Across Continents

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Reflections on Bulgaria

Sofia. A city of open spaces, parks, bustling shopping streets. Modern facades amidst the older buildings. Plovdiv, once the capital, with its well kept old city on the hill above the new. Wide pedestrian areas, familiar high street names.

Very different in the rural towns and villages. A much more simple existence. Tough for many. A strong sense of community, the upholding of traditions such as the killing of the family pig for Christmas, and a willingness to share these with outsiders. Ignoring the pervasive spread of the mobile phone, some ressemblance with the UK thirty or forty years ago, maybe more. Fashions – clothing and hairstyles – a little more recent, perhaps early 80s.

I’d spent some time staying near the town of Elhovo in the eastern part of the country, close to the Turkish border. I’d expected to see some familiar supermarket chains. They’d already permeated across much of Europe and Bulgaria. But not here. Not yet. But they’d come. And soon. Consumerism was slowly replacing the material reminders of Communism. Bulgaria had joined the European Union.

But wherever you went in Bulgaria, a very hospitable people. Welcoming, friendly, always willing to share with others. Katyusha and her team at Outward Bound Bulgaria in Sofia. Julie and George, Zoya and Jack, Donka and George, Radka and Christopher, Mitko and his bike, Nicky, Nanette and Michael in the eastern hills. And many others. I’d loved it.

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