Ruth: It is all coming back to me now. It’s been two years since we visited Bulgaria for the first time. Since then many of the broken sidewalks have been replaced but otherwise it is the place I remember. Crossing the bridge over the Danube I immediately remembered that the majority of buildings here sport a tired sand colour. I’m not sure whether this is a legacy of the communist era, when it might have been important not to stand out, or simply that local paint stores only carry a monochromatic pallet. The lack of color on the buildings is more than made up for by the colourful natural landscape. The upper flat areas between the steep valleys and their limestone cliffs are covered in sunflower fields.
Unlike Romania, where a playlist of current pop songs was blasting our eardrums in all the restaurants, in Bulgaria it’s the eighties hits I grew up with, played at a reasonable level for our aging ears.
Best of all is the friendliness of the Bulgarians we meet. The language is a significant barrier, but when some English is spoken the people we have met have been warm and welcoming. The language difficulties can also be very funny. Today, when I asked if we could bring our bikes into the hotel the woman at the desk shook her head without smiling. When I asked again using my google translate app she smiled, shook her head again, and gave me a thumbs up. I had completely forgotten that nods and head shaking for yes and no are reversed here.
Gordon: I seldom write about our accommodation, but our experience last night cannot go unrecognized. In Cherven we stayed at House Petrova, a highly recommended pension above the town. We were the only guests (a surprisingly common situation given that this should be a peak vacation time) so we selected a beautiful, bright room with a shared (with nobody) bath. We asked if it was possible to have dinner and breakfast, asking hopefully for some traditional Bulgarian food.
We had both meals outside on a deck above the beautiful yard. And much of our meals came from that yard, as our hosts have an extensive garden, as well as raising chickens and bees. The meals were outstanding in taste and presentation. Throughout the meals, Yorgan, our gracious, English speaking host, talked to us about the region, his garden, his family, and other topics. After each discussion we could hear him downstairs updating his wife, Ginka, who unfortunately for us, speaks no English. A highlight of the dining experiences was the fresh banitsas we had for breakfast. This is a dish with many layers of thin pastry, egg and mild cheese that is baked and served in large wedges. It was light and flaky, but with enough egg and cheese make it very satisfying.
Our stay at House Petrova was the most enjoyable lodging we have had thus far on our trip. And the cost for a room, a four course dinner with beer and homemade raki, and an amazing three course breakfast? 80 lev for both of us, about $60 dollars Canadian.