Best Places in Blagoevgrad

This is now my 8th day in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. And while it’s been very interesting to spend time at AUBG and get to know many lovely students and faculty members, I have now also had the pleasure to meet some really great local people. The latter can be a bit tricky because outside of the university very few people speak English. I had always had a suspicion that the convenient claim that “everybody speaks English in this day and age” simply isn’t true across-the-board like that. Well, here certainly it isn’t! That has its challenges but also its rewards. You really learn a lot about people when they don’t speak your language(s). And you learn a lot about yourself, too. Just how creative can you be with hands and feet, eyes and facial expressions, or a simple pencil? And one good tip: Google translate for Bulgarian is definitely not recommended especially when you try to order food (and end up with “meet tasty bulgar” and the whole restaurant laughs at you. Could have been worse, could have ended up with the chef himself!) And Google maps also isn’t much help when all the street signs are in the cyrillic alphabet.

Some places have quickly become favorites.

Number 1: Chance Restaurant

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Definitely, tops after a long day at the desk is this little restaurant by the river championing the big with fate name Chance. It’s situated right at the river by a pretty bridge with benches and tables under big umbrellas right next to the bubbling waters. The inside of the place is modest, but the bucolic view out of the row of windows along the length of the walls facing the river is majestic. Not only is the owner, George, very welcoming but he simply must be able to read minds. The menu is in Bulgarian only and we don’t speak each other’s language, but somehow I always get exactly the food that I have in mind. The food, too, is modest, but very tasty and the wine very drinkable (add a little ice to the white, Bulgarians seem to prefer room temperature drinks). And every restaurant is only as good as its guests are, too! Whenever I go, somebody joins me at the table for a hands and feet conversation. Sometimes George does so too.  Not to worry, though, the less socially inclined guest can comfortably sit at a table by herself undisturbed.

 

Homeless Dogs in Bulgaria

 

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I usually try to sneak a bulb or clipping into the US from wherever it is that I am visiting. From Bulgaria, however, I am much more tempted to import a dog. Bulgaria has tons of homeless dogs everywhere in their cities and villages and if it had not been for Brigitte Bardot -yes, the actress – they wouldn’t even be alive. You might have heard about it in the news a while ago, several celebrities got all involved in saving post-socialist animals, especially dogs. Brigitte Bardot effected that the dogs be sterilized and not killed, but the running joke here is that since Bulgarians are not trying to have sex with the dogs but rather are trying to not be killed by them it would have been better to invest in pulling their teeth. The dogs I have seen – and met – certainly wouldn’t bite anybody though. They are very friendly, real survivors. Everyday I walk to the university, one of them meets me by the alley entrance and trots behind me until I get to the entrance area. I wish I could bring him home. But colleagues here tell me that tourists want to do so all the time and that it is almost impossible because of the red tape.

And then I realized that they also have a very vivid social life after 6 pm. They can get a little testy at that point. Peer pressure.

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Then.. I saw her.. but she’s a little different from the others..

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Shared homelessness.

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