Bulgaria bound

September 22, 2009

In a couple of weeks I will be visiting Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria.  I’ll be there on business, but should have some time to explore the city during my stay.  I confess that I do not know much about Bulgaria; I even had to check a map to remind myself exactly where it is. (It’s about as east as you can get in Eastern Europe.)

I’ve done a little research on Sofia, and I was delighted to discover that there remain several churches from the period when the city belonged to the Byzantine empire.  I will be sure to seek those out if I can.  But I am wondering what else I should do or see.

If anyone reading this would like to suggest something to me, I would be most appreciative.  Tips about special foods to try or peculiar customs to observe are also welcome.

6 Responses to “Bulgaria bound”

  1. Janet Says:

    I asked my well-traveled friend, Paul (whom you might recognize from lodw), if he had ever been to Bulgaria, and he said no, but he has a friend there who would be willing to help you in any way he can. If you are interested, let me know.


  2. cburrell Says:

    Thanks, Janet (and Paul). As it happens, I think I am going to be ok. I managed to lay hands on a couple of those travel guides, and they are giving me plenty of good ideas.

    I learned that in Bulgaria they have the perverse custom of nodding their heads to indicate “no”, and shaking them to indicate “yes”. Also the alphabet is Cyrillic. This ought to be interesting.

    • Christina A. Says:

      This yes/no thing will be a challenge – they also use the word “no”, short for “ano”, in Czech to mean “yes” and it is impossible for us poor Anglophones! Have fun!

  3. cburrell Says:

    Thanks, Christina. I hadn’t reckoned on that.

    A friend sends this on another channel:

    “Be aware that Bulgaria was not invited to the 1920 olympics and may still be sore about it.

    Also during the Byzantine Empire, Basil II crushed the Bulgarians at the battle of Kleidion. Afterwards he had 99 percent of the Bulgarian army blinded. The other 1% he only took out one eye so that they could lead the rest back home… so you might not want to bring that up either.

    And Pope Formosus, who was originally the archbishop of Bulgaria was put on trial for perjury and violation of church canon. But he was already dead when accused, so his ever vigilant accuser Pope Stephen VI exhumed the body, dressed it up, and prosecuted it. They might not be all that happy about that whole ordeal either.

    If you stay away from those tender subjects, you can probably expect a pretty good time.”

  4. How odd–just a day or two ago I was wondering about nodding for yes and shaking the head to indicate no. I think I had seen it recently in some context–a movie or tv show, maybe–where people who weren’t part of western/modern culture were doing it, which caused me to wonder if it’s something intrinsic and universal, like smiling and frowning. I guess not.

  5. cburrell Says:

    Well, it certainly never before occurred to me to doubt the universality of the yes-nod and the no-shake. I think it will require too much self-consciousness to adapt to that strange custom. I’d almost prefer to go around rubbing circles on my belly and patting my head; it would be easier.

    Today I am studying the Cyrillic alphabet, and trying to sound out place names. Apparently I speak Bulgarian with an Italian accent.

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