by Miška [feat. Łukasz]
I love traveling, getting to know other cultures and meeting people from different places and realities. So far I have visited 28 countries, vast majority of which in Europe. And I need to admit that I like almost all of them. There is always something I enjoy: people, food, culture, food, sightseeing, food, sea etc. What is also helpful is the person with whom I am traveling.
I am that kind of a creature who usually complains about stuff; even when I am quite happy and satisfied I can always find something annoying [f.e. me]. During traveling, though, it is a different story. I am quite easy-going. I don't need much to be happy. I like to have long walks and get lost in the cities in order to find hidden spots without tourists. I like to try local food without spending money in fancy restaurants (or in souvenir shops). I can be happy about small things, f.e. sitting on a beach or on the top of a hill (even such a lazy sloth as me climbs them from time to time) and I am able to sit for a long time just enjoying the view.
Most of all, it might be a close second with food, I enjoy observing people around me. How they look and behave in a given place. They are the factor which creates the whole impression; they are able to make my day with a returned smile or a little advice offered to me, a stranger in their home.
The reason why I am writing all the above is the fact that I have never expected appearing in a country where I would have a problem to find positive things. If you would tell me this before my Bulgarian experience, I wouldn't believe you…
Bulgaria and me
I have visited the country twice so far, and been to many places in it (Sofia, Varna, Plovdiv, Veliko Tarnovo, Balchik, Sunny Beach, Nesebar). Once with mom for “traditional” holidays at the Black Sea, and once with my boyfriend [that's me!] for a European, volunteering project. The latter has finished 2 months ago, and only now, from the perspective of time, I can be sure about my feelings born during it.
Bulgaria is a favorite summer destination for a lot of Czech, and not only, tourists. Crowds are coming there each year especially because of reasonable prices, sunny weather and the warm sea. The trend for our region has started during Soviet times when that coast was double attractive thanks to the Iron Curtain [my parents went there for their honeymoons]. So many people can't be wrong, right? Well, there is a bunch of reasons why yes...
Problem n. 1 - Service
Basically, to keep it short and simple, all the things I love about traveling... I didn't find them in Bulgaria. Starting with the people: in most of the cases they are very unpleasant which impacts customer service and even in a coffee shop you feel like a victim when you ask for an English menu or when you order something from it which they don´t have any more... How the customer service can be on such a low level in a country where the services create the most of its income? That's beyond me. It says a lot about the mentality itself, though.
In all the fairness it wasn't ALL that bad, but those bad moments managed to ruin and overshadow the rest. [I think that the key word is the 'service', and people there, generally speaking, don't understand yet that it is about serving others and not just getting money for giving something.]
Problem n. 2 - Mess and stray animals
In my opinion, there is not much to see in Bulgaria – at least architecture-wise – I really don´t like how Bulgarians treat their country. Skipping the question about all the money from EU which disappeared on the way to Sofia, there is a lot of mess, and next to the touristic hotels one can find abandoned buildings. That in a country which joined the rest under blue, starry flag, already 10 years ago is a bit of an unpleasant surprise. What else was shocking for me was the amount of alley dogs (and cats). The Bulgarian solution is to castrate animals and send them back onto the streets...
Problem n. 3 - Sea and beaches
What Bulgaria can do really well is to befool people. The country of roses which can offer clear sea, sandy beaches, historical places as well as great gastronomy... Don't let ads to mislead you. Maybe it all is because I am spoiled by the cultural richness and beauty of Central Europe [the region which suffered so much during all the wars and the Soviet times but cared enough to preserve its heritage]. Bulgaria's offer is just a mere shadow of that.
What's more, from my experience, the sea is – in the high season – full of sea plants and the beaches are not making things better, even when accidentally clean.
Problem n. 4 - Food
And, believe it or not, I didn't enjoy even the food. Things I can really recommend are the grilled meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, wine and that's that. Don´t try pizza or pasta, especially if you are an Italian. Coffee lovers will also be disappointed as instead of a quality blend they will receive an “instant” solution. There's also the question of bread as it is served almost to everything and the most common one is a white one [in Polish we would call it weka] which is far from quality pastry. [grilling it and using butter with garlic can actually save it]
Light at the end of the tunnel
In spite of all, we saw some nice places (my [our!] favorite is definitely Veliko Tarnovo) and met some great people. The key word being some – exceptions which didn't change the general opinion.
To finish my whining about Bulgaria, I need to admit that I still think (hope) that there is some potential. The future of Bulgaria is in the hands of its youth which is hopefully more opened to changes and inspiration from abroad. [sadly, so many of them prefer to live abroad or to accept their homeland the way it is]
[P.S. I'll try my best to take my lady to Bulgaria one more time: for hiking and the Festival of Roses.]