I thought it might be fun and entertaining to examine some of the things I've learned while in Bulgaria.
Pizza- think cheesy bread sticks. Or frozen pizza at a roadside stand.
Shopska Salad- the Bulgarian national salad. Typically made of diced cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions, and covered with a Bulgarian cheese similar to Feta. I've had several excellent shopska salads here and some not so good; the best ones use very fresh vegetables freshly cut up and a good quality cheese on the top. Add a little balsamic vinegar and its a great starter.
Rakia- Strong, sweet liquor, usually drunk before meals. When you swallow, you can feel it all the way to the stomach. Not bad if you like strong, sweet liquors.
Cukes and tomatoes- more flavorful than what you get in the US. Seems like they haven't been bred for shelf life and ability to be transported, and have been bred for flavor.
Lamb- being in the Balkans, I expected lot of lamb dishes. Didn't happen. Pork and chicken seem to dominate in the meats.
Water- I went 2 weeks here, drinking tap water judiciously, and have had no stomach problems. I drank tap water at the Pirin resort, Milara plant in Plovdiv, and at the Sunny Beach resort- admittedly, all places with water from more modern purification plants. I also had ice made from tap water in all 3 locations, and now at several restaurants in Plovdiv, all without incident. Does that mean tap water in Bulgaria is safe to drink everywhere? I wouldn't go that far, as outside of the above areas I've only had bottled waters.
Diet Coke- If you are in a restaurant or bar and ask for a Diet Coke or Pepsi, they will stare at you and not bring you anything. You must ask for a "Coke Light" or a "Pepsi Light" and hope they have it.
Ice- If you want ice, you must ask for it. Remember, if your ice comes from tap water in a small place, you might regret it. But, if you don't ask for it, your drink will probably be served at a 50deg F temp.
Fruits and vegetables: fresh and tasty. I've always washed first, and used bottled water if in doubt of tap water.
Pancakes: a little thicker than a crepe, but not as thick as what Americans think of as pancakes. A nice light breakfast, with banana, chocolate, or jam.
Ice Cream- I avoided it from street side vendors, even though their displays looked great. I did eat prepackaged novelty items, but overall this is what I probably missed most on the trip.
Money: Bulgaria uses the Lev as their currency. 1 Lev= .73USD, or 1.31Lev= 1 USD.
Gas Price: For you Americans, gas is priced per liter at 2.34 Lev per liter. Multiple that by 3.8liters per gallon,and that equates to 8.892Lev per gallon of gas. Now modify the price at 1.31Lev per USD, and you get a gallon of gas for $6.78 USD. And we think its expensive at $4 per gallon!
Money exchange: I didn't use any of the money exchange services here; the tour books all suggest that you use your ATM or cash advances from credit cards. That's what I did, and have no problems getting money when I needed it. Now, of course, the trick will be leaving the country with a minimum of Levs, as I never know when I'm going to be back and there isn't a big demand for Lev exchanges in the USA
We're getting ready for the IARU tomorrow afternoon. I was just messing around yesterday, calling CQ and DXing, when I saw spots for the USA on 6M. I went up there, and with a Monster Stepp antenna was actually able to work K1TOL on 6M! I was told by several that working the US on 6M didn't happen very often, so I was fortunate to be able to do so. Right now, I see the US is coming to western Europe on 6M, so maybe we'll get another chance at it this evening. K1WHS, W3UR and K3ZO have been spotted, but I haven't been able to hear either of them. The antenna here is a small 3el beam above the Milara factory roof; it works, but K1TOL was barely readable when I worked him. I also heard N1BUG and another W1 yesterday, but the band faded before I was able to work them. I'll keep trying, but its probably too late for today and I won't have another shot until Sunday after the contest.