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Published: September 30th 2017
Geo: 43.21, 27.9
The decision to come to Bulgaria was an extremely difficult one - not because it isn't a worthwhile choice, but because there were simply too many tempting choices. Planning a trip is never easy, especially when there are so many new and exciting places yet to be explored, so many undiscovered adventures. You'd think having only two weeks available would make things simpler, since such a time restriction would breed decisiveness, at least in theory. But in practice, this restriction actually wreaks havoc on the thought process, derailing any potential itineraries before they can even be conceptualized.
With a month or more, one can focus on choosing a certain region and later finalize exact countries and cities to visit. Since three or four countries can easily be included, there's never a sense that any place has been omitted ... a perfect North American analogy is an all-you-can-eat buffet - one can pig out without over-indulging on any one item, and if one manages to find those one or two superb dishes, one can eat and eat and eat!
Having only two weeks poses quite the challenge and involves much second-guessing - what if the selected dish isn't to one's liking? The
menu has been chosen and there's no sending
it back if the flavour doesn't please the palate. There are no multiple trips back to the buffet line, there's only one chance to get it right, so it better be good!
Two weeks would've been a perfect amount of time to tour through Spain, plenty of time to hit up Galicia and Cantabria again, this time thoroughly exploring them ... but touring just Spain wouldn't give enough variety. Malta and Cyprus were considered, with it being possible to combine each with some time in Provence for the best cuisine France offers, or with a few days in Spain - but both sound to be destinations dominated by package tours from the UK. No thanks!
What about a return visit to the Western Balkans? Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia ... all missed on last summer's trip, and all nice visits, by all accounts heard last year. But the logistics ... just over two weeks would make it impossible to see all four, and tough to even see three. Flights were also expensive and poorly timed ... choosing these countries all but ruled out even a single evening in Spain. Sigh ...
But the Eastern Balkans
Thoughtless and Unsustainable Development ...
... Sunny Beach, so haphazardly planned ... hotels next to empty lots and stalled construction ... does anyone have any idea what this place is trying to accomplish?
... promising. Good connections from Barcelona to either Bucharest or Sofia, and then on to Frankfurt for the flight home, none of which were too expensive. Promising ... but the inner greedy pig reared its ugly head - would it be possible to visit both
countries? Yes, it would be, making my way from Sofia to Bucharest, or vice versa. This would make for a terribly rushed trip and likely result in me not getting a good feel for either country, something I regretted traveling through the Western Balkans. That was a bit of a whirlwind trip, leaving me craving more of every country I set foot in. So the decision came down to either Bulgaria or Romania - tough, as each offered something slightly different.
Romania, the land of Dracula and Transylvania, a land of some familiarity, having worked with some Romanians over the years, and having met other travelers who had nothing but good things to say of the country. There was also the added bonus of learning to speak some Romanian, which is actually a Romance language bearing many similarities to Spanish, so many similarities that Romanians can comprehend a significant amount, even without ever having formally
How to Say "I Have Horrific Diarreah" ...
... in Bulgarian? That's surely a phrase I'd have to learn if I had sushi here!
studied the language.
But Bulgaria ... intriguing, to say the least - I can't say I knew much of the country, almost nothing, really. It was definitely more of an unknown, and reeked of adventure and discovery. Having to work with the Cyrillicalphabet would totally put me out of my element, something that was strangely alluring. So what would it be? How to decide? It was as simple as a flip of the coin, which landed in favour of Bulgaria. Funny how things work ... I ended up deciding on Bulgaria by chance, but it definitely turned out to be the right choice. Despite the ultimate cheese found in Sunny Beach, Bulgaria has been great - the atmosphere, the sights, the friendliness of the people ...
The owners of the 415 Hostel are super cool - both backpacked in San Francisco and stayed for over a decade, but eventually wanted to return to Bulgaria and opened this hostel. They both loved San Francisco, but they missed home and family and couldn't stay away ... in the end, what they missed most was a way of life. For everything great they found in San Francisco, something in the American way of life just
Happy Bar & Grill ...
a nationwide chain that started in Varna. It's crap!!! The menu is all over the place, featuring North American bar-type food and sushi! Had a bit of a variation on the shopska salad, but with roasted peppers and grilled eggplant and zucchini. Sad looking but not bad, though I prefer a nice traditional shopska.
didn't sit right with them - it all came down to the concept of happiness, and the definition us North Americans have, and the definition most other nations in the world have.
It's simple - those from outside North America often find that the pursuit of happiness in our continent is the accumulation of wealth and stockpiling of material possessions. For them, there's no actual enjoyment of life itself, but rather the enjoyment of the things we've purchased. They went home for one reason - to enjoy life, one free of the pressures of keeping up with the Joneses, one not defined by unimportant things like the size of your house or the type of car you drive, but one defined by the relationships you hold, by the places you've visited, and the memories you've made. It's comforting to know that, even in a place as artificial as Sunny Beach, one can still find something real, something pure. For all the difficulty in deciding to come here, it reinforces the fact that Bulgaria was the correct choice.
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