Wednesday, 13 October 2010

a far off country of which I know nothing

On seeing some reference to Bulgaria on the Kilburn High Road a few days ago, I realised that Bulgaria is almost certainly the European country of which I know least. I've ended up reading things about the Balkans here and there, and the dissassembly of the Russian Empire, but Bulgaria - nothing.

Let's see what a few minutes online can do about this problem.
- Newsflash: there were two (2!) Bulgarian Empires
- Newsflash 2: Thrace! Thracians are one of the types of Bulgarians. Oh. Hang on. Something is coming at me through the mist. Might Count Belisarius, top Roman general of the difficult Goth-fighting, Justinianish years have been a Bulgarian? Yes, he was. I'd forgotten I knew that. Count Belisarius, by Robert Graves, might be my favourite book. It gets to be part of the conversation
- Newsflash 3: Holy Roman Emperor Basil II was called the Bulgar Slayer. This doesn't sound good. He took down the first Empire but he wasn't so bad - he used the Bulgarian nobility (as per every Empire from Rome to Britain) and recognised the autocephaly of the Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid. I call that generous
- Newsflash 4: the country has a dense network of 540 rivers
- Newsflash 5: its citizens rank second in the world (2nd!) in SAT/IQ scores
- Newsflash 6: it has the oldest treasure of worked gold in the world (5th millennium BC)
- Newsflash 7: world's second largest exporter of bottled wine
- Newsflash 8: Bulgarians shake their heads for ‘yes’, nod for ‘no’ and produce 10% of the world's rose oil. Is that a lot? How much rose oil does the world produce?
- Newsflash 8: according to, much of Sofia's stylish nightlife is in lounge bars with leather sofas. One of the more informal is called By The Way; the beautiful people are attracted to Motto, with its attractive decor and comfy sofas. The Bulgarians are nuts for sofas
- Newsflash 8: 8 is the international maximum amount of Newsflashes, that's why I did two of them

This is just the start for me and Bulgaria, but the potatoes will be ready.


Anonymous said...

I have been to Bulgaria. It was over half my life ago, but the old Soviet beach resort was interesting - in an old Soviet concrete dacha kind of way.

Lots of old women taking fake gold necklaces out of their bras and trying to sell you it, too.

Fact (possibly; based on memory over half my life ago): in the mid 90s, it was illegal to change currency anywhere other than strictly regulated places - your hotel, basically. Didn't stop plenty of people doing it in the street. It may have been Bulgaria where you weren't allowed to take currency out of the country, too.

The only copy of Automatic for the People I own is on cassette, and it's a pirate version I bought from a street trader in Bulgaria. I bought the first Suede album off him too, but I've since replaced that on CD.

Claire said...

The world as a whole produces 100% of Rose Oil.Intergalactic trade of organic and partial organic substances ceased in June 1986.

John Finnemore said...

It's less impressive a claim than it sounds. I myself produce 3.5% of the world's rose oil, and I only make about three bottles a year.