One of my goals this year is to go on more hiking trips. Bulgaria has wonderful landscapes and fantastic hikes for every ability level, and many locations are just a short ride from Sofia – perfect for a day trip.
So far this year, I’m on track with this goal. Part of this was due to the orientation trips I went on with the new teachers when they arrived, and then part of it is due to being able to accompany the Hiking Club on trips now because I have a lot less work to do on weekends than I did when I was teaching.
The new teacher trips were all to locations I had been to before (Rila Monastery, Koprivshtitsa, Plovdiv), but we added a couple of new tangents, thanks mostly to the enthusiasm and energy of M., one of the Bulgarian teachers I invited along with us.
First, after visiting the monastery, we drove an additional 4 km into the mountains to the cave of Sveti Ivan Rilski, where he lived as a hermit.
Supposedly if you can crawl up through his cave (which is so small I’m not sure I would even call it a “cave” rather than merely “a space under some rocks”) from the bottom and out the opening, you will be cleansed of your sins of the past year. Or you won’t sin in the coming year. Something like that.
The second recent example of rules just not existing in the same way in Bulgaria as they do in the States relates to a major construction project going on behind Billa. They appear to be building a road that would intersect with the major street, Alexander Malinov Boulevard, and lead to the new Mladost 3 metro station that opened last year. It also seems like they may be laying some pipes and other groundwork that’s necessary for current and future construction projects and developments in the area—they’re clearly trying to build up the zone around the metro station. All of this make sense.
What also makes sense: When you have a major construction project going on, you block off the area from vehicular and pedestrian traffic, because there are huge machines moving stuff around, enormous trenches are being carved into the ground, the workers in the area are all wearing hard hats, etc.
By now you know the answer is: Not in Bulgaria.
There are many things you can do in Bulgaria that you can’t in the U.S. I’m not just talking about cultural events that obviously are not shared between the two countries, but also experiences that you can have because Bulgaria, like much of Europe, is a much less litigious society than the U.S., and so there are many situations in which the “Don’t be an idiot” common sense rule applies, such as in Belogradchik:
Notice the utter lack of any kind of railing, anywhere. Clearly, the only rule in operation here is, “Don’t be stupid and fall off the gigantic rocks.” And this isn’t just because it’s some obscure getaway that nobody knows about and therefore can’t be bothered with security measures – the Belogradchik rocks are quite well known and frequently visited. It’s because they expect—one might even say, they trust—you to be a reasonable and responsible person. Families climb up here with small children all the time, and nobody freaks out about it. The rule just becomes, “Don’t be stupid and let your kid fall off the gigantic rocks.”
In Belogradchik, I see this as a good thing; it allows you to climb freely and enjoy an unobstructed view of the magnificent rocks and the surrounding landscape. However, the title of this post is “Not in Bulgaria” because this laissez-faire attitude toward regulation is not always such a good thing. Things that are rules elsewhere for a reason simply aren’t rules in Bulgaria. This can lead to Foreigner #1 frequently spluttering, “But isn’t it supposed to—” and Foreigner #2/Wise Ex-pat replying, “Not in Bulgaria!”
I’ve experienced two recent examples of this. Continue reading
Between Facebook losing my photo albums and Posterous screwing up my last post, I’ve had a very trying past 12 hours in technology. My “Not in Bulgaria” post keeps semi-posting, appearing in some places and not others, and now the first part of it is stuck on the homepage even though the post doesn’t actually exist anymore because I deleted it after it wouldn’t show up on the homepage, only in Reader. I’m going to wait a little bit and see if Posterous allows me to actually delete my post and re-post it, instead of just pretending I did, and then we’ll see.
I need to write a real post (there’s been plenty to write about), but I’m going to cheat here and just do another annual “Year in Books” post just to keep me in the habit/mindset of posting something, at least. Continue reading