Dreaming of a Simpler Life in Bulgaria

We arrived at the train station in Sofia, Bulgaria fatigued and dehydrated from the 20 hour train ride from Budapest. My cousin greeted us with a big hug and Bobby the driver promptly took us to my cousin’s mother-in-law’s apartment where we were immediately fed our first of many amazing Bulgarian meals. 

My cousin and her Bulgarian husband live in New York City with their two-year-old daughter. They usually visit his family in Bulgaria every summer and this summer we were able to meet up with them for a couple of weeks. 

We spent the first part of our visit in Sofia. We played at playgrounds. I did yoga in the park. We met up with friends and relatives for dinner. It was a great break from intense site seeing. 

Chasing pigeons is the best!

My cousin and her daughter getting some loving from Baba Mika and Baba Annie.

The choir was practicing when we visited the Saint Alexandar Nevski Cathedral. The sound was like nothing I’d ever heard before. It was magnificent.

Sunrise in Sofia.

The highlight of the trip, however, was the week we spent in Yakaruda, a small village two hours southeast of Sofia. This village of a few thousand people is nestled in a valley next to Rila National Park. A few villages nearby have capitalized on the tourist industry that national parks generate but Yakaruda hasn’t yet.

We were decidedly the outsiders as everyone stared at the strangers wandering the streets; it felt a lot like visiting small towns in America. Both Martin and I grew up in small towns so we know that when you see someone new, you want to know what they are doing in your town. People said hi to us and were friendly and extremely generous. My cousin’s husband spent much of his childhood in this village and still had many friends and relatives here.

Yakaruda is paradise. The food is amazing. There are stray cats everywhere. The pace of life slowed down as we spent hours sipping espresso shaded by an umbrella overlooking the town square. It was gloriously quiet and we all dreamed of moving to Yakaruda and leaving all the stress of the big city behind.

Yakaruda on market day

The house we stayed at had a beautiful flower garden in the courtyard.

A marinated bell pepper salad.

Fresh from the garden raspberries. Yum!

The town square is lined with cafes perfect for lazy afternoons.

Coffee and a kitten. My life is complete.

We had lunch at a fish farm with this as our view.

Death notices are the traditional way to remember those who have passed.

This little girl loves animals so much! We visited as many animals as we could while in Yakaruda.

We went to a dancing bear sanctuary. It was nice to see the bears being taken care of and happy.

I hadn’t seen my cousin or her daughter for 21 months – a considerably long time in a two-year-old’s life. So it was great getting to know her daughter and catching up with my cousin. My cousin and I have always been close and I had missed her terribly. The only thing that would have been better would have been if our other cousin had been able to make the trip too.

I know that Bulgaria isn’t high on the must see places in Europe. Sofia didn’t impress me, but Yakaruda and other Bulgarian villages are a rare find that make Bulgaria a destination like no other.


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3 Responses

  1. Mom-in-law says:

    Another great post! Thanks, Jill.

  2. Loretta says:

    Beautiful photos! Enjoy reading your blog!

  3. Molly B says:

    Love it! And such a precious little girl.