Girl Meets Bulgaria

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


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2012: A Year in Review

2012_blog

It’s hard to believe that 2012 is coming to a close. This year has been very eventful indeed and saw me moving from America to Bulgaria, confronting life (and a fair amount of culture shock) as a new expat, exploring my new home, venturing back to Denali, Alaska for a third summer working for Princess Cruises; time spent at home in Utah with friends and family, another leap across the pond to Bulgaria, and reveling in a ridiculous amount of incredible travels.

While part of me is sad to see such a jam-packed year pass, the rest of me is looking forward to the BIG changes and adventures that 2013 holds. There is already a lot in the works and Vince and I are excited for everything to come.

As I reflect back on 2012 and all that I have experienced, I wanted to share some of the highlights from this year that made their way into blog posts.

(It’s a long one guys!)

January:

February:

March:

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The Eagle Has Landed… But is Taking Off Again Shortly!

She’s here!

My mom made it to Sofia in one piece.

We’ve just spent the last few hours catching up and unpacking her stuff.

We don’t have much time to relax, however, because we’re all off to Vienna in a few hours to kick off the holidays by wandering Christmas Markets, drinking mulled wine, buying festive gifts, and eating Sacher Torte!

Next week our Bulgarian adventures begin. I can’t wait to show her around my new home and introduce her to the in-laws.

Hope you all have a lovely weekend and are spending it with the ones you love.

W.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving cheer distributed for men in service. New York City turned host to the boys in service today and cared for every man in uniform. Underwood and Underwood: ca. 1918

Today Vince and I are celebrating Thanksgiving at sea. We are somewhere between Italy and Greece, soakin’ up the Mediterranean sun.

Well, I’m thinking about celebrating Thanksgiving. Vince doesn’t have a clue what the holiday is (yet), so he’s just providing moral support.

This is the first Thanksgiving that I have ever spent away from my family back home in Utah.

Hmph.

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Weekend Recap

Asen's Fortress

We just returned from a weekend getaway to Smolyan and I am pooped.

Time sure passes quickly when you are having a good time!

It was a wonderful trip and I am so glad to finally be able to see and experience Bulgaria in the fall; it’s downright gorgeous.

The autumn colors here rival anything I have seen in Utah or Alaska.

I don’t have it in me to write up a full post tonight–after the 4-hour drive home we went grocery shopping and unpacked all my suitcases and the stuff we brought up from the apartment in Smolyan, so my energy levels are nil–BUT I can certainly recap all the awesome things we did:

  • We drove down after Vince got off of work on Friday night. I slept most of the way, but I did wake up in time to see Asen’s Fortress all lit up. Vince said the new lighting has been in place for awhile. It’s really something. I am looking forward to driving by again when it’s dark. When we arrived in Smolyan, around 10pm, my MIL had her yummy bean soup and klin (A Rhodopean-dish made with potatos and pastry) waiting for us.
  • Saturday we decided to make the most of the beautiful weather and attempt to reach Devil’s Bridge (Diavolski most). I have been obsessed with seeing the bridge for years but its location, 10km down an unpaved road from Ardino, make it impossible during the winter months (which has always been when I arrived in BG until now). The road was definitely rough and we ended up having to walk about 2 miles, but we made it and the end result was well worth the effort. The bridge is breathtaking (full post with pics to come!).
  • Saturday evening we relaxed, gorged ourselves on more of my MIL’s specialties, and I ended the night curled up in bed with a new book on my Kindle, Gone Girl.
  • This morning we packed up a bunch of stuff to take to our apartment and yes, ate some more! We got a fairly early start, so we decided to stop off at a few spots along the road: Bachkovo Monastery and Asen’s Fortress (yep, posts to come on these as well!).

 

All in all it was a quick but fun weekend. It was great seeing my in-laws after so long and they definitely took care of us and sent us home with TONS of food. We are set on bottled/canned goods for the entire winter, and good thing because I love my MIL’s peppers, lyutenitsa, jam, and….ok, basically everything she makes!

I don’t know how I managed to survive the first 25 years of my existence without a doting baba in my life!

Hope you all had a great weekend as well,

W.

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It’s Not Goodbye, It’s See You Later

The remains of fall
Saying goodbyes are hard for me. I tend to shut down and just rush through them to get it all over with. Thankfully, it’s gotten easier for me over the past few years. I come and go a lot. For all of 2012, I have only been in Utah for 2 months. The rest of the year was spent in Bulgaria and Alaska.

No matter how I cut it, I am always saying goodbye to someone, whether it’s Vince and the in-laws, co-workers and friends in Alaska, or family and friends in Utah…departures are becoming way of life.

