The Worst Possible Advice to Give Someone Traveling to Bulgaria

Bulgaria Student Work
by Dayana Aleksandrova Dec 3, 2015

Don’t venture out of Sofia.

Ditch the noisy capital and go on a weekend getaway in the quiet, pristine Rodopi Mountains or visit the gorgeous rose valley in Karlovo, or embark on a whitewater rafting adventure outside of Blagoevgrad. There’s so much more beyond Sofia’s walls.

Eat only imported foods.

Instead, eat everything weird and unfamiliar. Drink boza with mekitsi for breakfast, sazdarma and salam on your sandwiches and gyuveche with pitka for dinner. Bulgarian food will haunt you long after you’ve left.

Don’t buy any souvenirs.

Souvenirs may be a waste of time elsewhere, but not here. A bottle of quality rose water or oil is an amazing and cheaply-priced, natural beauty trick. The wooden figurines at the Oreshaka museum are beautiful in their complexity and will fit perfectly into your carry on. If you’ve got room, might as well get a hand-crafted, embroidered goblin as an exotic wall decoration back home.

Don’t waste your time seeing historical monuments and villages.

A secluded temple built all the way back in 927 that’s been a shelter to hundreds of national heroes, the Rila Monastery is the top choice of many couples to wed at, probably because of the grandeur of the Rila Mountains, wood carvings and unique frescoes, or maybe just the fresh air, clear skies and winding roads. Then there’s the ancient village of Etara, a century-old town with gracefully-preserved canals and houses, which would bring you back in time.

Don’t even bother taking public transportation.

If anything, seeing how pathetic the Sofia trams are, you’ll forever and always appreciate the public transportation in your own country. The metro will get you where you need to be cheaper than a taxi, but be prepared to engage in a battle for a seat. Hey, it’s a local experience.

If you’re going to the coast, only go to Cacao Beach.

Absolutely no point in visiting the over-populated, touristy Cacao Beach while 100 miles down the coast there’s the more intimate village of Chernomorets, where you can arrange a homestay for a quarter of the price of a luxurious resort and twice as close to the beach.

Only go to Bulgaria in the summer, there’s nothing to do there in the winter.

Sipping wine in a lodge in Pamporovo or shredding fresh powder in Borovets are only two of the things you can do in Bulgaria in the winter. Our slopes are well-cared for and we’ve even produced great winter athletes such as the biathlon champion Ekaterina Dafovska.

Don’t try speaking the language.

Learn your zdrastis or nazdraves. This is what separates a traveler from a tourist.

Take everything we say personally.

Don’t be surprised if your Bulgarian friend gives you the most direct, brutally-honest feedback you’ve heard in your life. We’d rather come across as rude than lie to your face. When your banitsa isn’t good I’ll tell you, so just don’t take it personally. It’s constructive, caring advice.

Only bring your credit card and you’ll be fine.

The store owned by a 75-year-old baba in Zheravna and Arbanasi will never have the technology to process credit cards, so go buy yourself some leva. Cash is a must.

Never try popara for breakfast, it’s gross.

Creamy, fresh milk from the nearby farm, crumbled feta cheese melting as soon as it touches the surface of the milk, followed by pieces of fluffy, oven-baked bread, a little sugar and a few pieces of thick, boiled macaroni. Feels like you’re eating a heavenly angel for breakfast.

Don’t bring your camera, there’s nothing to photograph really.

The sea washing up against the rocks of Kamen Bryag, the hidden village of Kovatchevitsa, engulfed in summer greenery, where birds chirp and crickets jump under your balcony as you sit around a long table covered in kozunak, sarmi, vino, shunka, and other Bulgarian delicacies are moments you’d want to capture and hold on to forever. Oh, and you know that thing about our women being the most beautiful in the world? Make sure you’ve got your camera at all times!

Don’t accept any invitations to be a houseguest.

Renowned for our hospitability, we will treat you like a king. First, we’ll serve you rakiya or vodka aperitiv with meze, then we’ll invite you to talk about yourself as much as you’d like and we’ll be your biggest fans. At some point we’ll inevitably start mocking each other and you’ll most likely laugh the night away, after which you’ll dance some and go home late.

Only stay at hotels

Why stay at a cookie-cutter Mariott and veg out in front of the TV, when you can book an AirBnb and stay with a local tour guide, a chef or a traveler? They might want to become your friend, feed you home-made honey and invite you again, so it’s definitely worth the experience.

Feel super offended when we stare at you.

We don’t get a million tourists every day, and we’ve perpetually suffered economic breakdowns, not being able to go places, so naturally, we are super intrigued with foreigners. We care a lot when an outside person expresses interest in our everyday life and want to make the best impression, which is why we’ll try to integrate you, finding out everything about you and you’ll be the topic of conversation for weeks to come.

Tell us to go home instead of sitting aimlessly at parks all night.

“Work hard, play hard.” Except we only like to play hard. We love partying, and hanging out in big groups, so don’t even question why we spend hours eating sunflower seeds on benches at the Sofia ploshtads.

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