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Subject: soc.culture.bulgaria FAQ (monthly posting) (part 3/10)
This article was archived around: 23 Jun 2001 04:00:53 -0400
Last-Modified: July 17, 2000
CHAPTER 4: TRAVELOGUES
4-1 Visit to Varna
(by Austin Kelly)
Some advice from an American who lived in Bulgaria in 1992-1993 (by
The following is based on 9 months of teaching at the Technical and
Economics Universities of Varna, and a limited amount of traveling
throughout Bulgaria in the 1992-93 academic year. While I can relate
my experiences, bear in mind that there is an enormous amount of
diversity in Bulgaria - take all advice with big grains of salt.
First piece of advice - go there, and travel around. The Black Sea
Coast is beautiful year round, and has excellent swimming from July
through September (June or October if you are really lucky). The
mountains are beautiful for hiking, hunting, or skiing in the Winter.
And the art and architecture of the monasteries is not to be missed.
Most of the large state-owned hotels charge rip-off prices ($100-$200) to
foreigners. In Sofia the Sheraton, the New Otani, and to a lesser
extent, the Grand Hotel and Park Hotel Moskva provide high standards
at high prices. The other big hotels provide the high prices, but don't
bother with the service. Private hotels provide a much better
correlation between price and service. In Turnovo the Hotel Veliko
Turnovo charges stiff prices ($80 dbl) but gives good service in return, as
does the Grand Hotel Varna in Sveti Konstantin. The other big hotels
in Sveti Konstantin and Golden Sands are badly overpriced. There are
alternatives to consider. In Sofia there is a very small hotel between
the airport and downtown attached to the Archeological Institute, called
the Hotel Kedar (Cedar, as in Cedars of Lebanon). The rooms are small
but clean, the prices are cheap, the staff speaks French or German,
and its on a main tram line. Another alternative are private accomodation
bureaus. BG Tours in Varna booked me into a wonderful room near Sveti
Konstantin for $8.00 US a night - it was a short walk downhill (a LONGER
walk back uphill) to the beaches, and the balcony looked out on the
Black Sea. The owners spoke no foreign language that I recognized but
we got along great. If you're really on the cheap universities will rent
out any available dorm rooms at around $2 or $3 a night - the trick is
connecting with the right person. If you speak Bulgarian or Russian ask
a cab driver, etc. the way to the nearest obshezhitie (dormitory) and
negotiate with the front desk. If not, try any coffee shop at the
university for an English speaker and start asking around.
Car rentals are not cheap ($30-$40 a day for a Lada with a manual) but
are plentiful. They will advise you to remove your windshield wipers
when parked, leave no valuables or packages in the car, and always set
the alarm. TAKE THEIR ADVICE. Long-distance buses are fast, comfortable
and inexpensive. In Sofia long-distance buses congregate around the
Novotel Europa, in Varna they are either at the Cherno More Hotel or near
the Cathedral. Trains are slow but generally not too bad (if you ignore
the odor in the restrooms). You can probably get around pretty well without
Balkan flights between Varna and Sofia are frequent, several a day,
more or less on time, and cost $65.00 one-way last time I checked.
Balkan's Sofia JFK flights are extremely comfortable. Lufthansa,
Swiss Air, Air France, CSA (Czech Slovak), Malev (Hungarian), LOT
(Polish) all fly to Sofia. Lufthansa and Balkan treated me fairly
well in Sofia, the staff at Air France were obnoxious, and CSA put
me through hell like you wouldn't believe. Malev offers discounts
to students under 26 for flights throughout E. Europe. In general,
flights within E. Europe are much cheaper than to W. Europe. Balkan
charged about $200 less r/t Sofia Bratislava than Sofia Vienna, for
In general, supplies for tourists are plentiful. If you have a
favorite American brand of deodorant or shampoo, bring it. Most of
the imports are Turkish, Italian, or German. There are plenty of
places selling Kodak and Fuji film, Sony cassettes, etc. Outside of
the expensive parts of Sofia fluffy white toilet paper is rare - always
keep some with you.
Money changing places are ubiquitous - most charge no commission for
cash and deal in cash only. Banks charge commissions - some take
traveler's checks - a few do credit card cash advances. The commission
for these services can be stiff (5%- 8% for traveler's checks). Shop
around a little for rates and commissions - there's not a lot of variability
but a few places will try to rip you off. NEVER deal with the "change
money?" boys, unless you want a handful of Yugoslav dinars, the most
worthless currency on earth.
Maps in German or English can be found in the touristy areas. The
guide to E. Europe published in Berkeley has a pretty good section
on Bulgaria. Many people in Sofia and on the Black Sea speak a little
English or German - a few know French or Italian. If you know Russian
you're all set. Try to at least learn the Cyrillic alphabet - it won't
take long and it will make reading train and bus schedules a hell of a lot
Crime against persons is rare by the standard of someone living in
Washington D.C. (me). I walked around late at night in Varna for 9
months and never felt threatened. The only "crime hotspot" that I know
of is near the Hotel Pliska in Sofia. Don't be stupid - don't flash
money or jewelry around, etc., and you should be OK. Property crime is
more common, and thefts of or from autos seems to be a Bulgarian specialty.
VOA and BBC are on FM in Sofia - VOA is on 89.3 FM in Varna, at least for a
few hours a day. A small pocket short-wave radio is a good idea, but
FM will get you the news in English in at least a few places. The
International Herald Tribune is 1 day behind in Sofia, 2 in Varna. There
are weekly business newspapers in English published in Sofia.
