SIGHTS AND SIGNS OF A NATION

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In Europe – with European way of thinking In Europe – with European way of thinking © Anthony Georgieff

Anyone familiar with the Communist-era signs produced to instruct Bulgarian citizens and villagers to keep their surroundings clean and to tell on anyone caught in the act of not doing so might have thought nothing could surpass their stupidity.

Think again! Communism with the highly ritualised rules for social behaviour its omniscient apparatchiks generated may be no more, but the system that followed it, referred by Bulgarians as the ongoing Transition, failed to change the way the former apparatchiks, many of them now businessmen and entrepreneurs, thought.

However, there are important differences now compared to pre-1989. In Bulgaria's democracy, it is private enterprise rather than the government that is the chief generator of signs. Unsurprisingly, its attitude to proper spelling and grammar is rather laissez-faire, just like in the economy. The strict rules for walking on pavements, taking a bath once a week and chewing your food in a factory canteen (see here an extensive selection) have succumbed to informing prospective shoplifters that their bags will be checked for things they may have bought elsewhere and to wishing night-time underwear thieves... less than pleasant lunches.

It is of course silly to generalise and try to draw conclusions about a nation's public attitudes by reading the sort of signs it produces, but the current state of signage affairs in Bulgaria do tell something about the people who write them – and about those who are supposed to read them.

Enjoy, therefore, but do add plenty of Balkan salt!

ALLEY EUROPEALLEY EUROPE

Your standard signageYour standard signage

In a Strandzha villageIn a Strandzha village

YOU ARE NOW ENTERING THE EUYOU ARE NOW ENTERING THE EU

Beware of low-flying menBeware of low-flying men

DANDY BARDANDY BAR

SHOE REPAIRS: NEW LIFE FOR YOUR SHOESSHOE REPAIRS: NEW LIFE FOR YOUR SHOES

Yogas are banned from blowing trumpets?Yogas are banned from blowing trumpets?

FRUIT GREEN HAMMERFRUIT
GREEN
HAMMER

NO VACANCIES (next to an obituary)NO VACANCIES (next to an obituary)

UNINVITED ENTRY IS BANNED!UNINVITED ENTRY IS BANNED!


BARBERBARBER

PRESTIGE DRINKERYPRESTIGE DRINKERY

I SUPPLY PEN MANUREI SUPPLY PEN MANURE

TODOR ZHIVKOV SQUARE: Bulgaria is the only former Warsaw Pact country in Europe that proudly displays affection for its Communist leaderTODOR ZHIVKOV SQUARE
Bulgaria is the only former Warsaw Pact country in Europe that proudly displays affection for its Communist leader

FORBIDDEN!!!  LICKING WITH DOGSFORBIDDEN!!!
LICKING WITH DOGS

NO PARKING. GARAGENO PARKING. GARAGE

WE SPEAK FRENCH.  TRIPE SOUP, GRILL, CASSEROLESWE SPEAK FRENCH.
TRIPE SOUP, GRILL, CASSEROLES

PRIVATE PROPERTY! PEDERASTS, OLIGOPHRENES, ABORIGINES AND KLEPTOMANIACS, GOD DELAYS BUT DOES NOT FORGETPRIVATE PROPERTY!
PEDERASTS, OLIGOPHRENES, ABORIGINES AND KLEPTOMANIACS, GOD DELAYS BUT DOES NOT FORGET

TOILET HAS ALREADY STARTED WORKINGTOILET HAS ALREADY STARTED WORKING

HORSE TAXIHORSE TAXI

SHOP WORKING TIME: MONDAYS AND THURSDAYS FROM 9AMSHOP
WORKING TIME: MONDAYS
AND THURSDAYS FROM 9AM

John Lennon lives here?John Lennon lives here?

GREENGROCERY STAND, METROPOLITAN YABLANITSA AREA. THIN PRICES FOR THE POPULATION, THE ROMA AND THE PEOPLE FROM SOFIAGREENGROCERY STAND, METROPOLITAN YABLANITSA AREA. THIN PRICES FOR THE POPULATION, THE ROMA AND THE PEOPLE FROM SOFIA


UNGUARDED BEACH

UNGUARDED BEACH

Poor pup

Poor pup

ATTENTION! FALLING BRICKS,  GO TO THE OTHER SIDEATTENTION! FALLING BRICKS,
GO TO THE OTHER SIDE

Guess! (Veliko Tarnovo sign)Guess! (Veliko Tarnovo sign)

ARMED GUARDSARMED GUARDS

Guess what they meant!Guess what they meant!

