Girl Meets Bulgaria

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

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The Beauty of Bulgaria | Guest Post by Ellis Shuman

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.

Belogradchik Rocks

Belogradchik Rocks

Traditional Bulgarian architecture in Plovdiv

Traditional Bulgarian architecture in Plovdiv

Church ruins in Nessebar

Church ruins in Nessebar

Rila Monastery

Rila Monastery

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).



It has slowly been occurring to me recently that I am living quite the nomadic lifestyle these days.

It all started when I was trying to figure out the last time I worked in Utah (for tax purposes), which was in April of last year. Then it really hit me when a guest asked the question that nearly every inquisitive tourist asks, “What do you do during the winter?” Most of them realize that the vast majority of the workers in Denali are only seasonal. They like to know where we all go at the end of September. It fascinates most people that this huge operation only lasts 5 months out of each year.

Anywho, I pondered how to answer this question Readers Digest style, which I realized is quite hard to do in my case.

I quickly explained to the person that I am married to a Bulgarian and I live in Bulgaria in the winter. Then they asked me what I do there

Um… ?

I was stumped. Because, quite frankly, the answer is nothing. To be fair, I did just move to BG last December and we spent the long, cold winter just hanging out in our apartment and then in March I went back to Utah for a visit and then to Alaska for work. And when I head back to BG in a few months, I will probably do more “hanging out.” Sure, I want to find a job. I would love to find a job. If I found a good one, we’d be able to stay in Bulgaria longer. As it is, it looks like we’ll be trekking back to Alaska next summer for another tourist season.

It may be a permanent move to the U.S., it may not be. But that’s a post for another day.

You might be wondering where I am going with all of this.

My point is that I don’t feel grounded. I’m rootless. While I now call Bulgaria home, I haven’t lived there for more than a few months. On the same note, Salt Lake City (while always my hometown) is no longer home either. That is unless you can call an air mattress on the floor of my old bedroom in my mom’s house home. And finally, while Denali is home for now, I am packing up and leaving again in just 3 short weeks.

I feel like I’ve been living out of a suitcase for the past 18 month because, really, I have.

And guess what? I don’t mind.

For now.

For now I am happy to be living out my wanderlust dreams. For now I enjoy having the freedom to go wherever I want to go, whenever I want to go. For someone so completely enamored with seeing the world, it’s a pretty great feeling.

The only thing that could make it better were if my hubs and I were doing it in one of these:

vintage Airstream

Little Guy Silver Shadow Travel Trailer interior.


All that said, I do foresee a time in the future where I will want to settle down and plant some roots.

We want to start a family; and, while adventurous and fun, a nomadic lifestyle isn’t completely conducive to that.

I’ll think I’ll always be a wanderer deep down, however. So finding out how to balance that with a more “normal” or traditional life will be the goal.


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