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Friday, December 20, 2019

Final Thoughts on our Family Trip to Bulgaria (And Why You Should Visit it Too!!!)


I just came back from Bulgaria. I arrived there on Monday, December 9, and came back to my country Monday December 16, arrived home yesterday... And, I want to go back.

This was an amazing trip. It was the first time I ever took my kids abroad.

And I loved Bulgaria. Every second of it. Even the inanities of getting a boot on my rental car because I didn't have a Bulgarian SIM card and therefore couldn't even pay for parking. All part of the adventure.



I wanted to share some final thoughts on the place, and my trip there.


For those that are Facebook friends with me, some of this might be a little repetitious, but you'll have to bare with me. (It is by far not all a repeat of what was on my wall.)

First off, why I want to go back. As I wrote my first day there, I realized that what I'd planned to do in Bulgaria wasn't really possible with my kids, and that was disappointing for me, until I realized that at 20 dollars a ticket for airfare to Bulgaria, I can definitely come back. And I will.


I want to tour Bulgaria as I would like to, and not just as my kids want to. There is so much that I missed out on on this trip, things that I would love to see. 
First off, to actually see and participate in the entire free tour of Sofia. I got the first 10 minutes before my kids made me leave. I know very little about the place and I want to learn more.


Second, I want to go to Plovdiv. The free tour of Plovdiv is what I wanted to see, but just to explore the city in general, that is one of the oldest known sites of constant human settlement (back to the 6th millenium BCE). It fascinates me!

Third, I want to go hiking in Bulgaria and see the the Rila Monestary, the seven lakes, the earth pyramids....


I want to see the museums in Bulgaria.

I want to go to the Black Sea.

But honestly, most of all, I want to see the people again.
As we were traveling, we met so many people that were so nice and sweet and helpful. I've been to other countries before and there were so many people who went out of their way to help me. But in Bulgaria, the people that I met were more than just sweet and helpful. They were friendly, bubbly, lovable, and yes, I hugged some of them. (Ok, my favorite was Bobi from the ski school in Bansko, but they were all amazing!) I honestly don't remember a place where locals were friendlier.

Strangely, according to statistics, the happiness index in Bulgaria is quite low, but my experience seemed very different. Maybe they're different to tourists? Maybe what tourists see is different? I don't know, but the people there were the friendliest I've seen on my travels thus far.



And Bulgaria is cheap!
I'll be honest, due to difficulties with the language, when I was grocery shopping I didn't really look at prices. But once everything was rung up, I saw that I got much more for my money than I do locally. Especially things that are treats for me, like blueberries and raspberries and fresh pineapple. Oh, and maple syrup was much cheaper too.


The Airbnb where we stayed at was pretty darn luxurious, with so many wonderful amenities. Gorgeous furniture, large smart TV, washing machine, dishwasher, full kitchen, sleeping room for 5, in a beautiful building in a very central location... and it cost on $33 a night for 5 of us. Traveling alone or with a couple there are much cheaper options- like this place that looks absolutely breathtaking, for $17 a night, or this gorgeous one for $11 a night.



Car rental for the entire week was $60 dollars! If you want to take taxis, I took a taxi two times, traveled 10 minutes, and paid $1.70!!!!!

Everything we did there was cheap, cheaper than other places I visited, and cheaper than where I live by far.

It is literally the perfect place to take a budget vacation.


Driving in Bulgaria

So I have my drivers license. But though I first got my license nearly 14 years ago, I didn't have so much practice driving total, as I let mine lapse, and I only ever drove in the summer. I never actually drove in the rain before, let alone in the snow.


When I told people I was going to be renting a car in Bulgaria, to drive up to the snowy mountains, I was warned against it, that without experience in such weather I shouldn't be driving, let alone on unfamiliar roads. But to be honest, I'm glad I didn't listen. I had such a wonderful time driving, and I got experience in lots more road conditions.

I drove in the rain. I drove in snow. I drove in heavy blankets of fog. I drove with sunlight directly in my eyes attempting to blind me.


I drove with cars having their brights in my eyes. And I gained lots of experience. And Google Maps was extremely helpful and nearly 100% reliable.


Driving in a new place that I was unfamiliar with... did have some interesting experiences.



The biggest thing I will recommend when driving in a new place is to expect mistakes and don't rush, because you probably will make a wrong turn, and that is ok. I made quite a few wrong turns when I didn't realize there were tunnels and roads in the same place, but Google Maps just directed me back to where I needed to go.


Also, another thing that was interesting and different for me. There is a very thorough public transportation system, including both buses and trams. The trams had tracks usually going down streets, and you drove on them as well. Because of this, most multi lane streets didn't have a marking for the middle of the road, it was just understood that one set of tracks were for one direction, and another set of tracks for the other.


And though most of the time tracks were also where you drove, sometimes there were areas just for tracks that cars weren't supposed to go (at least I don't think they are) but they weren't marked that way at all. It was especially confusing, for example, on streets like this, when Google Maps was telling me to take the right hand fork... but the right hand most bit was for the tram, the middle was for cars, and there was another lane to the left that I wasn't noticing. If I wasn't careful I would have driven onto the tracks (but caught myself both times I nearly did that).



Another thing I wanted to point out that I noticed was different in Bulgaria- traffic lights. Where I live, traffic lights are always visible directly in front of you when you are at the stop line. However, in Bulgaria, the traffic lights are directly above you when you're at the stop line. There usually is another traffic light that you can see above the opposite lane across the street... which works when it is a two way street. But when you're on a one way street and you stop at the line, there really is no way to see when the light changes. I'm not sure what to do about that one, to be honest. Wait for the people behind me to honk?

Lastly...

It's beautiful.


The scenery was absolutely stunning.


The buildings were gorgeous.


Most of the areas have cobblestone roads, which makes things very picturesque.



When we were driving to Bansko, I had my son snap about 50 pictures of scenery, because I was absolutely stunned by the beauty along the way.



Basically...

If I haven't convinced you yet to go to Bulgaria... go! You won't regret it.

I've visited other countries before and enjoyed myself, but this is the first place I said "I absolutely must come back here". So much so that I am keeping the Bulgarian change I have instead of converting it to my local currency, because I will be back. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

P.S. All the pictures in this post were taken by my eldest, Lee (other than the traffic ones). Aren't they beautiful?

Have you ever been to Bulgaria? What has your experience been like? After reading my posts about it, would you want to visit?

2 comments:

  1. I had a coworker from Bulgaria and he was so nice and fun. We used to talk about his culture but I never thought about going there until reading this post. You're very fortunate to be able to travel so inexpensively. Also, your son Lee is such a nice looking young man; he took some nice pictures too. Thanks for sharing your adventures with us.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm interested in how you shopped and cooked meals while you were traveling. Thanks

    ReplyDelete

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