THE BUTTONS WORKSHOP WILL NOT BE OPEN UNTIL THE MONTH OF APRILTHE BUTTONS WORKSHOP WILL NOT BE OPEN UNTIL THE MONTH OF APRIL

WELCOME TO RESENWELCOME TO RESEN

THE TOLSTOYIST COLONY HAS BEEN WAITING FOR YOU FOR 100 YEARS. WILL YOU MISS IT NOW?THE TOLSTOYIST COLONY HAS BEEN WAITING FOR YOU FOR 100 YEARS. WILL YOU MISS IT NOW?

KOTSO, WE ARE GOING TO GET FIREWOOD AND BEERKOTSO, WE ARE GOING TO GET FIREWOOD AND BEER

DRINKING WATER.  NOT WASHING WATERDRINKING WATER.
NOT WASHING WATER

STREET PALESTINE  (main road in the village of Jerusalem)STREET PALESTINE
(main road in the village of Jerusalem)


NO SWIMMING! (Sofia City Council water fountain signs in 2009)NO SWIMMING! (Sofia City Council water fountain signs in 2009)

Clockwise, from top left: ATTENTION! ESTEEMED CUSTOMERS, DECLARED GOODS BOUGHT ELSEWHERE AND TAKEN INTO THIS SHOP WILL BE PAID FOR!; DEAR CUSTOMERS! PERSONAL BELONGINGS AND LADY'S PURSES, BROUGHT INTO THE COMMERCIAL HALL, WILL BE INSPECTED AT THE CASHIERS!; HYPERMARKET FANTASTICO: ROUND THE CLOCK; ATTENTION! ESTEEMED CUSTOMERS, WE INFORM YOU THAT THE SHOP IS DIRECTLY CONNECTED TO A SECURITY AGENCY. THE PERSONS CAUGHT STEALING WILL BE DELIVERED TO THE POLICE PATROL WITHIN FIVE MINUTES!; ATTENTION! ALCOHOL AND CIGARETTES WILL NOT BE SOLD TO PERSONS UNDER 18!; RESPECTED CUSTOMERS, BEER BOTTLES WILL BE ACCEPTED ONLY WHEN BUYING NEW BEER; THE SHOP IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR LOST OR VANISHED BELONGINGS; ESTEEMED CUSTOMERS, SHOPPING USING BASKETS OR TROLLEYS IS MANDATORY!; ATTENTION! PLEASE KEEP YOUR INVOICES UNTIL YOU EXIT THIS SITEClockwise, from top left: ATTENTION! ESTEEMED CUSTOMERS, DECLARED GOODS BOUGHT ELSEWHERE AND TAKEN INTO THIS SHOP WILL BE PAID FOR!; DEAR CUSTOMERS! PERSONAL BELONGINGS AND LADY'S PURSES, BROUGHT INTO THE COMMERCIAL HALL, WILL BE INSPECTED AT THE CASHIERS!; HYPERMARKET FANTASTICO: ROUND THE CLOCK; ATTENTION! ESTEEMED CUSTOMERS, WE INFORM YOU THAT THE SHOP IS DIRECTLY CONNECTED TO A SECURITY AGENCY. THE PERSONS CAUGHT STEALING WILL BE DELIVERED TO THE POLICE PATROL WITHIN FIVE MINUTES!; ATTENTION! ALCOHOL AND CIGARETTES WILL NOT BE SOLD TO PERSONS UNDER 18!; RESPECTED CUSTOMERS, BEER BOTTLES WILL BE ACCEPTED ONLY WHEN BUYING NEW BEER; THE SHOP IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR LOST OR VANISHED BELONGINGS; ESTEEMED CUSTOMERS, SHOPPING USING BASKETS OR TROLLEYS IS MANDATORY!; ATTENTION! PLEASE KEEP YOUR INVOICES UNTIL YOU EXIT THIS SITE

Self-explanatorySelf-explanatory

EN – EXIEN – EXI

STYLE'99 SHOES AND BAGSSTYLE'99 SHOES AND BAGS

In case of emergency... This sign, written not in any known language, is in a hotel in southwestern Bulgaria. It is supposed to read "fire."In case of emergency... This sign, written not in any known language, is in a hotel in southwestern Bulgaria. It is supposed to read "fire."

NONALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES BEER ALCOHOLNONALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES
BEER ALCOHOL

EVANGELICAL PENTECOSTAL CHURCH; THU 4PM, SUN 10AMEVANGELICAL PENTECOSTAL CHURCH; THU 4PM, SUN 10AM


TITS YOU CAN FIND ALL OVER THE BEACH. PIZZAS ONLY HERETITS YOU CAN FIND ALL OVER THE BEACH. PIZZAS ONLY HERE

WE ARE LOOKING FOR A FEMALE SHOP ASSISTANT. MUST BE EXPERIENCED. WE OFFER GOOD CONDITIONSWE ARE LOOKING FOR A FEMALE SHOP ASSISTANT. MUST BE EXPERIENCED. WE OFFER GOOD CONDITIONS

One for every month?One for every month?

End of Mexico?End of Mexico?

WE ARE ASKING YOU POLITELY, PLEASE COME TO US AND HELP US SAVE FOR A MERCEDES. IT IS WARM INSIDE, TO BEAT THE CRISIS. WE KNOW WHAT GOOD FOODS MEANS. QUICK SPECIALITY: COLD KEBAPCHETA AND WARM BEER. BEANS FOR TOURISTS. YOU MAY BE MAKING A LOSS, BUT IT IS IMPORTANT TO STAY IN BUSINESSWE ARE ASKING YOU POLITELY, PLEASE COME TO US AND HELP US SAVE FOR A MERCEDES. IT IS WARM INSIDE, TO BEAT THE CRISIS. WE KNOW WHAT GOOD FOODS MEANS. QUICK SPECIALITY: COLD KEBAPCHETA AND WARM BEER. BEANS FOR TOURISTS. YOU MAY BE MAKING A LOSS, BUT IT IS IMPORTANT TO STAY IN BUSINESS

You've been warnedYou've been warned

TOILET FOR WOMEN.  DO NOT BUY FROM GYPSIES!TOILET FOR WOMEN.
DO NOT BUY FROM GYPSIES!

ROTTEN SOCIETYROTTEN SOCIETY

SOFIA CITY LIBRARY.  ANNOUNCEMENT.  THE ELEVATOR WORKS MONDAY TO FRIDAY 8.00AM TO 7.45PM, AND SATURDAY FROM 9.00AM TO 2.45PMSOFIA CITY LIBRARY.
ANNOUNCEMENT.
THE ELEVATOR WORKS MONDAY TO FRIDAY 8.00AM TO 7.45PM, AND SATURDAY FROM 9.00AM TO 2.45PM

NO OTHER PERSON DO I RELATE TO THIS PLACE LIKE YOU, ENGLISHMAN! GLORY TO YOUR THICK CIGAR!NO OTHER PERSON DO I RELATE TO THIS PLACE LIKE YOU, ENGLISHMAN! GLORY TO YOUR THICK CIGAR!


Protecting EU's bordersProtecting EU's borders

HOUSE RULES  1. VISITORS MAY NOT SPEND THE NIGHT IN THE MONASTERY. 2. IT IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN TO GET FOOD FROM THE CANTEEN WITHOUT PAYING FOR IT. 3. IT IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN TO DRINK ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES IN THE MONASTERY BUILDINGS. 4. GAMES, SONGS AND GENERALLY NOISY FUN IS BANNED. 5. EATING EVEN YOUR OWN FOOD CAN BE DONE ONLY AT LOCATIONS DETERMINED BY MANAGEMENT. 6. DEMAND A RECEIPT FOR ANY SUM PAID, EVEN THE SMALLEST. FROM THE HOLY DIOCESEHOUSE RULES
1. VISITORS MAY NOT SPEND THE NIGHT IN THE MONASTERY.
2. IT IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN TO GET FOOD FROM THE CANTEEN WITHOUT PAYING FOR IT.
3. IT IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN TO DRINK ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES IN THE MONASTERY BUILDINGS.
4. GAMES, SONGS AND GENERALLY NOISY FUN IS BANNED.
5. EATING EVEN YOUR OWN FOOD CAN BE DONE ONLY AT LOCATIONS DETERMINED BY MANAGEMENT.
6. DEMAND A RECEIPT FOR ANY SUM PAID, EVEN THE SMALLEST.
FROM THE HOLY DIOCESE

Familiarise yourself with your local train timetableFamiliarise yourself with your local train timetable

High techHigh tech

Love's laboursLove's labours

UMBRELLA REPAIRSUMBRELLA REPAIRS

THE SWIMMING POOL IS NOT  WORKING. BATHING FORBIDDEN!!!THE SWIMMING POOL IS NOT
WORKING. BATHING FORBIDDEN!!!

