September 11 – 25: Sofia, Popovo, Palamartsa, Varna
We spent three weeks in Bulgaria and enjoyed every bit of the experience. We visited:
Sofia – stayed at a youth hostel (youth meaning 18-30) and hung out with an American, Bulgarians, and Germans. Set the world right with Indians, Polish, Canadians and more Germans.
Popovo – tiny town a few hours from the Romanian border, yet a major city compared to the village of Palamartsa.
Palamartsa – We learned so much here! For Melody, it was three simple things:
#1 – Holding a chicken. Mission accomplished. She thinks they’re “super adorable” and “wants a whole field of them.”
#2 – Milking a goat. By far the most entertaining to watch as a third party. There’s a video. We have to find it, but she’s hilarious.
#3 – Petting a sheep. She experienced all of that and more, with a Bulgarian farmer happy to let her pet all of the sheep and show her his farm and his “cray marksman skills.”
We stayed in a simple Bulgarian house that had been vacated a few years ago, with an outdoor “long drop” toilet and limited running water. There’s a separate post coming about the Bulgarian lifestyle, but for now, just trust that it’s a near 180 from the American lifestyle we hail from. And in a weird way, we enjoyed that.
Varna – beach town on the Black Sea that’s mitigating the growing tourism industry, but is hands down the cheapest place we have visited in the entire world, to date. Less than $300 per month for a one bedroom apartment in city center and less than $500 per month for two people to eat, drink, sleep and websurf is really hard to beat. But we’re looking forward to finding some ravenous competition. Stayed in a hostel where we met Kiwis, more Germans, Canadians, an American and had a very memorable time exchanging ideas and travel stories.
According to our Canadian mate, Tal, you can’t really say you’ve experienced a country until you’ve visited three different places in that country. By these standards, we got an incredible immersion in Bulgarian life and culture, and we can wholly say it’s a place we recommend exploring for yourself.
Stayed at our first Hostel of the trip in Sofia (excellent experience), took bus to Popovo (not a great experience), met Joe and Julie our hosts and had a nice dinner, expanded and repaired a stone path that was damaged by the pigs, learned to cob, cobbed a part of a wall, milked a goat (Melody), harvested Maize, shucked Maize, de-kerneled Maize using hand crank machinery (excellent!), used long-drop toilet (wha?!), had traditional Bulgarian dinner (very fun and awkward as a foreigner), found old communist radio, learned about old communist radios, walked across train tracks to get to our train, visited Bulgarian version of Walmart (hint: not as big, nor as well stocked as you would think), laid garden beds, held chickens, pet sheep (Melody), straightened out a pig’s tail, trained the dogs to sit, adapted our favorite recipe for Bulgarian food availability, saw the Milky Way – every night, fought to get internet for Melody’s school / students, bought clothes at a ‘second-hand’ store, learned how to make bread (Melody), made bread (Melody), painted with Lime / coffee mixture, went to Bucharest, Romania to pick up a friend, showered using a wood-burning water heater, bathed in the kitchen sink, picked walnuts / hazelnuts, took train to Varna (much better public transportation option), stayed at second hostel of trip (excellent people, excellent city), went to Bulgarian ‘night club’, set feet in the Black Sea, ate very cheaply, lamented how expensive The United States really is, went to Primorski Park, drank really really cheap beer, discovered that beer is sold in 2L bottles for the equivalent of $1.39.