Aspect of the People

In the course of my life, it has been my lot to reside in many out-of-the-way places. But I know of few where I have felt so much cut off from the outer world as in the city of Sofia. It is a bright town, with most of the appliances of civilization. The shop windows display all the articles, and nothing but the articles, one is familiar with in Western cities. The place, people, dresses bear to Western eyes a home-like aspect Indeed, I think, if I were placed suddenly in the center of Sofia, not knowing where I was, I should guess that I was in one of the commonplace modern cities of the German Fatherland, in which every travelled Englishman feels that, though he is not at home, he is not far from home. Yet, the longer I stayed at Sofia, the stronger the impression grew upon me that I was a stranger in a strange land.

Ordinary Western mind

I think this impression is due partly to the fact that the inscriptions over the shops, the names of the streets, the placards on the walls, and the notices in the windows convey absolutely no meaning to the ordinary Western mind. The letters employed seem to have a sort of remote kinship to the Greek alphabet, but to any one not conversant with Sclav languages, the letters look as if jumbled up in inextricable confusion, like the figures of a child’s map puzzle thrown, as printers say, into “ pie.” Then, too, the ordinary smattering of foreign tongues, by possession of which our countrymen contrive to make themselves more or less understood in most parts of the world, is here well- nigh useless. If you want to ask your way about the town from ninety-nine out of a hundred of the people you meet in the streets, you may as well address them in Chinese as in English, French, German, or Italian. The great mass of the people speak no language except their own. The officials and the men of education can commonly understand French, but they rarely speak it either readily or fluently. Some dozen words of Russian, which, out of the very few that I ever knew, have stuck somehow in my memory, proved singularly useful to me here. At the hotels and cafes there is a sprinkling of waiters who are either Germans by birth or who can understand German when spoken. But kavasses, dragomans, valets de place, and all the class of people who serve as guides and interpreters to strangers in other Capitals, are here an unknown race.

I am from the generation that witnessed communism. I had my good moments, I had my fears but I love Bulgaria the most. Many interesting things can be learnt and seen on a communist Bulgaria tour. Definitely, this is something to be experienced – a tour in an ex-communist country.

 

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