Get out of your comfort zone: how to become a true Balkan

One does not need more than 12 days to fall in love with Bulgaria and enjoy its real taste. Keep on reading and find out what I mean …

Our journey started in София (Sofia), an ancient city where several cultures converge. This mixture of cultures makes Sofia a unique city and its visitors will be surprised at each corner. Although our lodging was located a bit far away from the city center, in the student area, we could experience how life was in a soviet building like in the old days. It was an adventure worth it.

During the first day, we had the opportunity to get to know each other better with a bunch of ice-breaking games. The best way to learn 30 different names, indeed! After that, our lovely organizers taught us about Bulgarian culture, its traditions and Cyrillic alphabet. This was quite interesting, so different from what we are used to and, somehow it even has some similarities. Still hungry for discovering more about Bulgaria, we took a spectacular city tour guided by Daniel Angelkoff. The best city tour ever so far: he managed to balance history, culture and funny facts all in one.

For the next day, the organizers prepared a challenge to prove how attentive we were during Daniel´s city tour. “Get lost in Sofia” got us to re-discover the city and have some good times. Divided in smaller groups, we got to know each other better and, we even made some new local friends from town! Some tasks dared us to try new Bulgarian drinks like Boza … Definitely, a life experience not suitable for every person!

They said “to become a true Balkan, one has to travel (and survive!) on Balkan trains”. On our third day, we found out what they meant: a boiling 3h ride to Plovdiv through astonishing Bulgarian landscapes. Some of us were playing games in the 8 persons train cabins, others -exhausted of the night before- were sleeping the whole ride … and others … well, others were enjoying the ride as never before. Open windows, open doors and long corridors gave us so much fun.

Finally we arrived to Plovdiv, the second biggest city in Bulgaria. After successfully filling our stomachs, we were ready to fall in p-LOVE-div with it.  The city preserves the ancient Roman halo and at the same time it opens to the modern times.

Pushing our limits, for the next entire day (our 4th) we visit Rila and its outstanding monastery hidden in the mountains. For those who love nature, mountains, art and culture this is a must stop in your journey. I can not really describe with words the beauty of the monastery, it just took our breath away. To recover after an intense day, we had a nice and chilled picnic next to the river in the middle of the mountains. Also, we had a workshop about Bulgarian history thanks to Ivaylo Bogomilov and his assistant, Tsvetislava Staykova. We learned all about Bulgarian history. Later, we played a crossword game to check how much we learned in the workshop. Some of us won candies and gifts when we knew the right answer!

After so many activities during daylight and parties at night, we took a day off to slowly enjoy the city of Sofia on our own. But do not fall behind because… the train is leaving to Burgas!

Next days at the Black Sea were one of a kind. The city of Burgas is a touristic family place full of  beautiful and crowded streets and nice parks along the seaside. We could enjoy the beach under the burning sun, take a swim in the Black Sea looking at the faraway horizon and have lunch at local beach bars with a good cold Kamenitza  and Burgasko beer in our hands. What else could make this better? …

… Maybe … a day trip to Nessebar and Sunny Beach? How about that?

Nessebar is often called as the “Pearl of the Black Sea” and it is meant to be. This old town has turned into a rich city-museum where one could walk in its streets through more than three millennia. A bit further, after a nice walk, we reached the famous seaside resort Sunny Beach: thousand of good looking and tanned locals and tourist around having a drink at the chill-out beach bar, sun bathing or riding a banana boat. Where do all the young people hang out and have fun… the summery place to be is Bulgaria!

One of the coolest activities we had was a day at the Action Aquapark. As you can imagine, “Slides, slides everywhere”: free fall, extreme, twister, turbulence slides and so on. Because if “there are colours for everyone” … there are slides too! It was a great day full of laughs (and why not, some fears on some slides!) surrounded by good friends.

Last but not least, we are proud to say that we ate Bulgarian food everyday. One not only discovers a country by its history , its people and its culture … but also by its gastronomy! Everyday, the meals provided by the organizers were typical and local. Tarator, Shopska salad, Banitsa, Kebapcheta and many other delicious dishes!

And as every good AEGEE event, it come to an end. I would like to thank the organizers for their hard work during this event (always with a big smile and willing to fulfill our desires), without them nothing of what I have described previously would have been possible.

All the good times, all the laughs, all the (mis)adventures, all the bus/train rides we did together, all the new places we visited, all the beers we drank together, all the songs we danced together, all the games we played together … all of these (and much more) will be part of us. It will remain deep inside our heads as a wonderful memory and in our hearts … because AEGEE friendships last for ever.

Written by Alba Laguna, AEGEE-Oviedo