compared to Romania’s 20+m). Its recent history is quite different of course.

The communist era ended about 20 years ago. We have seen a few cities that have modernised centres that we assume date from this time, with large paved squares, statues, civic buildings and pedestrianised main streets.

The Cyrillic script is a real barrier for visitors. Fortunately most road signs are in Arabic script as well, but signs and other information of interest to visitors is often presented only in Cyrillic. We became familiar with words like hotel (xoten) and restaurant (Ресторант), but there were a few occasions on which we were without any help. Bulgaria celebrates the adoption of the Cyrillic alphabet with an annual public holiday.

It was usually possible to communicate with our half dozen or so words of Bulgarian combined with English. A couple of times we had problems communicating basic things to young people who we thought may have learnt some English at school – eg two beers please, do you have a room? This was both funny and ridiculous, as in each situation there was little else on offer and we thought that what we wanted was obvious.

The Roma community has been more visible to us in Bulgaria than in Romania. We assume that the drivers of the many horse-drawn carts are mostly Roma.

Apart from Kotel, we have been in  untourist regions that are not mentioned in Lonely Planet. And the LP info on Kotel was pretty scant. Once we left Yambul we were in a sparsely populated area where villages were few and had little commerce. Beyond Sredets, to the south, most villages we saw were largely abandoned. Of course the Black Sea coast is where most tourists go. We heard from Kiril that this area was greatly affected by the GFC and he lost his job in a resort there when that occurred.

The Bulgarian people largely left us alone, but always helped when asked and returned our greetings when we waved or said hello. Food, drink and accommodation was good. Beer is very cheap. Best thing was having shopska salad (tomato, cucumber, roasted capsicum and grated white cheese) each night with dinner. It’s delicious, healthy, easy to make and I am going to introduce it to the Royston Park area.

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