My wife and I love to travel. You could say that we’ve been traveling on a life-long journey, as we were both born in the United States and have been living in Israel since we were teenagers. Europe is so close, but getting there, even from Israel, has been expensive. Like most people, we simply couldn’t afford to make all of our travel dreams come true. And then we were offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live and work in Bulgaria for two years.
As Israeli ex-pats we were set up in a comfortable apartment in Sofia and immediately began our daily routine of working in the local support center of an Israeli Internet marketing company. We shopped in a nearby Piccadilly supermarket; bought flowers from a friendly lady on our cobblestone street; and smiled at our elderly doorman, even though we never fully understood what he was saying. We hired a tutor to teach us conversational Bulgarian, but because we worked with English-speaking colleagues, we failed to learn more than a few basic phrases.
And we traveled. Using Sofia as our base, we traveled at every opportunity we could. We took a train north to Vratsa; we went by bus east to Koprivshtitsa; we flew to Varna and later to Burgas on the Black Sea coast; and on many weekends we rented a car, enabling ourselves to get out into the countryside completely on our own.
We fell in love with the beautiful scenery we saw around us. The sculpted rock formations of Belogradchik; the traditional Bulgarian Revival houses of Plovdiv’s Old Town; the striking Rila Monastery; the ancient churches of Nessebar. We quickly came to appreciate Bulgarian history. We visited Shipka Pass, where Russian and Bulgarian troops were able to fight off the might of the Ottoman Empire and liberate the country in 1877-8.
We were captivated by Bulgarian culture. We ate in traditional Bulgarian mehanes, enjoyed Shopka Salat; drank rakia with our meals; exchanged martenitsa on March 1st; and watched the spectacular parade during the Festival of Roses in Kazanlak. It was an amazing time, full of adventures and new experiences. We made many friends in Bulgaria, and have many good memories of our time there.
Although we are now back at our permanent home in Israel, close to our family and two young granddaughters, we often think back fondly to our Bulgarian adventures. We experienced a wonderful, beautiful country, and we will always love the beauty of Bulgaria.
Ellis Shuman and his wife, Jodie, lived in Sofia for two years 2009-2010. During that time they maintained a very active blog, Ellis and Jodie’s Bulgarian Adventures, detailing their travels. Ellis is the author of Valley of Thracians, a suspense novel set in Bulgaria.
(Photographs courtesy of Mr. Shuman).