SHALOM EVANGELICAL CHURCH OF CHRISTSHALOM EVANGELICAL CHURCH OF CHRIST

RespectRespect

FOR ICE-CREAM, PLEASE RING THE BELL!FOR ICE-CREAM, PLEASE RING THE BELL!


ATTENTION! DOOR!!!ATTENTION! DOOR!!!

DEAR SPECTATORS, PLEASE DO NOT THROW HAND PAPER INTO THE TOILET BOWLSDEAR SPECTATORS, PLEASE DO NOT THROW HAND PAPER INTO THE TOILET BOWLS

THE RUCKSACKS MOVED TO A NEW ADDRESSTHE RUCKSACKS MOVED TO A NEW ADDRESS

FUR COATS, JACKETS AND FOX BOAS REPAIRSFUR COATS, JACKETS AND FOX BOAS REPAIRS

DEAR CUSTOMERS, REGARDLESS OF YOUR INITIAL AIMS AND THE ACCOMPLISHED RESULTS, PLEASE FLUSH THE WATER! IF THE RESULTS EXCEED YOUR EXPECTATION, USE THE BRUSH!DEAR CUSTOMERS, REGARDLESS OF YOUR INITIAL AIMS AND THE ACCOMPLISHED RESULTS, PLEASE FLUSH THE WATER! IF THE RESULTS EXCEED YOUR EXPECTATION, USE THE BRUSH!

MARIA DAFOVA, FOLK MEDICINE, CLAIRVOYANCE, DIAGNOSTICS. TREATS NIGHT WETTING, SPINAL DISC HERNIATION, PLEXOPATHY, EXOSTOSES, PSORIASIS, GLAUCOMA, PARANOIA, ANSWERS ALL QUESTIONS, POSSIBLE TO WORK FROM PHOTOGRAPH. ALSO SLIPPED DISC AND BLADDER INFECTIONSMARIA DAFOVA, FOLK MEDICINE, CLAIRVOYANCE, DIAGNOSTICS. TREATS NIGHT WETTING, SPINAL DISC HERNIATION, PLEXOPATHY, EXOSTOSES, PSORIASIS, GLAUCOMA, PARANOIA, ANSWERS ALL QUESTIONS, POSSIBLE TO WORK FROM PHOTOGRAPH. ALSO SLIPPED DISC AND BLADDER INFECTIONS

MINISTRY OF FINANCE.  PLEASE, USE THE STAFF ENTRANCEMINISTRY OF FINANCE.
PLEASE, USE THE STAFF ENTRANCE

UNDERWEAR FOR DAYTIME AND NIGHT-TIME... FOR LADIES, MEN AND CHILDREN, AND WARM SLIPPERS WHILE YOU MUNCH CHIPSUNDERWEAR FOR DAYTIME AND NIGHT-TIME... FOR LADIES, MEN AND CHILDREN, AND WARM SLIPPERS WHILE YOU MUNCH CHIPS

100 NATIONAL TOURISM SITES STAMPS WILL BE GIVEN ONLY AFTER VISITING THE ETHNOGRAPHY MUSEUM! GUIDES100 NATIONAL TOURISM SITES STAMPS WILL BE GIVEN ONLY AFTER VISITING THE ETHNOGRAPHY MUSEUM! GUIDES

NO ENTRY FOR NATURISTS!NO ENTRY FOR NATURISTS!


