Country number: 22
Territory number: 24
When? December 1980
How? Skiing holiday
Who? With Don
‘While two Bulgarians are arguing, a third one always wins’.
A skiing holiday at Borovets. It was cheap and I wanted to visit Bulgaria. A double whammy.
As I’ve discovered before, cheap can be problematic. The slopes are hard packed snow and icy, not the most well-tended I’ve ever attempted to plummet down. And we are also a little dubious about the lift system. The story going round reports that ski lifts are built new in Switzerland. Then they’re sold second hand to France and Italy. When they’ve reached the end of their useful life there they are sent to Bulgaria.
We fly into Plovdiv and are transferred from there to Borovets and back, but we manage a side trip to Sofia, the capital. It is the second oldest city in Europe and charming on Christmas Eve. It’s snowing and there are small decorated stalls set up around the main square and gilt onion domes of the Aleksander Nevski Cathedral. The locals are buying cards, baubles and Christmas trees, hoisting the latter onto their shoulders to carry home. Pleasingly atmospheric and delightfully uncommercial.
I’ve read that food in Bulgaria has a strong Greek and Turkish influence, with dishes like baklava and Shopska salad, but our hotel is sticking to a bland (on good days) ‘international’ menu. On Christmas Day we’re served something unappetisingly dry and very dark brown. I inquire what it is. ‘Turkey, of course,’ replies the waiter smiling.
Bulgaria is a member of the European Union, the Council of Europe, and NATO.
Bulgaria is the only country in Europe whose name has not changed since the original establishment of the country (in 681 AD).
The official language is Bulgarian and it is the oldest written Slavic language – it uses the Cyrillic alphabet.
In Bulgaria the people shake their head for “yes” and nod their head for “no”
Bulgarians claim to have invented yoghurt