City and people
We would recommend meeting local members of Virtual Tourist as they are most friendly and willing to assist a visitor in an instant and show you around. :) The Most Beautiful City of our Eastern Visit was Sofia and well worth the trip. A real nice guy named Peter (peter_dimov) helped us have an especially good trip in Sofia. He was a First Class host that we had met online at VirtualTourist.com :) :) He is a gentleman that deserves the very Best Thanks possible. He also had a good Friend that we call Peter II that also took us in his car to the most Beautiful monastery in existence. Peter II make all of us smile on many occasions. Words cannot describe the good time we had in Sofia. Peter arranged a Traditional Bulgarian Dinner for us that was Fabulous.
"Yes" here means "no" and "no" means "yes"!
I bet there are already plenty of tips on this topic, but I find it so important that I have decided to start my Sofia page from it.
In Bulgaria, like in Macedonia and Albania (I have read this), the head gestures to say "yes" and "no" are inverted in comparison with the rest of European countries.
When Bulgarians shake their heads, they mean "yes", and after spending three weeks here, I still haven't got used to it. When I ask for something and I see people shaking their heads, I still connect it to "no".
You'd better avoid answering to yes/no questions with your head only, since the other person may understand the contrary of what you wanted to say. Just answer verbally with "da" ("yes") or "ne" ("no").
Funerals, Wakes and Bereavment
Loss and pain are not expressed everywhere the same. The traditional way is very vocal, with lots of public display of grief, which can be baffling for more northern cultures. Older people are especially prone to loud grieving.
The funeral is usually within 3 days, so you'll probably have very short notice. Black attire is not compulsory but make sure the clothing is sombre. No bright colours (reds, yellows, greens, etc.) -- gray or dark blue will do. Make-up is not always appreciated, so if you can't go without, make sure it is the bare, bare minimum. You can bring flowers, but make sure they are not fancy bouquets (fancy is the operative word).
Services are usually at the cemetery, altho there might be a mass. After the ceremony, it is customary to file in front of the open coffin and bow. Then you offer condolences to the family. Most people are given little black lace to wear on the lapel as a sign of bereavement.
We do offer food (boiled wheat is the traditional, but also bread and pastries) after the funeral, very often at the grave, and it is not polite to decline. It is for remembrance of the dead.
Wakes are held at the 3rd, 9th, and 40th day after the death, and then on the 3rd, 6th and 12th month. Visiting the grave at those dates is usually for the relatives; friends, neighbours, etc., are optional.
We do not have the custom of sending cards or letters to the immediate family. If you, however, feel like it, you could certianly do it (if you don't receive a reply, it is not a sign of bad intentions, just not the custom).
For those who are interested in social psychology or ethnography, there are some very interesting customs. The mourning chants are very descriptive and can even be perceived as gross by some people,
Sofia lies at the foot of Vitosha mountain.
In Winter time you can even ski here.
We went to Rila & Plovdiv instead , though this is a great place to spend a day in nature with cable lifts taking you up once a day.
On clear days we had good views of Vitosha from the city and from the Slavia football stadium.
Here you can find piles of rubbish but if you an expert in antiques you can find something valuable on a decent price.
They sell everything there, nazi staff, Russian staff from the communist times, Bulgarian medals, daggers, etc. from the WWI and WWII period.
Of course, they will swear that whatever they sell is authentic but you never know :)
And, of course, whenever they see a foreigner they try to rip him off. No need to worry for communication problems if you are alone, they speak foreign languages to some extend, only you will have to pay a higher price. So, it is a good idea to have a Bulgarian with you to help you negotiating the price.
Anyway, the place has its own athmosphere and I find it amusing to walk around from time to time. antiques whatever you find reasonable to pay