Monday, July 30, 2012

A few things I will miss about Bulgaria

In exactly one month my Peace Corps service will be over, and I will be relaxing in Bucharest. I’ve got several things to blog about between now and then, but let’s start with things I’ll miss when I leave Bulgaria. It goes without saying that I’ll miss lots of people, but here are a few of the other things I’m really going to miss.

Public transportation. Lots of other volunteers complain about the buses and trains. I love them. They have taken me to the four corners of Bulgaria and all places in between. The public transportation here is far superior to what we have in the USA.

Train rides. I love train rides, and it is definitely my preferred means of transportation here.

Spring. I’ve written before about how much I’ve enjoyed spring in Bulgaria.

White Storks. Symbolic. Iconic. Awesome.

Woodstoves. I’m particularly going to miss the smell of the smoke in Bulgarian villages from woodstoves from autumn through early spring.

Shepherds and goat herders. A field or hillside without a shepherd or goat herder will forever look incomplete to me after living here.

Little Owls. In every village, Little Owls sit on rooftops and bark away at dusk.

Seasonal markets. First come the mandarins, then come the strawberries, cherries, raspberries, apricots, watermelons, melons, peaches, and finally the apples and grapes. The vegetables have their seasons too, with cucumbers and tomatoes (I know it’s technically a fruit) dominating the summer months, peppers the late summer and fall, pumpkin and zucchini fall, and potatoes and cabbage late fall through early spring.

Fresh fruits and veggies from the garden. There is nothing like a Шопска салата made from fresh cucumbers and tomatoes straight from the garden.

Walking down the street and picking fruit. Fruit trees are everywhere. The ones with branches hanging over the sidewalk are fair game.

Two liters. A two liter bottle of beer costs about $2. There is no better way to spend an afternoon than sitting in the park with friends, drinking a two liter, and people watching.

Freedom. There might be open container laws, but they aren’t enforced. You can freely walk down the street or ride the train with a bottle of beer, booze, or wine without a care. You can raise livestock, walk them down the street whenever you want, and kill them in your backyard without worry.

Black Redstarts. One of these guys has awakened me with his song from spring to fall for the past three years.

The distant sound of a train whistle piercing the frozen air.

Feasting on home-grown, farm-raised chicken, rabbit, goat, pig, and lamb.

Horse and donkey carts and the clickety clack of the animals' hooves on the pavement.

The concept of на гости.

The smell of peppers roasting.

Дюнери. On a Peace Corps living allowance, there is nothing better. Why Bulgarians eat at McDonald's and KFC is beyond me.

Photo by Lori Joas.


  1. Reading your list made a little homesick. I wish you good luck whatever it is you choose to go (after Budapest, that is)!

  2. Sorry for the lapsus. I meant Bucharest.

  3. Woodstoves: does your love of the smoke in villages scale? If, say, Bucharest had the same amount of woodstove usage, would air pollution be unbearable?

    Freedom: there's irony that in some countries (I'm not necessarily including Bulgaria here) you are free to drink in public or raise livestock at home, but you can't criticize the government in public. In other countries (and here I am including the USA), you can criticize the government freely, but you can't, say, drive a car without wearing a seat belt.

    P.S. Look forward to seeing you sometime back home.

  4. Regarding the woodstoves, almost certainly it's an issue of scale. But the people in the villages can't afford to heat their homes any other way. Many people don't like the smell as it is, but I love it.

    In Bulgaria, you can criticize the government, drink in public, raise livestock at home ... some Bulgarians even insist on you NOT wearing a seat belt (but it is a 50 leva fine if you get pulled over). It is definitely a freer society in many ways than the USA. There is, however, a lack of financial freedom for many Bulgarians. As a result, they would gladly trade some of the other freedoms for more financial security and stability.

    I will be home in November.

  5. Trains are my favorite means of transport too, mcdonald's in BG are excellent 40p fo a cheeseburger, Amazing!

  6. We too loved the trains, markets with fresh fruits and vegetables and I don't think we could travel anywhere else and find 2 liters of beer for so little. As we adjust to Ghana, these very things are the things we think of often as they are missing from our lives here. There are no trains, the produce is small in scale and limited in variety and the beer......just not the same. What we are experiencing here that is so wonderful is the openness of the Ghanaian s, their instant smiles, greetings and heart warming laughter. Enjoy your travels and consider a trip to Africa with a stop in Ghana in your future.

  7. I definitely hope to visit you in Ghana. Glad you are enjoying it!