Thursday, July 29, 2010


The last few weeks were a well deserved break, an adventure and a much awaited trip with my wonderful Roland. It was his first time in Bulgaria and I had an ambitious schedule. We had an amazing time and looking back, this vacation had a lot of eat, love and train components, so here they are.

COOKING is something which to both me and my partner is a hobby, a passion and a celebration of life's variety and simplicity. We traveled quite a lot and stayed at hotels, so not much actual cooking happened, apart from a delicious raspberry cheesecake, which we coated with traditional vanilla cookies and topped with some raspberries from the local market. At the time it was complete, we were so late for our dinner party that we forgot to take pictures, but we have some from the actual making. It was a beautiful day and much of the vigorous stirring was happening on the balcony.

Cooking on the balcony is absolutely legal in Bulgaria

EATING OUT is how we got 99% of our food, and it was great that access to healthy and nutritious food is extremely easy in Sofia and around the country. Every place you go has a selection of fresh vegetables, meats, cheeses and even some more recent introductions to our cuisine, such as souffles and quiches. Unlike salads in North America and Western Europe, our local salads have less lettuce and greens and quite more tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and roasted veggies. They are very very filling.

Of course, on one of his first nights Roland was introduced to some of the more unusual ingredients on our menu, grossly referred to as spare parts. Offal is very nutritious, but it takes growing up with these meals to enjoy picking them out of a menu.

From left to right: lambs intestines, beef tongue and livers, pork and grilled
veggies and a mixed salad with cheese and tzatziki

To soften the cultural impact, the next day I took him to one of our favorite city breakfast spots, the Salt & Sweet cookery, for some more familiar menu items. Being on vacation gives you the luxury of discussing the pros and cons of espresso over drip coffee. I think I heard the words: "it's too small'' and ''it's too cold'' over 100 times in 2 weeks. When you drink espresso, you pray that the barista has hot cups. When something is as small as 30-60 ml, its temperature takes a very short time to drop. Large Starbucks coffees take forever to drink and forever to cool off. They also take a completely different coffee culture to appreciate.

Lavazza coffee. Not cold yet. Hurry up.

It was a surprise to my special guest that there are no breakfast joints or specific breakfast rituals in Bulgaria. People like to make a small sandwich at home. Some of them have a coffee and a cigarette and that's just plenty. Some walk out on the street and pick up ''banitsa'' ( a cheese and egg filled phyllo pastry) and eat it on the go with a yogurt drink. The more corporate culture invaded Bulgaria, the less we developed breakfasts and the more we developed fast food. Since most banitsa you can buy on the street is not of amazing quality, some fancier places offer their own high praised and higher priced versions. Those are the next best thing you can have if you don't have a grandma to make you the real thing.

Banitsa in the background.
The bigger piece is delicious spinach quiche from Salt&Sweet Cookery.

TRAVELING in the country was breathtakingly beautiful. Save a hazardous storm that left our car dead on the highway on the way to the seaside, the trip was filled with beautiful nature sights, and many many sunflowers were there to watch the sun while we drove.

If you know anything about Bulgarian driving, it's sort of like a computer game, with many unusual potholes appearing out of nowhere. There are plenty of drivers that enjoy driving over the speed limit, so it's never boring to be on the road. Such survival games tend to make one hungry, so we were always happy to stop and have the local food.

Tarator, a cold yogurt soup

Foreigners flock to take pictures of our meat

We did some serious sightseeing with my parents and my dad kept disappearing in the bushes. Little did I know he was picking wild strawberries and we had such an amazing treat, right on top of a mountain.

Mmm. Strawberries.

The beauty of the countryside was beyond what I have seen during previous summers. Even unusual flowers for these geographic region were doing very well. There has been a lot of rain and while it brings horrible mosquitos it also allows everything to stay green and pretty even in July.

We don't see many lilies around here.

HIKING was both a challenge and a treat. We braved the 7 Rila Mountain Lakes, in my opinion the most breathtaking hike in the country. Once we were on top, one of the lakes was still frozen, a reminder that summer doesn't go very high up.

We also did a number of smaller hikes, finding waterfalls, beautiful views and huge ants and mosquites mostly everywhere we went.

was great. I love the sea and Roland is from California, so we were both impatient to touch the warm sand. The water was extremely warm compared to California and our beaches provide great fun. Some of the most dedicated and hard training individuals I know live in Varna and we were so happy to see them and train with them!

Behind me is all of Varna's Crossfit, Milena and Victor

Rainy day at the beach

Talking of TRAINING, we had a remarkable training session with my dad, who turned out to be extremely strong and who claimed our kettlebells were ''too small''

Roland watching dad's one arm pull up/lever

THE END of our vacation was extremely romantic as we ended up celebrating the wedding of Petya and Petar. Congratulations, you are a truly inspiring couple and the wedding was beautiful!

Back in Sofia, it feels like the last few weeks were only a couple of days and I miss Roland terribly, but if vacations lasted forever, who would cook all the great meals in my kitchen?


  1. Love it!!!! Can't wait for more!!!

  2. Roland is so lucky to have experienced so many sides of Bulgarian countryside, culture, food and YOU! Wish I'd been here for at least one day of overlap.
    P.S.Tell him I've been so glad to be back in the land of small more drowning in litres of coffee - just a small, wonderful taste of it :P

  3. Linda, it's a shame you couldn't meet but we'll make it happen the next time. Small coffees are just fine ;)heh

  4. What an incredible story, filled with emotion, passion and love. I read it all in a breath. And I still have this silly, happy smile on my face.. Thank you Galya! Keep loving and be loved!

  5. It was our pleasure to be with you on our wedding! Moreover, all of my relatives and friends liked you both a lot and now are constantly asking about "Galya and Roland.."
    Thanx for being there for us, guys!

  6. The family, friends, food, history, and country were wonderful. I had a great time and know I'll be back again.

    Lynda, I wish I'd had more time to meet more and more people. Knowing that I missed a few people by just one or two days was tough! Next time, I hope...

    Petya, your wedding was a true highlight of my trip. I love weddings to begin with. Yours was very beautiful, and one I will remember forever. Thank you so much for including us in your celebration.


    Roland (who's right now sipping a small American coffee, which equals 6 of those painfully small cups of yours) ;)

  7. I enjoyed reading this. Thank you.

  8. Thank you for posting this beautiful story, I enjoy your writing style immensely. :)

  9. It looks so beautiful! I'm definitely adding Bulgaria to the list of places I must travel to.

    And wow, that's one IMPRESSIVE one-arm pull-up your dad can do! I wish my arms were that strong...

  10. You're a great story teller :)
    Sounds like a great vacation :)


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