It is wonderful that we now have an English-language magazine catering to the expat population of Bulgaria. I suspect that I will continue to read your periodical for many years - keeping up with what's going on in what has become my temporary home - even after I return to the United States.
I wish you much success.
Consultant, MBA Enterprise Corps
Congratulations on producing a great magazine and hope you are able to continue your high standard.
Tishman International Management Limited
42 Brook Street, London W1K 5DB
One beautiful day in October a couple of British friends and I went to visit Rila Monastery. I am sorry to say that what is undoubtedly one of Bulgaria's greatest tourist attractions turned out to be one of the most tourism-unfriendly places we've been to recently.
We do respect the holiness of the site as well as the clergy's right to privacy, but we would like to let you know that restrictions on visitors recently imposed by "the management" (presumably the abbot) add nothing either to the holiness of the place, or to the monks' right to privacy. Everyone, most of all the tourists who appear to be bringing revenue to the church, is a loser.
Once inside the monastery we saw with amazement that the new abbot had banned visitors from walking on the numerous porches and terraces that Rila Monastery is famous for. A man wearing a jogging suit and looking like a local entrepreneur rather than a monk came up to us.
"Are you looking for anything specific?" he inquired. "Then you have to go back to the yard. Tourists are not allowed here. We have put little ropes to bar the entryways. If a rope is missing, then some tourist must have removed it."
We definitely think that this new restriction serves no other purpose than being a restriction itself. The result is that hundreds of interested visitors miss out on such major sites as the Koprivshtitsa and Panagyurishte rooms (no one would tell you about the existence of these anyway), and on the sublime experience of sitting on one of Rila Monastery's top-floor balconies looking into the courtyard.
We then went to one of the two local restaurants to find that some of the tried-and-tested tricks of post-Balkan Tourist Bulgaria were very much de rigeur. The managers of the restaurant had installed a man at the gents to collect 30 stotinki (11 pence) per entry, including a handwash (no soap provided).
We sat in the sun, as the autumn weather was fabulous, and we had some fantastic grilled rainbow trout. The shock came with the bill. Two fish and a bottle of Bulgarian white wine amounted to 50 leva (?17), an extortionate price even for the poshest places in Sofia. There was some small print, of course. The menu said the fish was being priced in portions of 100 grams, and then added, in Bulgarian only, "4% сервиз". All clear?
Strangest Letters of the Month
Just before we went to press we received emails from a couple of Polish girls, who apparently wrote in response to our Where-in-Bulgaria-Are-You quiz (see p115 for last month's winner and p101 for this month's question).
Here we go:
I'm spending time in Sofia studying at the University of Sofia and I'm having lots of fun here!! Beautiful city and great people!!
Ewelina Sobol from Krakow, Poland
P. S. Nice magazine!!
I 'm in Sofia on scholarship.
Urszula Bidas from Poland
Dear Urszula and Ewelina,
We understand where in Bulgaria you are at the moment, but unfortunately, we can't send you to the Kempinski Hotel Grand Hermitage in Golden Sands, Varna. Do let us know your telephone numbers and we guarantee you will be having an even greater time
here, courtesy of VAGABOND.
Letter Writers of the Month
Michelle and David were the winners of three bottles of Kulturna for their Letter of the Month. Originally from South Africa, the couple emigrated to London in the 1980s. Keen travellers, they are currently planning their first trip to Bulgaria, where they will spend the Christmas period in a mountain village near Bansko. They look forward to taking part in the local festivities and sampling the local cuisine - we hope the Kulturna helps to whet their appetites!