Tuesday, 4 September 2007

The Good, The Bad and the Bulgarian

If you ever want proof that Communism sucked, you should come to Bulgaria. When I think of the country, I think of flowers struggling to push their way up through rubble. There are lovely people and lovely things to see, but there is also something of a sullen, grim atmosphere. We've liked being here, but it's definitely the place we've enjoyed least. Here's how I sum it up:

The Good

Old Towns: the wooden, paved hearts of Plovdiv (see the last entry) and Veliko Tarnovo are gorgeous.

Ruins without hordes of tourists: Plovdiv's amphitheatre and Tarnovo's Tsavarets Fortress are awesome.

She's Queen of the Castle

Tarnovo's scenery: whoever decided to stick a town in the middle of a winding, forested canyon, appreciated a good view.

Cheap meals: $20 gets a damn good meal for two, with drinks. Yay!

Meeting great people: the nice Bulgarians are really nice, and we had one of the best dinners of the trip talking to Ryan and Helen, Americans on their own global honeymoon tour.

The Bad

Driving: Bulgarians learnt their overtaking at the Bangkok Academy of Tuktuk Driving.

"Though I drive through the mountain pass of the shadow of death ..."

Women's fashion: to paraphrase Lauren, most young women look like they're on the way to 'pimps and skanks' themed party.

Transport to Turkey: despite the main road going past it, no bus stops at Edirne, a big town on the Turkish/Bulgarian border. This means we have to take the overnight train back to Istanbul, adding on more than a few hours to our trip to Gallipoli and depriving us of the chance to see one of the best mosques in the country.

The Bulgarian

Smoking. Anywhere, anytime, every time. I was stoked to see a no-smoking section in one restaurant, but when we returned there for dinner the guy next to us lit up. Grrrr.
If only ...

Apartment blocks: calling these omnipresent decaying concrete hulks monstrously ugly is an insult to monsters.

Customer service: 'happy as a Bulgarian shop assistant' is not a phrase you'll hear anytime soon, unless it's describing the clinically depressed. With a few honourable exceptions, Bulgarian service staff appear to model themselves on Grumpy Smurf and the Snow Queen.

1 comment:

aka Special K said...

Sounds very much like my brief stint in Romania in 1999. I saw a whole village to a standstill by a man from the city (bucharest, which everyone said was evil, and it was) using a cellphone. Not quite as bad as Bosnia where gypsy kids followed me around for an entire day. However, the 'worst' places are often the ones you are proudest you went to when you look back on your trip. It takes a special kind of masochism to go to an Eastern Bloc country.