The scarcity of goods in Bulgaria is pretty much over (although a
scarcity of money remains!). The most appreciated gifts that I found
were books in English (literature, travel, culture, and, especially,
business), booze with official US or British tax stamps attached (so
the recipient knew it wasn't adulterated swill), and cassettes or
CD's of "uncommon" music, ie Blues or Bluegrass anthologies, rare
Rock cuts, etc. Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton, R.E.M. and Jesus and
Mary Chain are available for $1.50 on cassette all over Bulgaria.
In downtown Sofia, Veliko Turnovo, Nessebur, or Golden Sands people
are pretty much jaded towards visiting foreigners. Many are quite
friendly, a few are rude or hostile, and a lot are indifferent. If
you go anywhere smaller, especially the places that Bulgarians think
tourists should see, like the ruins at Pliska, the Madara horseman, or
hiking the Rodope mountains, or if you ride the 2nd class train
compartment to Varna you'll find a lot of people who are still fascinated
that an American is kicking around in their country. They'll do all
they can to help. Its worth the trip.
By the way, to continue with a couple of threads that I read
In June in Varna matchbooks were being used by shops in place of
50 stotinki pieces - a tram ride in Sofia was 2 lv, and jeans
were around 500 Lev.
Bulgarian folk music is alive and well. The Restaurant Liverpool
on Ul. Dubrovnik in Varna has a live band on Fri. and Sat.,
the private radio station I worked for in Varna (Kannal Komm)
played Bulgarian folk on week-ends and holidays, and in May
and June every restaurant in Varna was booked on Saturday and
Sunday afternoons for weddings, and every wedding had a band
playing folk music. Country-western and Speed Metal haven't
completely displaced Bulgarian folk.
4-2 A Journey Through Romania and Bulgaria
(by Melissa Harris)
Portico, The College of Architecture and Urban Planning Newsletter
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
A JOURNEY THROUGH ROMANIA AND BULGARIA
by Melissa Harris
While teaching for a semester at the Technical University of Vienna,
Melissa Harris, an assistant professor of architecture, and three
graduate students from the College took a two-week trip to Romania and
So why go? Adventure. Yes. I was also interested in seeing the
vernacular architecture of these countries. But most intriguing was a
strong urge to be inside cultures which have been historically oppressed
and yet remained beautifully productive. Being immersed in extremes
often generates interesting revelations. Extreme contrast, engaging the
edges and touching, even briefly, opposite ends of various spectra are
the essential characteristics of this trip.
First a quick introduction to my three companions on this adventure -
all graduate students at Michigan studying architecture for a semester
at the Technical University in Vienna. Ted, the forward man, confident
and charismatic. Susan, a blossoming talent, thoughtful and analytical.
And Dave, whose wisdom seemed to comfort us, like a blanket of security,
at all the right times. It wasn't long before each of us realized that a
larger group could take risks far too dangerous for someone traveling
(Part related to travel through Romania is posted on s.c.r.)
Bulgaria welcomed us back to lands of negotiable travel. Everything was
impressive about our introduction to Sofia. We got right to our
destination by tram and within a half hour had secured two double rooms
for the night, rented a car for the next morning and changed money. On
the way to our great rooms in a family's apartment we picked up
wonderful fruit. How very thankful we were for a shower and a bed. After
showers and some fresh fruit, we set out to explore downtown Sofia.
The city seemed to be prospering, with streets full of cafes, vendors
and color. Though l am sure it is prevalent, hardship was not nearly so
obvious as it was in Romania. What was prevalent were former monuments
to fallen Communist leaders. Many of these buildings are being put to
other uses or house new governments, but some remain empty. A specific
monument, the former mausoleum which housed the embalmed body of Georgi
Dimitrov (Bulgaria's first Communist leader) has now become an outdoor
toilet. When protests mounted in 1990, his body was removed and
cremated. The mausoleum sits on an elevated base with a surrounding
arcade. Between the columns and the building, feces has accumulated.
There isn't much trash, only human waste. Questions about the
relationship between form and a building's successive uses resurfaced.
Walking around the building, the new use seemed quite logical. The
columns are wide enough to provide privacy and the width between them
and the building just wide enough for passage while someone might be
relieving themselves. It is slated to become a museum.
After we had walked around in the rain seeing former monuments, the
Alexander Nevsky church, more Roman ruins, and basically getting a sense
of the downtown, we decided to eat in a fancy restaurant in the Grand
Hotel Bulgaria built in the `30s. The circular dining space had a dated
but somehow trendy feel with balcony seating around a two story space
which opened to a great skylight. As the meal progressed and we became
buddies with our waiter, he treated us to the main feature of the space.
The huge circular skylight actually opened mechanically to the sky.
Though it was still rainingabit, he opened it partially so we could get
the idea. Must be glorious in the summer.
The next morning we picked up our car and were reassured that it would
be no problem that our only road map for Bulgaria was in the Latin
alphabet not Cyrillic,which Bulgaria uses. Other maps and street signs
we had seen were only in Cyrillic, an alphabet which at first glance to
an uninformed Westerner looks like the swearing from a cartoon
character's mouth. No, no problem, signs will have both.
Rila Monastery was our first destination. We beat all the tourist buses
by an hour and therefore had it to ourselves initially. Situated on a
mountain cliff, the views were spectacular. Essentially a wall of rooms
rings the church in the middle, forming a protected exterior court. The
most impressive space was the kitchen. It was as though you walked into
an oven, sized to cook whole humans. The ceiling scalloped as it rose
nearly 45 feet into a chimney. The pans sat on large fire places and
were more than eight feet in diameter.
