Bulgar Me!

Why Bulgaria? It’s the question everyone asks me, as I sit contemplating this bizarre curveball that life has thrown at me.

Quite simply, it’s cheaper than the UK. I Googled ‘cheap places to live’ and it was a toss-up between Vietnam or Bulgaria. The only thing I knew about the former related to the war and the musical Miss Saigon; I knew nothing about the latter, not even that Bulgars got their name owing to their penchant for taking it up the bum – a piece of information everyone took great delight in imparting to me.

I’m heading to Bansko to cover the Digital Nomad Festival, but am interested in exploring Bulgaria as a place to live at a future date. A week into my stay, I’ve yet to ask any Bulgars about their phtsical proclivities, but then I haven’t got to ask anyone much about anything because I don’t speak a word of Bulgarian. When I ask people if they speak English, I get greeted with a dismissive hand or skid marks on the street as locals flee in terror from what they clearly perceive as a mad woman. Or maybe they just think I’m eyeing up their bums.

What a bizarre week it’s been. Who would have thought that at the age of 65 I would have found myself moving between hotel rooms in Eastern Europe because it’s cheaper than paying my Council Tax and electricity bill in the UK. I could buy a small flat for what my monthly rent cost me in Penarth. Well, perhaps three months.

I’ve lived in England, Wales, France and Spain, and without a doubt Paris is my favourite city. I just can’t afford to be there, either. With its 90/180 day rule, Brexit has also screwed up the time I can spend in Europe, so I spend the first half of my day doing sums, juggling debts, and the second half on my flow chart.

A friend has kindly offered me her house in Philadelphia for August – something for which I am hugely grateful. It’s only 80 minutes to New York by train, so if I want to pop over to Manhattan to see friends, it’s an easy day trip. As I’m now a USA citizen, there are no Brexit-style restrictions (although I’d never had any, having been on an I Visa and then a Green Card).

I feel very excited by the prospect of returning to the USA for the first time with my American passport, which I had on the day I was granted Citizenship. It’s been upsetting, after the long haul to get it, that I haven’t been able to live there (money, again), but that all might change a little later in the year, all supposing by then I haven’t joined a band and find myself representing Bulgaria in the Eurovision Song Contest.  Hey! I don’t rule anything out.

Until I get the deposit back on my Penarth place, life is going to feel very precarious, although it looks as though that might happen next week, albeit with a deduction as they claim my movers broke the lift, which they didn’t – a lift that has not been fit for purpose the entire year and which breaks down at regular intervals. The owner, thanks to an intervention by a friend, has not charged me for repainting though, so I suppose I just have to bite the bullet, or fire it if I join the Bulgarian army. I told you! Nothing is off limits.

Today, I leave the hotel where the shower shares its space with the toilet (I swear that standing in the toilet bowl and flushing would be easier than navigating the shower) and head to an Airbnb for a week. Oh, what fresh hell awaits me there.

So, what have I learned so far that I can share, should you be tempted to follow in my footsteps here . . .

  1. Every Bulgarian man looks as if he is a member of a Cossack dance troupe.
  2. Every young woman dresses like a hooker. They might even be hookers, for all I know; I’m a bit out of touch with the current hooker vibe.
  3. Credit cards are as welcome as a new strain of Coronavirus. It’s the complete opposite of New York’s ‘No cash’ policy in so many places; here, cash is handled with all the affection of stroking a Labradoodle puppy.
  4. Nobody has been to a dentist in 50 years. Either that, or the heavy smoking in which everyone indulges has taken its toll on their teeth. Get an army of Bulgarians just to open their mouths and they’d see off a Russian army so quickly, they’d be home in time for tea.
  5. Assume that everyone is a scooter terrorist. They appear from nowhere, leave their ammunition willy nilly on the pavements and have no regard for mowing you down should you deign to go for a walk.
  6. Restaurant portions are enormous. For ‘ribs’, read ‘abattoir’.
  7. For ‘fast WiFi’, read ‘Why don’t I send this by horse and trap as it will be a hundred times quicker’. I’ve had three birthdays in the time it’s taken me to type this.
  8. Bulgaria will never win the Eurovision Song Contest (unless I’m representing them, obviously) . Their highest ever position was second in 2017. Trust me. I’ve been here a week listening to their ‘music’ (I use the word loosely). They really ain’t ever gonna win. Not in my lifetime, anyway.
  9. The country has great red wines. Their rosé is utter shite. Just hook yourself up to the nearest petrol nozzle and cut out the middleman.
  10. Always have a Plan B. And C, D, E and F.

That’s all for now! I’ll report back later, but for now I have to jump in the shower/toilet bowl as checkout is in 25 minutes. Thanks so much to you all again for being there for me on this very, very odd journey – literal and metaphorical.