Girl Meets Bulgaria

Musings of an American expat in Bulgaria (with detours in Utah and Alaska)

European Apartment Living


Living in a European apartment comes with its own unique set of positives and negatives. Well…Perhaps negative is the wrong word. I think quirks is a better way to describe it! Add in some uniquely Bulgarian features and it really is quite the experience! Anyone who has moved overseas probably has their own stories of odd living spaces with a list of things that took some getting used to. I’m sure many people also have a long list of things they love (or loved and miss).

We’ve been living in our apartment in the Druzhba neighborhood of Sofia for about 4 months. I’m getting around to this post now because we are actually moving out next week and it was now or never. The specifics around the move are a bit of a long story–one that I will get into in another post soon–but for now I just wanted to show you all the place we called our own for the first time in our marriage. It may have been short lived, but we have really enjoyed it.

So, here we go! A tour of our Sofia apartment; quirks included!

Our apartment enters into a long hallway. Straight ahead is our bedroom. The first door on the left is the laundry/storage room (closet, really), second door on the left is the bathroom, and the door at the end of the hall on the right leads into the living room/kitchen.
DSC_2163_bLooking down the hall towards the kitchen/living roomHall--looking towards entrance

Bulgarian tradition dictates that shoes are removed at the door. Most people have slippers for their guests as well as for themselves. Most Americans do not take their shoes off at the entrance, so this is still something that I struggle with sometimes. Oftentimes I forget and just walk into the apartment and Vince never hesitates to admonish me! We keep most of our shoes in our closet and just those that we wear the most often by the door.

Shoe city

Small water heaters that have to be switched on for each use are typical for Bulgaria and other parts of Europe. Our water heater is quite small and takes about 45 minutes to heat up. I’ve gotten used to fairly short showers because when the hot water runs out…wow.

Our washing machine remains one of the stranger aspects of our apartment. It is tiny but because there are only two of us, we’ve never had a problem. I still don’t know what half the functions are so I stick with one or two that seem to work well. Our laundry area also serves as storage for jars of preserves and potatoes from Vince’s parents, broom, laundry bag, and a few other odds and ends.washing machinewater heaterDSC_2174_b

Probably the biggest differences between European (Eastern European specifically) and American apartments and houses are in the bathroom setups. Many European spaces have the toilet and shower in one room with no surround or enclosure. I think this is starting to change a little as people emulate the more American-style shower or tub enclosure, but many houses and apartments here still have this setup. It’s a little weird at first to not have a shower curtain or door, but you quickly get used to it. One also gets used to mopping up the water after every shower, even though it’s a huge pain! Towel warming racks are common. I never had a heated towel until living in our apartment in Smolyan, and let me tell you…they are awesome! There is nothing better than a warm towel after a shower.

Our bathroom doesn’t have any storage so we have to put all of our bottles on the floor or on the sink. It doesn’t look the prettiest but it’s not a big deal.DSC_2184_bDSC_2185_b

Our living room/kitchen combo features a foldout couch (which my mom and friend both got to enjoy when they visited!), a coffee table, and corner cabinet meant for a TV, but since we don’t have one we use it to display little travel tchochkes and a wedding photo; and a dining table with chairs. DSC_2189_bDSC_2194_bDSC_2192_b

As with many kitchens in Europe (and much of the world, for that matter), our appliances are compact. Our fridge, while no where near the size of an average American fridge, is perfect for two people. Our oven and burners, however? Not so much! It is impossible to have two pots/pans on the burners at the same time because they are so close together. Our oven is extremely compact and the cookie sheets I brought from the U.S. barely fit inside. Our pizza stone fits, though! We do not have a dish washer so hand washing and a dish rack are the name of the game! DSC_2200_bDSC_2202_bDSC_2205_b

We have a corner unit which features two large balconies on different sides of the building. The living room/kitchen has doors to both while the bedroom has access to one. Our views are of the neighboring apartments and some 1st floor businesses along with a walking path and playground. We even have a tiny view of Vitosha Mountain. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to enjoy them because of the time of year, but I am sure they are awesome in the summer. I am totally bummed that we won’t have the opportunity to set up a little table and chairs where we could have enjoyed meals or where I could have sipped my morning coffee over a good book. Ah. Such is life.DSC_2209_bDSC_2208_bDSC_2221_b

Finally, our bedroom. I hesitated to show photos of our bedroom because, well, I thought it might be a little weird. I got over it in the end. It was clean after all!

We have a big, comfortable bed. Going back to our smaller bed in Smolyan will be traumatic after having this bed for so many months! We have lots of storage, including a large dresser and bureau and our own nightstands.DSC_2214_bDSC_2223_bDSC_2224_bDSC_2225_bDSC_2215_b

Like many Bulgarians, we do not have a dryer. We hang our clothes to dry on a rack in our bedroom. Many people also dry their clothing on their open balconies, but our setup works fine for us. It’s not the most glamorous looking arrangement, but we don’t care! Our bedroom always smells like fresh, clean laundry. Who wouldn’t like that?!

Because we knew we likely wouldn’t be in Sofia permanently  we opted to rent a furnished unit. Including the balconies, our apartment is only about 65-ish square meters. It’s small but cozy and very functional. Our complex features a lot of great amenities. There are many businesses, including gyms, small markets, coffee shops, restaurants, and ATMs. There are security cameras around the property and in the hallways. Our building and elevator can only be accessed with a little remote. Parking is sometimes a challenge, but we deal with it! Overall, we’ve really loved living here, and with only have a few days left, it’s making me more sad than I expected. We will definitely miss our first home together!

What are some of your home or apartments little quirks or perks? If you’ve lived overseas, what are the major differences you noticed between American-style houses and apartments and those abroad?


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8 thoughts on “European Apartment Living

  1. Hi, i’m new to your web site . But enjoyed reading about your experiances . I recently was in Sofia and enjoyed it very much . I am engaged to a Beautiful woman , who is Bulgarian . She is living there and i will be going back in a couple months. We are in the process of getting her and her daughters visas now . Actually just started the process. I believe we will go the way of the K-1 visa. Also i will try and get a permanent visa for Bulgaria, well sort of permanent. Any advice would be greatly appreciated , Thanks Danney

  2. Thanks for sharing! Your apartment is so cute. Bummer you guys have to leave! I admit, I checked out you perfume collection. You have good taste!

  3. This reminds me so much of the flat where I stayed in Ukraine! It was an almost identical set-up (my stove had four burners, but the oven was still tiny). I’m still not sure if your posts make me miss Eastern Europe living more or less. But I definitely enjoy reading your blog and I love all the pictures!

  4. Pingback: …Lately… | Girl Meets Bulgaria

  5. Wow, wow, wow, now please don’t tell me that you are leaving Sofia! I still have the ambition to get to know you in person :). As far as my impressions about the apartment styles in BG and US, you are so right about many things: THE FRIDGE, so huuuuuuge in America ans so smaaaaaaaaaaaaal here :), and not only that, there is a device which name I don’t remember,but it is placed on the bottom of the sink and which actually melts every piece of garbage which might eventually plug the sink up,and of course no dishwasher, but I have to admit it becomes more and more common in the BG households :).

    Anyway, I enjoyed the post very much, as always!

  6. Your apartment is so cute! 🙂 Love it.

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