When Ellis and I came to Bulgaria two years ago, we had no idea what awaited us. We just had a long-standing desire to try living in a different country for a limited, set period of time and to experience something else. So, when Ellis was approached by his company to relocate, we jumped at the chance.
Most people's initial reaction to our announcement was "Bulgaria? What's in Bulgaria?" I admit that I was wondering the same thing, and asking myself, "why not England, or Spain, or Gibraltar?"
Today, after living here for two years, I can tell you what is in Bulgaria. It is a country with friendly people, who are interested in the strangers living amongst them, and are happy to talk to you, even when you tell them that you don't understand their language. As Israelis, we never felt uncomfortable talking about where we come from - most people had a warm and positive feeling toward Israel. This can even been seen at government level - Bulgaria was one of the first countries to send fire-fighters to Israel to help in the recent Carmel fire.
The country itself is a beautiful country. We fell in love with the mountains and forests and rivers - so much water and so much green. It is a pity that we can't take this home with us!
There is a mixture of the old and the new living side by side. Sofia is a rapidly growing city with new, modern buildings going up all over. But, next to these, there are still the old, decaying buildings, often standing right next to the new. Many of them have much more character than the modern buildings, and I wish that they could be restored instead of being torn down to make way for the new.
In many of the villages, there is much attention paid to preserving some of the old-style houses which are 150 years old, and many of which have been made into museums showing the old style of living.
Also in the villages, you still can see many simple farms, with the older generation working the fields with the simplest of farm tools, and a horse to pull the plow. It is sad to think that so many of these places will die out in the next generation, as the younger people move to the bigger cities or abroad looking for more opportunites than what their small village can provide.
There are of course, some things that I didn't enjoy here - the heavy smoking, and the terrible infrastructure of the roads - both things that the government needs to work on. On a personal level, I will not miss the snow - but this is something that the government has no control over - except for doing a better job cleaning the streets!
Most of all, I will miss the wonderful friends that I made here, and who made me feel so welcome and accepted me into their lives - from my hairdresser, to my manicurist, to the flower shop lady on our street, and to my wonderful friends at work, who made my days so enjoyable and enriched my life here over the past two years. I hope that someday you will come and visit us in Israel, and let me return the hospitality that you have shown me.
I am thankful today that we weren't sent to England or Spain. Although the language might have been easier to deal with, I think we would have missed out on an amazing experience, and the chance to really learn about a country and culture so totally different from anything we knew before. As those of you who have followed our blog can see, we really took the time to learn, ask questions, travel and experience living in Bulgaria. This truly was our "Bulgarian Adventure".