Before departure I got a bus driver to write out all the cities we would
be passing through in Cyrillic. The car rental agency was quite wrong.
We saw few Latin letters once we left Sofia. Despite the fact that we
now had critical translations, we had to stop at the base of every major
road sign so we could hold up our printed destination and compare it
with the sign.
>From Rila we headed to Plovdiv, Bulgaria's second largest but perhaps
most beautiful city. Cobblestone streets twisted to accommodate the
grade. An interesting attitude toward architectural history pervades the
city. There are literally layers of time incorporated in the buildings.
When a ruin is uncovered, they weave it into the current life of the
city - assigning new functions like a cafe or a stair.
Next stop was the Black Sea. We had no reservations, so it became a race
to get to Nessebar before the Balkan tourist office closed. Ted was
driving. We almost flew through the stunning countryside, traveling
first through mountains and then rolling farm lands, ultimately ending
in flat fields close to the sea. As in Plovdiv the night before, we
convinced the hotel woman in Nessebar that we could fit four people in a
double room despite the rules. She finally agreed as long as we were out
before eight in the morning when her shift changed. She wanted no part
of the story if we were caught.
The actual sea coast was forgettable, but both Nessebar and Sozopol had
hundreds of beautiful wooden seaside houses which sat on stone bases.
The overhangs were large enough to protect the rooms from sun and wind,
The wood frame was filled with tiny wood slats and overlaid once more
with thin battens every two feet or so. These elegant structures
represented at one time very progressive ideas about living, containing
unprecedented spaces for women who had just given birth. We ate
wonderful fresh fish that night. Our waiter took great care of us, even
running out to a cafe to get us chocolate cake for dessert.
Bulgaria rekindled my interest in vernacular architecture. In fact, it
reminded me of what I love about the mountains of North Carolina. The
buildings have a direct, clear relationship with the land and with the
function they house. As we drove through the Valley of the Roses (near
Veiliko Tarnovo), we stopped in many small towns - Arbanassi, Zeravna,
Gabrovo. Each seemed to have a subtle and specific architectural
response to its location.
Our last night in Bulgaria was the best. It provided us a beautiful
place to rest, to reflect, and to cook ourselves a meal. Now that the
trip was almost over, we had learned to call ahead for accommodations.
When the woman in Nessebar heard that we were traveling by car, she
said, "I have a place for you." A small town she likened to a museum
because of its houses, Bozenci was just a few miles outside Veiliko
Tarnovo, our destination for the final day. Bring your own food, she
advised, because there is nothing there. A man named Stephan will be
waiting for you in the square. We tried to tell her we were not sure
when we would arrive, but she insisted. He would be waiting.
We stopped at a big roadside market near Gabrovo and bought eight pork
chops, three loaves of bread, olives, and fruit. That was the entire
choice. We had no idea if we could cook them at our place or not.
Spring had exploded on the hills of Bozenci and the smell of white
blossoms filled the air. We followed the map the Nessebar woman had
scratched out for us. It didn't show much: a road, a center square with
a well, a nother road and the house. We got out and walked up the hill
which seemed to be the road of Stephan's house. Wonderful view from the
top, but no Stephan and no house which looked like the photos she had
shown us. We split up, with assigned territories to cover. My job was to
understand the woman worKing in the post office, who had begun helping
us. I was trying to decide if she was connected to Stephan. I began to
draw as I spoke, illustrating each part of my narrative: calling from
Nessebar, securing a house from Stephan, what the agreed price was, its
location, etc. When she finally shook her head and led me out of the
lobby, I heard Sue yelling from the top of a hill, "I found Stephan."
And so she had, and with him our little two-bedroom house with a porch
overlooking the mountain side.
We moved in quicily, reveling in the luxury of our own place, the view,
the cleanliness, and its intimacy. Dinner was started immediately.
Cooking for ourselves was an indescribable pleasure. Dave's ingenuity
with rice rewarded us with a terrific dinner overlooking the mountains,
now dotted with perfumed flowers. We toasted our collective spirit of
adventure and the amazing luck with which we had been blessed.
You don't hear or read much about Bulgaria. But city after city, street
after street, we uncovered stunning views and wonderful architecture
preserved through layers of time and movements. We rarely saw other
tourists. Bulgaria is a country where one can still afford to eat five
course meals, have coffee in an outdoor cafe overlooking a Roman
amphitheater and the entire city below, tour castles and museums, and
dance all night for 50 cents. I will see Bulgaria again in my lifetime,
Back in Vienna I saw this city in a new way, imagining it as home.
Thinking back over our experiences in both countries, Bulgaria pales
against Romania - not because of what either had to offer, but because,
for me, people transcend place, architecture, and accommodation. Our
personal experiences with people were all Romanian. It just turned out
that way this time. Perhaps this addresses the question of how issues of
the human spirit relate to architecture. The power of people to impart
significant meaning, memory and experience far surpasses the ability of
architecture to do the same. One is merely a stage for the other. But
both possess a spirit which affects everyday life. The Arad waiting room
will haunt my visions and inform my conceptions of public spaces for
I relearned a valuable lesson for someone committed to visual education.
Drawing not only connects people to their own thoughts and sights, but
also to other people. Those people then frame the experience and
experience structures the story. After all, as John Barth said, "The
story of your life is not your life. It is your story."
