“There is no bluefish, the bonito is imported from Turkey and was frozen two years ago. We don't serve sprat!” No matter what restaurant you go to on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, this is what you'll hear. Talk to a fisherman and you'll get even more depressed. “There's no fish in the sea this year, apart from some lucky scad,” he'll say.
With a host of new adventures and experiences most couples are kept busy during the first year of expat life as they dedicate themselves to finding a way through the endless red tape of Bulgarian bureaucracy, as well as renovating or building a dream home. But when the sun sets on the novelty of relocation and reality strikes, age-old problems, which dogged relationships back home, slowly begin to resurface.
What happens to those teens who are wrenched from British society by parents chasing their own dreams of life in the sun? Expat teens remember vividly the day their parents sprung the unexpected, life-changing fait accompli upon them with those classic words of insurgency, “We're moving abroad.”
The Communists were busy establishing the “people's democracy” in Bulgaria. The tautology was a Moscow brainchild - and there was nothing democratic about it. It was a thinly-veiled tactic for seizing power. At first, the Communists paid lip service to democracy and allowed other parties to function. Soon, however, they were outlawed, leaving only the leftwingvFatherland Front which blindly obeyed Stalin.
Bulgarians are very conservative at heart. They crave the quiet life. They don't want fuss. They don't like hassle. This attitude has many positive sides. In Bulgaria, respectable folk don't have to put up with mouthy teenagers on public transport, as in Britain. You can walk around after dark in relative safety. There are no brawls in the street at pub closing time. The dominant philosophy is “live and let live”. Touch wood.
Every year Bulgaria - with its modest population of seven million - loses 10 times more people to car accidents than the number killed in all of NATO's foreign operations combined. The National Insurance Institute reports that 157 people died in workplace accidents in 2007 alone, with construction workers accounting for the highest number of fatalities - 34.
When news of the 27 November 1919 treaty signed in the Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine reached Bulgaria, there was not a dry eye to be found. The victors in the First World War forced the defeated nation to accept a peace deal that Bulgarians to this day consider a national catastrophe. Bulgaria was forbidden to have a conscript army and was ordered to pay reparations of 2.25 billion gold francs over the next 37 years. The most painful consequences, however, were not financial - the Treaty of Neuilly definitively smashed to pieces the Bulgarian dream of national unification.
Although Vazov's literary intrigues usually involve bloodthirsty Turks, the Irish also make a cameo appearance in his work. On a trip to St Petersburg the writer's Irish landlady ensnared him in dubious political alliances, as Vazov himself describes in a humourous passage from his travelogue “Outside Bulgaria – Notes from a Journey XIII”.
In Ireland, the day traditionally was one of religious observance. People would put on their best clothes and head out to church. As the day falls within Lent, however, it also allowed people to eat meat and to drink alcohol and this undoubtedly added to the cheer of the celebrations. It is only recently that parades in Ireland have matched the scale and enthusiasm of their American counterparts.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers