"Bulgaria has many secrets, many layers. The people do not give out information so easy. To understand Bulgaria, you have to live here a long time, be intimate with people, live like a Bulgarian, and speak our language." 

annie ward, the making of june

After spending three weeks in raining London, Bulgaria was like a breath of fresh air. Sofia (the capital) is a bustling city where history meets the modern world, with an array of cathedrals, art deco architecture, cobbled streets, museums, and cafes. It's easy to get lost wandering around the many streets of any city, tasting the world-renowned Bulgarian cheese, sipping on local wines, and (if you're there in summer) gazing at the flowers adorning every store.

Bulgaria shakes off the winter-snow in an extraordinary blast of flowers, vineyards, and rolling green fields. The arts industry is booming, tourism is peaking, the coastlines are sparkling, and the valleys are blooming – Bulgaria is quite possibly one of Europe’s best-kept secrets.

Thinking About heading to Bulgaria?

When people think of travelling Europe, they generally don’t imagine visiting Bulgaria. It tends to get a bad rap from the media (and other Europeans, at times), but I travelled alone in Bulgaria and found it to be perfectly safe. It’s so affordable, accessible, and the landscape is so beautiful that there’s no reason not to go.

While the country is said to be one of the oldest nations in Europe (yes, it’s older than ancient Greece) and basically a Historian’s dreamboat, don’t let that fool you in to thinking it’s just a pile of old buildings – the place is alive with music, art, and culture, Plovdiv is the official European Capital of Culture for 2019 and locals are so proud of it they've been celebrating since 2016.

On top of that, the public transport system is fabulous – show up at any bus stop, buy a ticket, hop on, and spend the trip gazing at the mountains and tiny villages, and trying to read the signs. Bring a phrasebook and brush up on your Cyrillic, you're going to need it.

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Kapka Kassabova grew up in Sofia under the communist regime, escaping with her family as a teenager when the Berlin Wall fell. Upon arriving in Britain, she quickly realised the rest of the world didn't know anything about Bulgaria, let alone understand it was still an individual country.

"Jamie mocked my cheap canvas sports shoes from the height of his bouncy Puma trainers. 'Are these made in Russia? They look like shit.' Jamie's lackeys sniggered. They all wore trainers like him. 'I'm not from Russia,' I said, 'I'm from Bulgaria.' 'Same thing,' Jamie said."

When Bulgaria joined the European Union, she decided to return home to see what her country became without the regime, and quickly realised the country is now how she remembered it – Bulgaria was a nation in transition, struggling to regain what was taken.

This unique travelogue and memoir is thought-provoking, funny at times, and provides a unique perspective of life behind The Iron Curtain.