4-3 Visit to Bulgaria by Balkan airlines - 1
(by firstname.lastname@example.org), last updated: 30-Oct-1995
We took a group of 15 to Bulgaria in 1993. Most flew
Balkan Air. Balkan Air lost 2 reservations, denied
boarding to one woman, lost 1 set of luggage, found it
and sat on it until the woman was ready to leave, causing
her to have to buy new clothes and stuff for the trip,
and very rudely denied all compensation.
Needless to say, we will never fly Balkan again. If you
do, we wish you luck.
4-4 Visit to Bulgaria by Balkan airlines - 2
(by Ernie Scatton), last updated: 30-Oct-1995
In Feb, 1994, my son and I flew roundtrip JFK NY to Sofia on Balkan
Air. The flights were on schedule, the service was good. On return
we were diverted to Toronto because US East Coast was snowed in.
Balkan personnel were very helpful in getting us alternative flights
back to States, and we arrived home one hour later than we'd been
scheduled to through NY. I wouldn't mind flying them again at all...
particularly since the non-stop direct flight is so much better than
connecting in West Europe.
4-5 Food in Bulgaria
(by Rolf Henze), last updated: 01-Jan-1995
The food supply is OK. Nothing to complain from my point of view. One
bread costs around 12 Leva. The transport in Sofia is easily done by tram
or bus or taxi, if you like. Don't expect the tram to have western standard,
they are very loud, but they are working. The administration is busy to
install a subway system, but it's not yet working. Travelling in the country
can be done by bus or train. Busses are going very frequently and to almost
everywhere. What I don't like that much is that as a foreigner you have to
register 48 hours after your arrival at the local administration, if you're
living in a hotel it can be done there. If you like southern kitchen and
vegetables, you will probably appreciate bulgarian food. The wine is
comparable to french wine (Bordeaux type).
Best wishes for your trip
4-6 Travel to Burgas - travelogue
(by Vesselin Velikov), last updated: 23-Jul-1995
Most of the information is as of end of '93 - summer of '94.
BG Airport Service times for International flights are no better than
your average US intn'l flight check-in. She will probably be required
to show for check-in anywhere between 120 to 60 min in advance. Given
that it is Monday morning she will have to plan also to have to meet
rush hour trafic in Sofia in the morning if she arrives by train or
There are always night trains labeled "Express", "Inter-city",
"Fast"("Burz vlak") which leave from the corners of Bulgaria at
somewhat convenient times in order to arrive in Sofia at approximately
two time slots: 1) between 6:00 and 7:30; 2) between 8:00 and 9:30.
I am almost sure there will be a train from Burgas, which will leave
approximately at about 10:30-11:30 p.m. from Burgas and arrive at Sofia
(last stop) about 6:00-7:00 a.m. If there haven't been a major cut in
public transport (I doubt it on this route as it's the major tourist
route for Bulgarians in the summer) there will be 2 trains - an
"Express" one (approx. 4-5 stops till Sofia) and a "Fast"/"Inter-city"
one (approx. 8-12 stops). She can buy on either of those:
1) a "sleeping car"/"couchet car" ticket;
- recommended not that much for the "convenience", but rather for the
fact that those cars are "less trashed"; there is a good chance of
getting into a "not so good" compartment in other types of cars;
- she will be able to secure the compartment she'll share with 2-3
more female travelers with a dead-bolt/chain-lock (I felt quite
insecure last summer traveling overnight in a "regular class"/"second
class" compartment with brocken locks, brocken doors, 90 % brocken
lights in an almost empty train carrying my international passport, US
visa documents, $100 cash, $300 travelers checks and my credit cards.
I didn't know what would have been better - to go into a compartment
with a lot of people and fall asleep or go into a dark compartment
- those compartments are kind of tight (always remind me of my army
boot-camp - 3-story bunk-beds, climbing to your bed on a ladder... :)
but they are clean at least) but she'll get at least some sleep so that
she can manage the rush next morning till she gets on the plane;
- no other people are allowed in these cars but only those who carry
tickets for them, in general you can't even pass from the rest of the
train to these cars after about 30 min after the train has left the
- those tickets are hard to buy at the last moment!!! Especially at
the end of August when a lot of people return from their holiday at the
black Sea resorts; It is highly recommended that you arrange with
somebody to get that ticket bought at least 2 weeks in advance! If
she'll be staying in Bourgas or Sofia for a day or two any time between
a month to 2 weeks before August 21, she can go to a
"Travel Bureau"/Railway-Station-Advance-Purchase-Counter and buy the
2) first class ticket - in the absense of "sleeping car" tickets this
is your next best alternative:
- 6 seats per compartment; wider seats, wider compartments, somewhat
adjustable seats as compared to "second class" cars where there are 8
seats in a smaller compartment and very often the seats are so worn and
uncomfortable you start to hurt after 2-3 hours.
- in general - cleaner cars,
- as the price of this ticket is much higher than "second class" and
people with second class tickets are not allowed to "stand" (see below)
in first class car - it is less crowded ergo - safer, less noise etc.
- due to the higher price of the ticket in general in these
compartments there is a better chance to travel in "more comfortable"
environment (educated people, people knowing some English, people who
wouldn't be "interested in changeing money" etc.). Your worst scenario
in this case is a family with a "crying baby" but even that is better
than what you might come upon sometimes in other cars.
- I do not recommend "second class" car in her situation - you don't
want to play your chances: often during that time of the year and
especially on Sunday night trains there are so many people who want to
travel, that the entire train (excluding the sleeping cars) is full
(the coridors included, with standing people!!!) - It is a nightmare in
such a situation even if you are "experienced" in such a travel;
- despite what you might hear, trains are fairly on time! Last summer
I never had a case to be on a "late" train. Especially if it is an
"Express" - the railways always try to make those arrive at the
destination on time, usually about 10 min in advance;
- I would suggest she exercises some caution at Sofia Railway station,
especially when picking the taxi!!! On a Monday morning it is very,
very crowded place. I myself, despite being a Bulgarian, got "busted"
last summer arriving on a busy Monday morning with a friend-foreigner
and being in a hurry - a guy "caught" me at the main exit, asked me if
I need a taxi and I said "Yes" after which he lead me to an UNMARKED
car, which gave me a 20 mile trip to a place 7 miles away and charged
me on a tripple rate. All in all, we paid $7.00 (in BG Leva) and
that's nothing for anyone used to Boston, NY and Chicago cab-fares.
But... given that kind of "special treatment" you never know where
you'll end. I kept silent all the way despite seeing that I was lead
not through the shortest way - I didn't want to invite something worse
than the waisting of few bucks.
Varna and Burgas are close, but:
- transport between the two cities is convenient only if you own a car
- it will be more difficult to get a reliable transportation
Burgas-Varna, than Burgas-Sofia;
- A 7:00 a.m. flight Varna-Sofia is almost a guarantee she will miss
her 9:00 a.m. flight from Sofia: domestic flights are considered rather
as an "optional" fast and comfortable transportation, they have a
higher chance though of getting delayed than a train
- the international and domestic arrival/departure areas at Sofia
Airport are two separate buildings. Although they are very close (2-3
min. walk) that means she will have to wait for her luggage to clear
from the domestic line, take it and cross that distance to the
international arrivals. I don't thing Balkan does "final destination
baggage check" the way it is done in the West. I'm almost sure she'll
be late for her 9:00 a.m. flight check-in if she leaves on a 7:00 a.m.
flight from Varna (and we are even not talking about early morning fog
at Varna and possible delays because of it).
Unless your Balkan (BG Airlines) travel agent (I assume she is flying
BALKAN) guarantees that a 7:00 flight from Varna will connect to her
other BALKAN flight - just forget it! You don't want to risk even if
they promise! It's not your Western airline guarantee, unfortunately!
One last possibility:
There are domestic bus lines between the major cities and Sofia, run by
private companies. One of them is "GROUP". They are preffered by
business travellers on a day trip, from what I've heard and many people
recommended them to me when I traveled between my hometown and Sofia
last summer. The buses are comfortable, Western made, have minimal
conveniences like buying a soda and coffee on board, make stops on the
way. (the draw back on an overnight trip is that you have a very
uncomfortable sleep, but otherwise they seem to be very reliable).
My schedule (from last year) shows a trip leaving from Burgas at 16:00
(is that too early?) and arriving in Sofia 23:00 (there might be new
scheduled trips, including overnight ones, as this company seems to be
expanding really fast on the marlet). It might seem to you that it
arrives late in Sofia, but(!) the "Bus-Station" at Sofia, despite
looking more like a run down parking lot, is right behind (about 100
meters) one of the respectable hotels in Sofia - "Novotel Evropa". If
this works - she will be sure that she arrives in Sofia well in
advance, slips in the hotel right away, has a decent sleep and is
awaken in the morning, have a reliable taxi-cab called and taken on
time at the airport.
I have all the necessary phones of the offices of this Bus company both
in Sofia and Burgas. In Sofia they have even FAX number. If you can
have someone who speaks decent Bulgarian you could even arrange this by
calling and checking the options from Boston and leave to your daughter
just to arrive on time at the departure place in Burgas (Some place
outside the railway station, where every taxi will be able to take her
I guess) and pay her ticket upon boarding the bus. Or have her walk-in
at the Sofia office or drop by at the Burgas office at her convenience
to pay and receive the ticket.
Of course - if she can leave Burgas around that time - between 16:00
and 18:00 one could as well check about a train, which will arrive in
Sofia even faster and at approximatelly the same time and she could
stay at the same hotel as it is 500m from the railway station (<$1.00
taxi trip to its doors once she "clears" the walk through Sofia railway
You/she will need to reserve a room at the hotel
One more thing - I just found the brochure of the Bulgarian franchise
of "EuropCar" - "InterBalkan Rent A Car", a rental car agency having
offices in Sofia and Burgas. Rates (compacts Nissan, Fiat, Reno) are
HIGH, higher than USA $23-$39 per day plus $0.23-$0.39 per km plus
$10-$15 CDW plus $3 medical/accident insurance - at 392 km listed
distance Burgas-Sofia total will be I guess $120-$180 (PLUS 18% VAT
taxes). There is no additional fee if she drops the car at EuroCar's
office at Sofia Airport. BUT the main problem is that highways in
Bulgaria are not for an unexperienced driver!!! I could compare night
driving there with driving through the Adirondacks (or US-419 through
the WV Appalachian Mountains - something I have done... :)). Unless
she is an experienced driver or has a reliable BG driver - I do not
"Balkan Holidays" - US representative of the (formerly) state tourist
organisation BalkanTourist claims in a broshure that cars can be rented
from "Hertz-BalkanTourist" '...WITH OR WITHOUT A DRIVER...'. Whether
that claim is "real" and how much that costs can be checked probably by
calling "Balkan Holidays" at their USA office.
