Sofia, Bulgaria – Fashion, Cheese and a Beauty Queen
After two weeks in Santorini, I was ready to move on when I conveniently received a call from my friend, Veneta Harizanova, in Bulgaria requesting I come to visit and cheer her on in the Mrs. Bulgaria competition.
I was happy to make my plans to visit what I would find to be the fashion forward, funky town of Sofia.
The fashions were the first thing I noticed as I arrived and was greeted by friends of my host who were instructed to show me a bit of the town.
The women wore a lot of black, smoked a lot of cigarettes and had angles and cuts to their clothing straight from the most obscure, fashion forward and current trends. The men wore buzz cuts and displayed an air of testosterone laden workouts. None were of small or thin stature.
The language was close to its sister cultures in Russia and as I would soon find out, English is not widely spoken amongst the locals. Although, there was one English word I would hear at almost every turn…. “Super!” One of the few countries I would find I would have a hard time in communicating unless I was speaking in superlatives. It’s funny when you listen to a foreign language for the first time. There are words that jump out at you and sound familiar like when the Bulgarians answer the telephone. They say, “Ah-Wo”. It might be the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. Then, there was a moment I swore I heard someone say, “Monica Lewinsky is going to Google in the barbecue”.
Veneta, who was hosting my stay, was a new friend I had only met a few months prior in Mykonos, but we had fast become friends. I only knew a small story of her life when I arrived in Sofia, but would soon be given a first hand knowledge of her standing in the community. After only a couple of days of joining her on her daily activities, I came to realize that she was quite the celebrity in her home country. She was a very well-known model, actress and TV personality and this week she would be competing in the Mrs. Bulgaria competition.
She introduced me to a variety of the local specialities in food. My favorite was a specific type of feta cheese that is made in Bulgaria called sirene. I think it was the best tasting cheese I had ever had with its bite of bitterness that sent addictive tendencies through my mouth and convinced me to sneak into the fridge at all times of the day to steal shavings and bites. I simply could not get enough of this savory treasure. Bulgarian Lutenitsa was another favorite. A mix of roasted peppers made into a spread easily complimenting the sirene on any piece of bread. There were red peppers everywhere in the Bulgarian cuisine. Roasted and stuffed, sautéed and minced. Everywhere, there seemed to be red peppers.
The week led up to attending the Mrs. Bulgaria pageant. Fifteen girls competed for the crown. There was an overwhelming and almost unanimous vote for Veneta. I really don’t think the other girls had much of a chance next to her beauty and standing in the community. It was a hands down victory.
It was now late October and I could feel a sense of homesick come over me as Halloween was drawing near. I always get homesick this time of year and yearn to be back home where I could take my little niece and nephew trick or treating. I knew my time in foreign countries was coming to an end for a while. It was about time for me to come home for a rest…..for now.
I had one last stop to make before heading back to the States for Thanksgiving…..Istanbul, Turkey. I started to feel a little physically run down in the days leading up to my departure from Bulgaria. Another obvious sign that I needed a break.
My favorite guide books for Sofia and Bulgaria: