As Spring time is about to knock on our doors once again, the exodus of British citizens turning their back on the familiar, to live a richer fuller life in a warmer safer climate can be seen filling up the ferries and charter flights and setting off to discover a secret that has been kept, until now, very quiet.
Considering to up-sticks and move to another country is probably one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever have to make, if you’re brave enough to even consider the possibility, so when you learn of a country that can boast over 80% of the year to be covered in sunshine, along with one of the lowest crime rates there is, eyebrows are surely raised. There’s more to discovering Bulgaria than merely finding it on a map and investigating it, it’s like a journey back in time. Opening the doors for the elderly and giving up your seat on the train used to be the norm in England, along with a polite “good-morning” and more civilized pace of life, all unfortunately eroded by the need to cram more work into each day and the reluctance to engage with another human being on the way to work, just in case it slowed us down and cost us valuable seconds of our allotted commuting time. Step back in time and enjoy Bulgaria, a country I am now happy to call ‘Home’. It’s not all plain sailing, but I can’t imagine moving to another country where it would be, so I gladly accept the little quirks, those tiny idiosyncrasies that make this warm and welcoming land such a lovely place to live.
The weather is usually something that attracts many western Europeans, as it beats Spain for a long hot summer and throws in, for good measure, a short ski-season if that’s your particular passion. The long and developing Black Sea coast, from Bourgas to Varna has some lively resorts, sporadically interrupted by tiny undiscovered coves, with white sand and not a tourist shop for miles, which is, in my particular case, pure heaven.
The food is another topic that often prompts a positive comment from the expat, remarking how it can actually be tasted, enjoyed and savored, rather than tolerated and bland. Much of the produce here is fresh, from seafood, pulled straight from the Black Sea, to chicken from small holdings and local farmers and just about every item in a salad or vegetable category is grown within a few miles and yes, the difference in taste is noticed from the first bite.
At a time when this double-dip recession is making it’s impact even more noticeable, forcing crime up at a steady increase, how refreshing it is to find a place that has practically zero street crime. When it is reported, it’s usually from drunken holiday makers enjoying just too much of the cheap and plentiful alcohol that Bulgaria has to offer whilst visiting the coast. I have heard British female friends and Bulgarians alike comment that it feels much safer here and that they would never relax in the UK like they can do in Bulgaria.
So is it all plain sailing and warm barmy nights sipping the local brew, well, to be blunt, no, of course not. The language is a barrier that few find easy to cross, as they have a cyrillic alphabet making it quite tricky to get to grips with and in a country where a nod means “no” and a shake of the head means “yes”, it’s a little different to say the least, but all part of the charm.
What can be guaranteed though, is a warm welcome from villagers where you decide to buy, lots of smiles and friendships that are built on good old neighborly values. You’ll find that Bulgarians like nothing more than to stop and talk about nothing in particular, even if you cannot understand each other and they seem happy to make you smile. The summers here are hot, very long and as a direct result, the pace is a lot slower. Good old-fashioned values are taught and encouraged, leaving many civilized westerners in the shade, but with a bit of luck and perseverance, we’ll hopefully catch up.