Phones and FAXes:
All BG phone numbers require Intnl code -359-; the code for the city I
list here is preceded by a -0- when calling long distance within
(car rental, w/ w/out driver)
"Balkan Holidays" - "Hertz-BalkanTourist"
New York: (212)-573-5530
"Novotel Evropa" - (I don't have it, see the hotel's number)
Sofia-Central Office: 8 Positano Str., Sofia,
FAX: (2)-88-35-93, (2)-83-11-35
Sofia-Airport (Mon-Sun 8:00 am - 9:00 pm)
Burgas - Hotel "Bulgaria" (Mon-Fri 8:00 am - 7:00 pm, Sat 8:30 am -
"Group" - 85 Rakovski Str., Sofia
phones: (2)-83-14-54, (2)-83-12-15, (2)-83-24-69
"Group" - Burgas (outside railway station/at city bus station?!)
(Railway ticket advance purchase)
- At special counter at the railway station of departure
Sofia: Central Ticket Office at the lower level of National Palace of
phones: (2)-59-31-06 (tickets for any line, any direction)
(2)-59-71-24 (tickets plus sleeping car tickets, any line,
Burgas: there should be a ticket office in the center of the city but
I do not have info on it.
"Novotel Evropa"(4-star, 597 rooms) - close to Central Railway
Station and "Group"-company Bus Station
131 Knyaginya Maria-Louisa Boulevard, Sofia
CHAPTER 5: EDUCATION
5-1 The Bulgarian Educational System
(by Bulgarian-American Fulbright Commission)
Education in Bulgaria is free at all levels and is supported by the state
through the Ministry of Education and Science. It is compulsory for children
from seven to sixteen years of age.
The Bulgarian educational system falls within the continental European
tradition. The main types of secondary schools in the country are: general
educational, vocational, language schools, and foreign schools. Private
schools are also being established and they are beginning to compete with
the state schools.
There are over forty Higher Education institutions in Bulgaria offering
degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level.
The academic year for Bulgarian universities begins on October 1 and consists
of fall and spring semesters. Full-time study programme takes 5 years, or 10
semesters. The academic year covers 30 calendar weeks.
University teaching is usually formally divided into lectures, seminars, and
practical training, but flexibility is increasing. Attendance of seminars and
practical training sessions is obligatory.
The teaching load, depending on academic rank, averages twelve hours per week
. Classes usually meet once a week for 75 minutes; some are double 45- minute
Bulgarian students are admitted after taking qualifying written exams for a
number of state-commissioned places. Each exam is highly competitive and
ensures a tuition waiver. Those who are not admitted in this way compete
for an additional number of places, but are expected to finance their
studies, either individually or by finding scholarships or grants.
The qualifying written exams are held each year on previously announced
After each semester students take exams (in accordance with the curriculum of
the respective program) in the course of the regular examination period. The
exam period is 3-4 weeks.
Many of the university students are a joy to teach. Bulgaria's specialized
secondary schools produce some very well educated 18- and 19-year olds.
Depending on the study program, students will be expected to take a graded
exam (written or oral), a pass/fail exam (p/f), to defend a term project or
paper. A six-grade system of marking is used, six being the highest and
two- the lowest score.
5-2 Major cities and universities in Bulgaria
(by Bulgarian-American Fulbright Commission), last updated: 31-Jul-1994
Sofia, the capital, is the largest city with a population of 1.3 million and
a dominant position in the country's economic, political, and cultural life.
The St. Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia is the oldest university in
Bulgaria, having been granted its charter in 1909, and is the largest and most
advanced educational and research center in the country. Students can select
among fifty programs in the Humanities and Sciences, Social Sciences, and
Business Administration. More than 20,000 students were enrolled in the
sixteen faculties of the university during the 1992/1993 academic year.
The main building of the University, which is architecturally one of the
most remarkable buildings in Sofia, was designed by the French architect
The University Library plays an important part in the history of the St.
Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia. The Library stock of books exceeds
1.5 mln volumes.
Among the other higher educational institutions of Sofia are: The
University of National and World Economics, The Higher Institute of
Architecture and Civil Engineering, The Medical Academy, The Academy of
Fine Arts, The Higher School of Drama and many more.
Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria, is located in the Thracian
Plain in Southern Bulgaria. Plovdiv was built on seven hills along the
Maritsa River, and its ancient history and especially its picturesque old
town, lend the city a characteristic charm.
The University of Plovdiv was established in 1961. During the 30-year period
of its existence, the University of Plovdiv has grown into a presti- gious
institution of higher education offering a variety of majors combined with
Varna (ancient Odessos), is the third largest city and is often referred to
as the sea capital of Bulgaria. It is internationally famous for its seaside
resorts of Zlatni Pyassatsi (Golden Sands) and St. Constantine.
Varna is a university city as well, with the following major higher institu-
tions: The Higher Institute of Economics and The Varna Polytechnic.
Veliko Turnovo, the former medieval capital of Bulgaria, is a university
city in North-Central Bulgaria, also famous for its archaeological and
architectural heritage. The Sts. Cyril and Methodius University is the
second well-established University in Bulgaria with over 10,000 students.
Blagoevgrad, about 100 km south of Sofia, is known for the American
University in Bulgaria (AUBG), founded there in 1990 and the Bulgarian
South- Western University. At AUBG English is the language of instruction
and eva- luation procedures follow the US academic system. Most of the
faculty are American scholars.