The Bulgarian version says: "THE LINK TO SERDICA METRO STATION IS OPEN"The Bulgarian version says: "THE LINK TO SERDICA METRO STATION IS OPEN"

TOILETTOILET

RECONSTRUCTION OF A PUBLIC TOILET. DEVELOPMENT OF BULGARIAN TOURISMRECONSTRUCTION OF A PUBLIC TOILET. DEVELOPMENT OF BULGARIAN TOURISM

TO WHOEVER SNEAKS AT NIGHT AND STEALS OTHER PEOPLE'S UNDERWEAR. THEY STOLE MY PANTS, WHAT DISGRACE. FOR THE HUMILIATING THIEF: A HELPING OF MANURETO WHOEVER SNEAKS AT NIGHT AND STEALS OTHER PEOPLE'S UNDERWEAR. THEY STOLE MY PANTS, WHAT DISGRACE. FOR THE HUMILIATING THIEF: A HELPING OF MANURE

PLACE FOR ACCESS FOR DOGSPLACE FOR ACCESS FOR DOGS

DAY OF WATERMELONSDAY OF WATERMELONS

MILITARY AREA. NO TRESPASSINGMILITARY AREA. NO TRESPASSING

ENTRY ONLY TO OFFICIAL PERSONSENTRY ONLY TO OFFICIAL PERSONS

TO THE PRISONTO THE PRISON

You may be able to read, but you won't be able to understand. (Sing says "CUSTOMS")You may be able to read, but you won't be able to understand. (Sing says "CUSTOMS")

CLEOPATRA CHINESE RESTAURANT WITH BULGARIAN CUISINECLEOPATRA CHINESE RESTAURANT WITH BULGARIAN CUISINE


ATTENTION!!! THERE ARE NO CHANGE BUREAUX, BANK SAFES OR ANY BANKING INSTITUTIONS IN THIS BUILDING! THIS BUILDING HAS THREE EXITS! YOU COULD BE THE VICTIM OF A SCAM! YOU COULD BE THE VICTIM OF A SCAM!ATTENTION!!! THERE ARE NO CHANGE BUREAUX, BANK SAFES OR ANY BANKING INSTITUTIONS IN THIS BUILDING! THIS BUILDING HAS THREE EXITS! YOU COULD BE THE VICTIM OF A SCAM! YOU COULD BE THE VICTIM OF A SCAM!

DO NOT STEAL THE LETTERS!DO NOT STEAL THE LETTERS!

DEAR CUSTOMERS! PLEASE EXCUSE US FOR THE LIMITED KITCHEN OFFERS AND THE MEDIOCRE SERVICE! YOU KNOW THE REASONS: THE HUGE NATION-WIDE DEFICIT AND SHORTAGE OF QUALIFIED STAFF IN TOURISM AND RESTAURANTEURSHIP AND THE UTTER REFUSAL BY THE LOCAL POPULATION TO DO ANY WORK. WE THANK YOU IN ADVANCE FOR YOUR TOLERANCE!DEAR CUSTOMERS! PLEASE EXCUSE US FOR THE LIMITED KITCHEN OFFERS AND THE MEDIOCRE SERVICE! YOU KNOW THE REASONS: THE HUGE NATION-WIDE DEFICIT AND SHORTAGE OF QUALIFIED STAFF IN TOURISM AND RESTAURANTEURSHIP AND THE UTTER REFUSAL BY THE LOCAL POPULATION TO DO ANY WORK. WE THANK YOU IN ADVANCE FOR YOUR TOLERANCE!

DEAR DRIVERS! THE POTHOLES IN THIS ROAD ARE STATE PROPERTY. KEEP THEM! BYALA SLATINA BUSINESS CENTRE. CHAVDAR STADIUMDEAR DRIVERS! THE POTHOLES IN THIS ROAD ARE STATE PROPERTY. KEEP THEM!

BYALA SLATINA BUSINESS CENTRE.

CHAVDAR STADIUM

ALL SMALL PACKETS FOR ABROAD WILL BE INSPECTED PRIOR TO THEIR BEING PACKED!!!ALL SMALL PACKETS FOR ABROAD WILL BE INSPECTED PRIOR TO THEIR BEING PACKED!!!

ATTENTION!!! INEBRIATED PERSONS WILL NOT BE ALLOWED INTO THE SWIMMING POOL!ATTENTION!!! INEBRIATED PERSONS WILL NOT BE ALLOWED INTO THE SWIMMING POOL!

POST OFFICE. LOTTO. ARDA.  BAY DELCHOPOST OFFICE. LOTTO. ARDA.
BAY DELCHO

CRACKING SEEDS IS ABSOLUTELY FORBIDDEN!CRACKING SEEDS IS ABSOLUTELY FORBIDDEN!

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