Saturday, February 20, 2010

Bulgarian Tidbits

I'm already in Turkey but hadn't had much opportunity to blog about Bulgaria - I had a string of days where it was like I hit the multi-ball lever in a pinball game the way the adventures came hurling at me in an assault of excitement. Life is grand...

The language challenge was evident from the get-go. A typical conversation ran

me: 'Dobry den' (smile) 'Do you speak English?'
them: 'No' with an emphatic smiling nod of the head in that peculiarity of the Bulgarian contradiction
me: 'Sprechen Sie deutsch?'
them: 'Nein' with a stronger nod
me: 'Parlez-vous françaıs?'
them: 'Non' with a persistant bobbing nod
me: 'Parli poco Italiano?' ( slight desperation)
them: 'No'
me: >gulp< 'Mali Rusky?'
them: 'Da!, da!, da!' with a strong shaking of the head

Saints preserve us! The burden is of course on me, the foreigner and the one who wants to converse, to come up with an adequate compromise. In the end, a smile and sincere desire can fill a chasm left by absent vocabulary. A lot of laughs can be had at the attempt if nothing else =D

I was only in Bulgaria for eight days, which is hardly enough time to get to know a place, and only in a small region of a diverse country. I enjoyed a nice mix of city and country, mountains and sea, snow and sunshine. What I didn't like at all is the decadent new construction for the tourist trade - bland and flashy casinos, resorts, restaurants - there's nothing Bulgarian about it. Road signs are written in German; 'For Sale' signs in English. Everything's behind a tall fence and security guards with their dogs stand at every entrance. Icky. But it's the new economy, I suppose. Progress. ?

One semiprecious stone among the heaps of new touristic rocks is Nessabar, an ancient Greek settlement continuously inhabited throughout the ages. Now a UNESCO world heritage site, it's totally given over to tourism, but looking between the schlocky souvenir stands, the architecture stands out with charm. I strolled through its cobbled lanes early on a rainy morning alone except for the dogs. The important ruins and remaining buildings are conveniently labelled with information signs in Bulgarian, Russian, and English. The interesting feature of the building construction is that the entry floor of each house is of mortared stone and the upper floor of wood siding unlike anything I've seen so far. It was Greek until 1924 and escaped injury by communism. I hope to see more places like it.

The landscape is decidedly more to my liking - thickly forested whirls of the Carpathians spin into the sea. The land between is rolling green fields dotted with villages of red tile roofs. My legs are so well conditioned now that the limiting factor of my progress is more the number of daylight hours than my physical capability. With my progress being southward and westward and toward spring, the days have quickly become long - 11 hours of daylight now compared with 8 in December. I can rather easily walk mararthon days - more than 42 kms - even successive ones, even in really crappy weather. Bulgaria, I learned, has few village churches. Finding accommodation was a bit more difficult outside of the cities. No worries, something always works out.


LDahl said...

Thanks for the update!

Ukiefriend said...

From your writings, I could imagine you in those scenarios and secretly wondering about the in-between.

At least in Bulgaria, you found some Russian speaking--I am wondering in Turkey?...But, as always, you manage and with a great sense of humor. No more borscht, that's for sure! Now is hummus and tabouli?

Sounds like you are now in terrific shape and here I am "stuck" in the house because of snow!