Posted on 31 August 2012 by brett
Seven Rila Lakes Trek Celebration
We’ve learned to live in the moment and to be prepared for anything to happen while on the road. A chance meeting in Chumphon, Thailand with Jeff & Neda led us to Bulgaria….. a hidden gem we would have never known.
It is now more than 100 years since Bulgaria declared its independence from Ottoman rule. And, 20 years since the fall of Communism. The average standard of living suffered a catastrophic decline in the early 1990’s in many former Communist states. Many began to rise with Capitalistic policies toward the end of the 21st century. Some countries like Ukraine, Moldova and Serbia are poorer today than they were in 1989. Others like Bulgaria & Romania have managed to bounce back considerably. The IMF ranks Bulgaria 67th in the world by per capita GDP (PPP). Romania is slightly behind in the 73rd position. Both are 15-20% above the world average. A list of European countries by monthly net average wage reveals both countries around $400. To put this in perspective, Turkey is at $634, the US around $2,197, and the UK at $2,556. Continue Reading
Posted on 08 August 2012 by brett
Rila Seven Lakes Trekking Crew
Our entrance to Bulgaria was quite unique compared to other border crossings. Both Romania & Bulgaria are not full EU members, so the crossing requires a short immigration/customs checkpoint. Our friends (Calin & Mihai) drove us down the Black Sea coast to Cape Kaliakra for fresh mussels and a dip in the lagoon. They were kind enough to then drop us off in Varna to catch a bus to the 13th century capital city of Veliko Tarnovo.
We randomly met Neda & Jeff Fields back in January as our world adventure began. It was at a time when extended world travel was simultaneously new, super exciting and a bit scary. The only thing missing was close friendship and a deep connection to “home”. We stopped at a hotel for a potty break and suddenly found ourselves talking with our new friends. Jeff is from a town very close to ours and Neda partly grew up in Springfield, Missouri. We quickly learned that Neda was originally from Stara Zagora, Bulgaria and still had deep ties to her homeland. That day was one of our most memorable as we walked the local street markets around Chumpon, Thailand. Most notably, we enjoyed their adventurous spirit as we watched hacky-sack handball and tried fried grasshopper snacks. Continue Reading
Posted on 29 July 2012 by brett
Stufstock 10 – Rock Music Festival
About three hours Southeast of Bucharest lives a tiny hippie fisherman’s village called “Vama Veche”. The Romanian Black Sea spans from the beautiful Danube Delta in the north to resort-ridden areas around Constanta…… and of course Vama Veche in the south near Bulgaria. Local people have mixed feelings about development along the Black Sea, especially those that remember special places like Vama Veche during Communist times. Known for its nude beach and intellectual counterculture, it’s amazing that Vama Veche existed during Nicolae Ceauşescu’s reign. Since 1990, Vama Veche developed quite a bit relative to prior years. A movement called “Save Vama Veche” was created to help preserve the environment and stop mass tourism. Since 2004, the Stufstock Rock Festival has played an integral part in preserving the spirit of this small beach town. It has drawn upwards of 50,000 people each year.
Our dream to visit the Black Sea came true when our friend Calin had the big idea to take us to the 10th annual Stufstock Rock Music Festival. We were worried about booking accomodations, but everyone in Bucharest kept saying that the town is tiny and everything is “close”. The drive to Vama Veche was pretty much uneventful except for a famous bridge crossing the Danube River called “The Anghel Saligny Bridge” (formerly King Carol I Bridge). It was built between 1890 and 1895 and became the longest bridge in Europe and the third longest in the world. Today, it is used for railway trains. Continue Reading