1. Banitsa with boza
You may never actually eat this stereotypical breakfast much when you are in Bulgaria, but for some reason you will sure crave it bad after you leave the country and you can no longer have it. When I was living in London, I used to go on hour and a half journeys to the North, just so I could buy a ready-made rolled pastry with eggs and feta cheese and a plastic bottle filled with what basically is brown, thick, sweet-sour liquid bread. Banitsa with boza seems to be a homesickness tranquilizer.
2. The slower pace of life
It seems that time has almost stopped in some areas of rural Bulgaria — elder people are sitting and gossiping on a bench in between taking care of the garden and feeding the animals. The radio is still playing Shturtsite’s song Vkusat na vremeto (The Taste of Time) from 1982. Nobody is in a hurry to do their job and there is always time for the occasional 2 to 4pm power nap. Even in Sofia, Bulgaria’s busy capital, life is not nearly as hectic as in most metropolitan cities. When living in London, I used to scarf my morning muesli while drinking coffee and pacing to the Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” beat on my way to work.
3. Traveling to “your village”
Having parents or grandparents who have a house in a Bulgarian village is a blessing that you don’t take for granted anymore after you leave. You don’t just get the casual trunk full of fresh salads, potatoes, fruits, meat and eggs, but you also have your place where you can escape the frantic city life. Your village is where you have spent most of your school summer holidays and it will always bring sweet childhood memories of you running around riding a stick, climbing trees to eat greenplums (djanki) and playing hide and seek with your buddies.
4. Partying until after sunrise
How I miss a good Bulgarian party ending with shkembe chorba (tripe soup) or pizza with beer for breakfast, accompanied by new and old friends you had fun with the night before. Our parties get warmed up at about 1 am and continue until or after sunrise. We do it in shifts – there’s the pre-party drinks, the party and the after party when everyone is feeling drunk-hungry and chatty. I really missed the Bulgarian nightlife when living in England, where the fun ends with running for the last train. Just about an hour after midnight.
5. Rhodope Mountain
When leaving Bulgaria, you are also leaving its mysterious and enchanting mountains, especially Rhodope Mountain. Some of the cleanest areas on the Balkans are situated in the Rhodope area, and us Bulgarians take great pride in that. A recent interview done by Nova TV showed a 87-year old Rhodopian couple who admitted they were still having sex several times a week, for 72 years. No need for further advertising of this region’s magic.
6. Having huge living space
Not only the grass, but rent is also “greener on the other side”. When you move abroad, let’s be honest — you can usually afford only a tiny corridor pretending to be a room. Spread your arms, and you might touch the side walls of your new nest. Your new accommodation will be about 1/3 the size of your Bulgarian room and on top of that, there could be a bathroom jammed in it. Dropping the soap while taking a shower is a challenge – if there is no space to bend down, you will have to pick the slippery bar with your toes and pass it to your fingers. As a Bulgarian, I just couldn’t tolerate not having my own living space big enough to do a cartwheel in. Soviet tower blocks and houses might be grey and ugly on the outside, but they are super spacious on the inside.
7. Lactobacillus bulgaricus
Thanks to this bacteria discovered by a Bulgarian scientist, we can enjoy yogurt. When you leave Bulgaria, you will sure miss its yogurt’s authentic sour taste. Which is why we don’t call it yogurt, we call it “sour milk”. Sorry, Greece, your Greek yogurt is not nearly as good as ours. Even in Japan, where the number one yogurt brand is called Burugaria (ブルガリア), the yogurt tastes sweeter and more creamy than usual. Hate to break the news, Japan. It is just not the same. Anywhere. Else.
8. The Bulgarian beauty
As much as I am curious for guys from different cultures and races, I can’t deny how hot Bulgarian men can be, especially those with chiseled bodies, bright skin, thick dark hair and an insanely cute smile. Even MTV recognizes the Bulgarian tennis player Grigor Dimitrov as one of the top 10 sexiest men alive. Bulgarian women get even more recognition when it comes to sexiness and beauty. A Bulgarian friend of mine once described how “every second woman walking down the street looks like a model here — tall, slim and gorgeous.”
9. The Cyrillic alphabet
Contrary to the common ignorant belief, the Cyrillic alphabet doesn’t originate from Russia. It was developed in The First Bulgarian Empire and we Bulgarians are proud of that fact. Unless you are going to one of only 12 countries where Cyrillic is the national script, you will definitely miss having the ability to read and write in your own alphabet.
10. Having four seasons
Of course, Bulgaria isn’t the only country with four seasons. But there are many countries that lack snowy winters and hot summers, or are too foggy and lack sunshine. Most Bulgarians will get depressed in England, which averages only 58 sunny days per year. In comparison, Bulgaria offers 230 to 300 sunny days out of 365. You will definitely miss being able to hit the slopes in winter and get sun tanned at the Black Sea’s beaches in the summer.
11. Christmas Eve’s family dinner
Christmas Eve’s dinner is the time of the year when it is depressing to be away from your family and relatives, eating ready-made food while they are having a vegan feast. Stuffed cabbage and vine leaves, homemade bread, pumpkin banitsa with fortune papers in it, dried red peppers stuffed with beans and pickled vegetables are among the dishes any Bulgarian will definitely want to have in front of them while waiting for Christmas to come.
12. Dancing horo
Ahhh, dancing to an uneven rhythm while sweatily holding hands with friends and strangers in a circle not only burns off the banitsa with boza treat, but creates a sense of togetherness found nowhere else. After having left Bulgaria, you won’t really have to miss horo, because there are so many Bulgarians abroad that you will have enough occasions to gather with the community and form that energizing circle.
13. Expressing true emotions
Expressing emotions is quite accepted and tolerated in Bulgaria. If you like someone, you can openly show it by being relaxed, chatty and enthusiastic, like you already are old friends. When you feel angry, you can mumble, fidget, sigh, make grumpy faces or get into an argument. You don’t have to smile at people you hate, with the exception of evil grins. In some countries, being emotional can be perceived as rudeness, but not here.
Photo: del mich