The other higher educational institution in Blagoevgrad is the Southwestern
University where the emphasis is on the humanities and teacher training.
5-3 Bulgarian University Degree Equivalency
Look for an average of 5 or "very good" for admission. Class rank, if
available, would also be of assistance.
6 = Excellent (otlichen)
5 = Very good (mnogo dob'r)
4 = Good (dob'r)
3 = Average (sreden)
2 = Poor (slab)
1 = Very Poor (losh)
Requirement for Admission:
University degree (diploma of specialist) or professional title based on
curricula of four years or longer. The duration of the primary-secondary
program of education is usually 11 years.
University of Sofia
Higher Medical Institute of Sofia
Higher Institute of Architecture and Construction in Sofia
Higher Institute of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering in Sofia
Diplomas from the above institutions are considered exceptionally good. There
are many other higher educational institutions, including mechanical,
electrical, civil and chemical engineering institutes, and institutes of
mining, forestry, economics, and education, as well as the University of
Plodiv and the University of "Cyril and Methodius."
Candidate of Science (kandidat na naukite) granted on basis of research and
thesis, usually requires three years beyond the undergraduate degree. Doctor
of Science (doktor na naukite) granted on basis of original and significant
scholarship. Both degrees are awarded by the Higher Commission for Diplomas.
5-4 Educational Opportunities in Bulgaria
(by Dragomir R. Radev), last updated: 31-Jul-1994
American University in Bulgaria
TEL: (359) 7 320 951
FAX: (359) 7 320 603
DATE FOUNDED: 1991
DIRECTOR: Dr. Julia Watkins
The American University in Bulgaria's academic partner in the USA
is the University of Maine, which provides accreditation,
curriculum development, and initial recruitment of faculty. 25 of
the 29 faculty members are American, and the university began
admitting American study abroad students in 1993. Courses of
study are offered in a wide range of disciplines. The university
radio station, opened in 1991, was the first privately licensed
radio station in Bulgaria.
Fulbright, IREX and USIS Information:
Ministry of Culture
17 Stambolisky Blvd.
TEL: (359) 2 884 517
FAX: (359) 2 884 517
18 Vitosha St.
TEL: (359) 2 880 005 or 876 821
FAX: (359) 2 800 646
Sabre Partner Organizations:
Center for the Study of Democracy
1 Lazar Stanev St.
TEL: (359) 2 706 165
FAX: (359) 2 720 509
DIRECTOR: Ognian Shentov
Open Society Fund
1 Bulgaria Square
NDK Office Bldg., 11th fl.
TEL: (359) 2 658 177 or 801 780
FAX: (359) 2 658 276
DIRECTOR: Boryana Savova
5-5 Schools in Bulgaria offering admission for foreigners
(by WorldWide Classroom), last updated: 10-Jun-1995
An incomplete list:
American Univ. in Bulgaria, Director Int'l Programs Lydia Grim
Bourgas Free Univ., Director Int'l Programs
10 Alexandrovska Street, Bourgas, 8000
Foreign Students Faculty of the Technical University of Rousse, Chr. Foreign
Lang. Dept. Rada Karshakova
8 Stoudentska Str., Rousse, 7017
Higher Technical School Angel Kunchev Open Faculty, Director Int'l Programs
8 Studentska Street, Rousse, 7017
New Bulgarian Univ., Director Int'l Programs Mr. Julian Popov
22 Parchevich Street, Sofia, 1000
Plovdiv University PAISIY HILENDARSKY, Rector Prof. Ognyan Saparev
24 Tzar Assen Street, Plovdiv, 4000
Sofia University SAINT CLIMENT OHRIDSKY, Rector Prof. Ivan Lalov
15 Rusky Blv., Sofia, 1000
The Foreign Students Institute, Director Int'l Programs
27 Kosta Lulchev Street, Sofia
5-6 Transferring degrees
(by John Bell), last updated: 12-Aug-1994
The comparison between US and BG higher education
began with a question of how BG educational records are
evaluated by US institutions. In my original answer I said
that there are private organizations that will prepare an
evaluation for a fee. Since that posting an intimate friend
gave me an advertisement for one such service. It is called
"World Educational Service" with an address at P.O. Box 745,
Old Chelsea Station, New York, N. Y. 10113-0745. It offers
to provide an evaluation of non-US educational credentials -
diplomas, certificates, transcripts - on an overall or
course by course basis for fees ranging from $75 to $125.
I don't know anything more about the organization
beyond what its ad says. I am not endorsing it, but passing
on the information for anyone who might be interested.
CHAPTER 6: INFORMATION FOR BULGARIANS ABROAD
6-1 Bulgarian Embassy in DC
(by Civic Education Project), last updated: 25-Jan-1995
Embassy of Bulgaria
HE Snezhana Botusharova, Ambassadress/Mr. Boris Ratchev, Economicf Counselor
1621 22nd. Street, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Phone: (202) 387-7969; Fax: 462-8051
fax (202) 234-7973
6-2 Consulate General of the Republic of Bulgaria in Toronto
(by Plamen Stefanov), last updated: 23-Jun-1995
Consulate General of the Republic of Bulgaria
65 Overlea Blvd., Suite 406
Toronto, Ontario, M4H 1P1
phone: (416) 696 2420
fax: (416) 696 8019
6-3 Bulgarian Embassy in Sweden
(by Daniel Belovarsky), last updated: 07-Aug-1995
The Embassy has usually open Monday through Friday 10.00-12.00.
