Bulgarians Know How to Party
A few months ago, if you would have asked me my top ten travel destinations, Bulgaria would probably not have be one of them – hell, I don’t even know if it would be in my top 50. But alas, this past May I spent a few glorious days in Bansko and Sofia, Bulgaria, and I am overly thankful.
The purpose of this trip was to attend a conference called Gesher that celebrated the Jewish Balkan community way up in the ski mountains of Bulgaria. I was invited as an international participant. In addition, I spoke on a panel to discuss new age communities that form over food and nutrition. (Think Christian mingle and Jdate, now gluten-free and Vegan date.)
Getting to Bansko
The ski resort town, Bansko, located in Southwestern Bulgaria lies at the bottom of a few famous Bulgarian ski slopes. There are three trains that depart from Sofia to Bansko everyday and a handful of public transportation buses. Tickets are about 14 leva which is about 7 euros and the ride is 2-3 hours from Sofia.
I have spent a significant amount of time with smokers during my travels, but never have I seen a community chain smoke one after the other after the other, sun up to sun down, and only taking breaks when there was a beer or coffee in hand.
From every direction, mountains enclosed the little village and provided a very safe space to facilitate meaningful discussions for the conference. Between group sessions and pool breaks, I met many Bulgarians, all different ages with the majority of them living in the countries’ capital, Sofia.
Hanging out with Bulgarians
Balkan people are most easily explained as party lovers. Some Bulgarians were hard to get close to – literally. Cigarette smoking is a trendy social bond in Eastern Europe despite the fact that we know its unhealthy side affects. Conversations with some Bulgarians ended with a fit of coughs and resulted in the need of physical distance to detox my lungs and shower. I have spent a significant amount of time with smokers during my travels, but never have I seen a community chain smoke one after the other after the other, sun up to sun down, and only taking breaks when there was a beer or coffee in hand. Rather than be bothered by the habit, I was somewhat impressed by the lung capacity of the Bulgarians.
Let’s talk about the men! My first interaction with Bulgarian men occurred when I walked by the outdoor pool to greet some friends. A man was shouting from within the pool to get my attention. His accent, like most Bulgarians, was a softer, more charming version of the modern-day Borat. I ignored his initial remarks because I was in the middle of conversing with a friend. Before I could redirect my attention to him, he splashed me with pool water and drenched me along with the people I was talking to. Cultural difference flashed in red lights over his head. I knew he was trying to pursue me, but come on, seriously? Is this first grade? These types of interactions continued for the duration of my stay in Bulgaria. By the end, I didn’t mind the immature chase; it just reminded me that love speaks through many outlets and I should be open to all forms of flattery.
Bulgarians Know How to Party
Ending my trip in Sofia, Bulgaria on a gorgeous summer Sunday was a gift! I walked through the City Garden after visiting the Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral. The energy in this park felt like a romance novel. Couples laid on blankets drinking wine while young children ran around with friends.
The amount of PDA reminded me that love knows no boundaries and when passion strikes caring about your surroundings means little to nothing. The Bulgarians know how to love out loud! Seriously, I even saw a middle-aged couple squeezing each other with their inner thighs in spider pose; it was nothing short than admirable.
The amount of PDA reminded me that love knows no boundaries and when passion strikes caring about your surroundings means little to nothing.
Sunday markets decorated the city with little antique trinket stands and stacks of old records. Simon and Garfunkel’s record live in Central Park caught my eye, and the record took me back to fond memories of living in Ramat Gan, Israel. The man working the record stand saw my nostalgic expression and showed me a few of his favorites: The Beatles’ Abbey Road, 1969 and Billy Joel’s Piano Man, 1973. Our musical souls connected in that moment and we talked about all our favorite concerts. It doesn’t matter where you are from, what language you speak or how you grew up – rock n’ roll lives on and bridges all cultural differences!
Crashing a Bulgarian Wedding
My night ended when a friend and I crashed a Bulgarian wedding! Half the people in attendance were wearing causal jeans while the others were dressed in fine attire. Everyone had an empty handle of vodka on the table and packs of cigarettes were being passed around. The bride wore a frown and I wondered if she was marrying against her own free will – her quick move towards the EXIT to leave her own wedding made me sadly think yes. This didn’t stop the groom from offering my friend and I drinks and a dance!
The Bulgarians partied until my 3:00am flight when I sent my regards to their country and the lovely people. See ya later Bulgaria, or “Dovijdane!” My male suitor who splashed me in the pool taught me that one!
Bulgarians Know How to Party top photo credit: podoboq