26.07.2014 - 26.07.2014
Our final destination in the Balkans is the country of Bulgaria. A former soviet state, it has now turned to embrace the west and has become a member of NATO and the European Union. Luckily it does not use the euro but does have a fixed rate of exchange and has much cheaper prices than the western countries of Europe.
The architecture is split between religious (Ottoman and Orthodox) and communist era buildings with a few Roman ruins thrown in. The old soviet shopping center was described as representing the solidarity of the U.S.S.R, with the simple stone on stone design with a dash of red on the ceilings. Not the most impressive of designs.
There was an issue with the hostel's breakfast, namely the hostel site said there was one and the hostel said no. Not an issue as we could find an assortment of stuffed breads for under $2 for the both of us. I also tried Aryan; a salty, watered down yogurt drink popular in former Ottoman territories. Not really refreshing since it has a high salt content.
Yogurt is a large part of the Bulgarian diet and we had it several times a day, either in drink form or with food. A traditional soup is a cucumber, yogurt, dill and sunflower seed mixture served cold. The flavors meld well and is tangy and refreshing during the hot season.
One dinner had stuffed peppers with yogurt sauce. The filling was much the same as the cabbage roll. Both had minced beef, onions and rice. Very filling and heavy. Of course you would wash it down with a glass of salty Aryan.
I tried several times to find a shopke salad here but I kept getting different salads. This is odd since it is designed to look like the Bulgarian flag and is one of the national dishes. The one pictured below is the one I got instead.
We saw oversized slices of Bulgarian pizza with an odd assortment of toppings. Corn, pickles and sweet ketchup. Despite liking pickles it was not really enjoyable.
While a lot of the dishes are similar to other Balkan foods, including Greece, Bulgaria doesn't really use olive oil in their dishes as it doesn't grow in the region. Instead they use sunflower seed oil which gives the Bulgarian dishes a distinct flavor.
On our final day we went into the Rila mountians to check out one of the most treasured landmarks of the Bulgarian Orthodox church. Here, nestled in the forests of central Bulgaria, lays Riga Monastery. Near the back door they sold these Bulgarian donuts topped with powder sugar which were freshly fried.