Tel: 08/ 790-59-42, 08/ 723-09-38
Fax: 08/ 21-45-03
114 31 STOCKHOLM
6-4 Archive for Bulgarians living abroad
(by the Bulgarian Embassy in Washington, DC), last updated: 31-Jul-1994
An Archive Center for the Bulgarians abroad has been founded with
the Sofia City Library at 4, Slaveykov Square. Being sponsored by
the Association for Promotion of the Bulgarian Culture (An United
States based organization) and OPEN SOCIETY FUND Sofia the
Archive Center is collecting books, documents, brochures ,
articles, photographs, film footage and posters which reflect all
aspects of the accomplishments of Bulgarians living abroad in the
sciences, in the arts and in public life.
The Sofia City Library hopes the Archive Center which functions
since 1992 might be a good opportunity for the Bulgarians abroad
to donate important archival books and materials as well as to
sponsor its numerous and broadening activities.
For additional information, please, contact:
Sofia City Library
4, Slaveykov Square
Phones: (359 2) 864 239
(359 2) 874 854
EMBASSY OF THE
REPUBLIC OF BULGARIA
1621 22nd Street, N.W.
Washington D.C. 20008
Phone: (202) 387-7969
Fax: (202) 234-7973
E-mail (INTERNET): Bulgaria@access.digex.net
6-5 Consular Office of the Embassy of the US in Bulgaria
(by Valentin Petrov), last updated: 20-Oct-1996
1 Kapitan Andreev St.
(+3592) 963-2022 (direkten)
(+3592) 980-5241 (telefonistkata na konsulstvoto)
Contact Person -- Yova Todorova, consular assistant.
6-6 Sending Money to Bulgaria
(by Ned Nikolov), last updated: 30-Jan-1997 (This entry is in Bulgarian)
Az skoro prevedoh valuta na moi rodnina po bankov pyt i nyamah nikakvi
problemi. Parite byaha izpratehi do Bulbank i polucheni ot choveka v
originalna valuta. Uchudvashto, no celiya transfer be osqshtestven samo
za nyakolko dni.
Informacijata neobhodima za prevejdane na valuta v BG e slednata:
1. Trite imena na poluchatelya
2. Edinen grajdanski nomer na poluchatelya
3. Ime i adres na Bankata v BG (traybva da byde valutna banka!)
4. SWIFT kod na Bankata (mnogo e vajen!!)
Poluchatelyat NE e zadqljitelno za ima smetka v sqotvetnata banka.
Za tezi koito se interesuvat, koordinatite na Bulbank sa:
Bulgarian Foreign Trade Bank
7 Sveta Nedelya Sq.
1000 Sofia, BG
6-7 Bulgarian Cafe in San Francisco
(by Dimitqr Bojanchev)
There is this restaurant in San Francisco called "Stoyanoff's
Cafe" on 9-th ave. and Linkoln. The owner speaks as clear Bulgarian
as one would do. I assumed that he is Bulgarian -- but than at
some point he interrupted me to tell me politely that he is
not Bulgarian, but a Macedonian from Tzarigrad (Istanbul). OK,
I accepted it but I must admit that I was confused ever after
about how to judge the local nationalities.
There is this barber named Dimitar Vulkanoff on Columbus
Street,right on the edge of the Financial district, a block
from China Town. Passing by his little barbershop that looks
not any less shabby than one back in the rural areas of the
homeland I hear him playing clarinet (actually, this is the
fifth barber/clarinetist I know from the Balkans!). To make
things even more extravagant it is a shabby little room just
with a picture of his family and grandfamily (circa 1920) on
the scratched wall and his business license. The barber chair
is vintage 1935 and the primary clientelle consists of
Chinese, several local Greeks, and other Balkan individuals.
Every once in a while an executive type will stop by and get a
haircut. This is all about 50 meters from the TransAmerica
pyramid (the symbol of SF) amidst ritzy looking boutiques and
vanity stores. I see him often entertaining native ChinaTown
residents whileplaying Daichovo horo on his clarinet in the
trademark Balkan 9/8 beat and they seem to nod in appreciation
(a lot of them don't even speak English). The surrealistic
picture gets even more when the executive types enter while he
stops and starts lecturing them with great excitement that
they shouldn't be listening to black rap music anymore (as if
anyone of them ever does??) but listen to Bulgarian music
instead. In the area of the political correctness he is
lagging behind as he doesn't hold back his views on women
(although that he has three daughters) -- but besides that
you feel that the guy has got a heart. Then he takes off
blowing the clarinet inPaidushko horo with its 5/8 beat.
Every time I stop by to get a haircut I feel that I
miraculously re-emerge back into the old world that I am so
familiar with in my guts. Although that he is Macedonian from
Bitola he has a great fondness towards Bulgaria and its music
and avoids ever making a statement about his nationality (I've
tried to trick him into it several times). He absolutely
refuses to venture into discussing Balkan politics and makes a
painfulgesture with his head when I bring up some of the
issues the Balkans face today. He holds no grudge against the
Greeks and told me that makes a lot of money playing at Greek
weddings. Of course, he plays everywhere cause I've seen him
at the Bulgarian gatherings and the Macedonian too. He also
likes to brag that he can read notes and even play Weber's
concerto's on a better day...
6-8 What are some travel agencies that are related to Bulgaria
(by George Demirev and Bojidar Filipovich), last updated: 22-Jan-1997