We've Come Undone...
If anyone invites you on a trip to Bulgaria, say no. Say no and run away fast. You'd probably have a better time biting your own hand off for a week.
Before you all label me irrational and judgmental (which let's be honest, you already have) allow me to relate some circumstances. Just a sad tale of two sisters with a dream. A dream of seeing the world. Of heading out with nothing but the clothes on our backs, 30 pounds of crap and this dream. Of being bathed in the warm embrace of the world and her children. Of being wrapped in the bosom of mother earth. I quote Henry Mancini- "Two drifters off to see the world/ there's such a lot of world to see..."
Are you getting all this?
Your two hopeful dreams crossed the border into Bulgaria one chilly spring night. And got eaten for dinner.
Alison, face aglow with displeasure:
Alright, not eaten for dinner. Having been to India, my standards for getting my ass handed to me by a particular nation are a bit left of center. But I will tell you, after a week of giving it the old college, try, we crossed into Serbia this morning, raised our fists to Bulgaria, cursed the land, their people and stomped on our Bulgaria Lonely Planet pages.
And what happened in this short week that poisoned us to this seemingly harmless place?
Well for starters...
Cyrillic is not the easiest language out there. We can't read a damn word of it and there's no English to be had. So we landed ourselves back in the world of intensive pantomime, stick figure drawings and Alison's bootleg Czech. None of which was appreciated. An entire nation without a sense of humor...
Now, if it were this alone, I would forgive. Been in many a place where I can't speak/read/write the language and I certainly don't expect everyone to learn English for my convenience. Or laugh with me as I try to learn their mother tongue. But...
We were also forced to bribe some jackass tram inspectors. Now being a briber, you'd think there'd be no objection. We like bribes. We understand bribes. We expected to pay them. But not to a ticket inspector with a mullet who looked at our perfectly legal and stamped tickets and decided to worm some money out of foreigners anyway. He insisted that we stamped them on the "wrong side" hauled us off the train, surrounded us with two of his buddies all of whom were yelling "money! pay! police! jail! passport!" at us. There were also several strange handcuff motions that could be interpreted as either "your American ass will be smarting in jail if you don't pay our $15 fine" or "I'm crazy about S and M, how about you?"
That's pretty much where the wheels came off the wagon. My sister, having spent a year in India and therefore determined to be nobody's fool, started screaming back at them about corruption and in clear, concise, if vehement English, declared them all to be bad people. Dreaming of an overnight in a Bulgarian jail did not sit well with me, however, and I hissed at her to pay the money, much to her chagrin.
In the end, we paid, made a series of rude gestures and left. We choose to think of this as a bribe instead of plain extortion and targeting of foreigners. It's how we sleep at night. Again, not the Maoist rebels, but what can you do.
Finally...and perhaps finally, as this part is rather catty and I'm secretly hoping you get bored and move onto youtube before you realize just how shallow and obnoxious we really are...there's Bulgarian fashion.
Imagine Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman. Pre-classy makeover. Now join it with what was in style just before the Berlin Wall fell.
That's pretty much what we're looking at.
Hair is crimped. (Do they still sell crimpers?)
Boots of red pleather or sparkling gold.
Men wearing vests...with nothing underneath.
It's pretty shocking. Two pictures to illustrate:
Display window in fancy Bulgarian department store:
Two young, attractive women walking down the street:
That's right. One is a lime green jumpsuit. The other is wearing capris, navy blue tights and black strappy shoes.
Couple this with some terrible maps, a ridiculous dearth of internet, consistently mediocre meals and the rain...can you blame us?
Okay. After 8 months in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, I'm not the easiest to impress anymore. And given this fact, I will admit it's quite pretty here. Nice mountains. Very green. I quote the great Wesley- "Not saying I'd like to build a summer home here, but the trees are actually quite lovely."
Another interesting and positive fact about Bulgaria: allies with Germany during WWII in hope of annexing Macedonia. However, when the Nazi's informed the Bulgarian King and Orthodox Church leadership about the Final Solution and asked for full cooperation, Bulgaria said "Ne," saving up to 50,000 lives. Impressive, no? Well done, Bulgaria.
See? Spirit of generosity. Being a big person. Staying positive, looking for the good.
(But good riddance, I say.)
p.s. Serbia is 4 lovers.