Need I say more?
E. B., Sofia
I'm just back from Bansko, where I was reminded of a practice that you might like to include in your guide. We fell foul of this a couple of times in Sofia as well.
I went to meet Irish friends who were on a skiing holiday: their first time in Bulgaria. They loved the skiing but found the prices (OK, they were staying in the Kempinski!) not that much different to Ireland. Anyway, I went out to dinner with them in a lovely mehana – open fire, not-too-loud music and so on, and while we enjoyed the reasonably priced food, I was annoyed by the way they tried to do us over the wine. We asked for the wine list, only to be told that they “didn't really have one”. The waiter then brought several sophisticated-looking bottles to our table for us to choose from – but of course I came into my own here and, discarding the Red Dark which I knew to be expensive already, asked how much the Sakar was. Twenty-five leva was the answer - talk about a mark-up! It's about eight leva in the shops. You don't find this kind of rip-off in Sofia, unless you're dining at the Crystal Palace, and then it's on your own head. I insisted on seeing a wine list, which was grudgingly produced – you could see they could recognise a “bitch-in-the-know” out to erase their profit. The prices ranged from 25 to 89 leva. On the last page, hand written in pencil, was domashno cherveno vino or “House Red Wine” at 11 leva a litre – so I ordered that and very good it was.
I suppose my point is – do they really have to do that? They lose so much good will, and my friends were content to spend considerable amounts of money in the locality, but things like that do tend to leave a sour taste. (I can tell you about the Kempinski whiskey scam another time). They want to come back next year – and buy all the ski gear – but they're going to come to Sofia first and do it there, so Bansko will be the loser.
I have heard nothing but good things about VAGABOND. An English friend staying with us last weekend read her way through most of them and felt they gave a really good insight into Bulgarian life. I met a Dutch guy today who left here nine months ago – he picked up a copy to glance at and ended up sitting down to read for almost an hour, which he said was a real compliment. They both particularly enjoyed the political and economic content.
Susan Browne, Sofia
Your magazine is a welcome breath of fresh air to the English speaking media market in Bulgaria.