One of the hardest people to leave is my cousin, A. I’ve written about her quite a bit so you may be familiar with her already. She just turned 7 and is seriously awesome; I just adore her. I’ve spent a lot of time with her this month but it still never seems like enough. Today we spent one last afternoon hanging out and being silly before my flight on Tuesday.
Toesies

The weather was nice so we played with her bubble gun in the front yard. Bubbles led, to laying on the grass (I asked her to crack my back and all was good until she decided to jump up and down. Little spaz!), taking lots of photos, and decorating our hair with daisies and lavender.
Bubbles galore
Best 'buds' :)

She even modeled for me for a quick minute.
pretty little lady
After painting her nails we headed out to dinner with the rest of the family. I hate to admit it, but I gorged myself on root beer floats, onion rings, and a big, fat patty melt. Apparently I wanted the full American experience before heading back to Europe. Dinners like this will be non-existent a few days from now. I am really looking forward to more veggies (shopska salad!) and fish. Mmm. Bulgarian food is DE-LISH!

Later on it was hugs all around. I won’t see one of my cousin’s until about 2 years from now as she will be leaving on a mission for the LDS church early next year. It totally bums me out that I won’t see her for so long, but it’s definitely for a good reason.

I’ll be back in Utah for a visit in the spring, so it really isn’t goodbye, it’s just see you later!

W.

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Another Journey, Another Packing Adventure

I moved most of my stuff to Bulgaria last December; so this time around my packing list is shorter but also a bit more specific.

(Oh, but I will still obsess over it and put off actually packing until the absolute last minute!)

I generally know now what I can and cannot find in BG. I also know what things make good gifts for my family.

There’s no reason for me to stock up on many of the things that I did last time around. I am set on Ziplocs, clothes, kitchen ware, and toiletries. Let me tell you, I am extremely thankful not to be lugging over another heavy pizza stone and Tupperware!

What things are making it into my suitcase and that dreaded 50 lb. limit? Well let’s see…

  • Another case of tampons. Sorry, BG, I’m still not into scented, non-applicator feminine products!
  • A couple of bottles of the world’s best hot sauce: Chohula. I love it. My MIL LOVES it (and used up the bottle I brought in just a few days).
  • Three (YES, 3!) vegetable peelers. I took one over in December and apparently it’s a big hit. I have requests from my in-laws, by brother-in-law, and his gf for one. Easy-peasy gifts if you ask me!
  • Instant oatmeal packets. These were a big hit too. Vince inhaled them before I could even have more than a bowl or two. I know oatmeal is available in BG, but I haven’t seen the instant packets anywhere and I find them convenient as I rarely eat breakfast and usually just go for something quick when I do.
  • Maple syrup. Yet another request from the hubs. He can’t get enough of the stuff.
  • Crochet supplies. I am in the middle of two afghans at the moment and I hope to fit all the yarn and needles in my suitcases so that I can finish them over the long winter ahead. If I had endless amounts of room and no weight limit, I’d also bring along my jewelry-making supplies, my paper crafting stuff, and supplies to make martenitsi–too bad that’s NEVER going to happen!

I think living in Sofia will make things a lot easier. There are larger grocery and department store chains there, including a Debenhams opening at the end of the month in yet another new mall, Bulgaria Mall. And there’s always good ol’ IKEA. I’m sure that we’ll be able to find everything we need.

W.

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Fall/Winter Travel Plans

I simply cannot go a day without dreaming of my next travel adventure. It’s in my blood, I tell you!

Thankfully, After months of planning, Vince and my travel plans for this fall & winter are finally starting to come together. As if living and exploring in Bulgaria isn’t enough, we have to throw some international jaunts into the mix to keep things interesting. It’s one of the many joys of living in Europe.

First up is our long-awaited honeymoon…

Mediterranean Cruise

Less than 3 weeks from now, Ventsi and I will be bound for Rome. We are flying in a few days before our departure on the Crown Princess. We’ve been to Rome before as part of our last cruise, but we only had a day in port and we were definitely rushed. This time around we plan on savoring the sights, sounds, and tastes of the Eternal City. So far the only thing we have firmly planned is the Vatican’s tour of St. Peter’s Tomb–called the Scavi tour. On this amazing tour we will be led 3 stories directly beneath St. Peter’s Basilica to the reported resting place of St. Peter. We’ll be able to see and touch (and smell!) the actual foundations for the first church built on that spot. WOW! We were insanely luck to score tickets as they limit visitors to about 150 per day. Most people book months in advance, but I emailed the Vatican for S & Gs and they had 2 openings! I’m a history geek, so this rocks my socks. We didn’t get to see the Sistine Chapel last time, so we are definitely hitting up the Vatican Museums as well. We may try to find The Mouth of Truth–Roman Holiday fans will know why I want to go there!

We’ve been to many of the ports on our cruise (only Santorini, Olympia, Corfu, and Dubrovnik are new), so we mostly plan on hoofing it around the cities taking photos and generally enjoying the everyday scenery rather than booking full blown tours. We are, however, splurging for an excursion out of Naples. We didn’t particularly care for Naples the last time we visited; it’s not the safest place in the world. So rather than stay on the ship and lose out on seeing more of amazing Italy, we sucked it up and booked an excursion through Princess. Our 10-hour tour takes us to Pompeii for a guided tour; Sorrento for lunch and free time; and finally, to the isle of Capri via hydrofoil for a few hours of sun, sand, and sea.

We are pretty darn excited to finally be celebrating not only our honeymoon but our 1st anniversary as well. 2 weeks in the Med? Perfection!

Next up, a holiday getaway…

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