Bulgaria vs. Greece

After two and a half weeks in Greece, I have finally crossed a national boundary and I am now in Bulgaria.

All the Greeks I met warned me about Bulgaria. “Be careful” they would say. One told me, “It’s not like here.”

You can judge how safe a place is by how the residents act with regard to security. In Greece I was constantly amazed at the number of doors I would walk by with the key in the lock.

Likewise, drivers making a quick stop would often get out of their car and leave the engine running. Scooters parked on the sidewalk would also often have the key left in the ignition. One Greek I met said he always leaves his helmet just sitting on his scooter seat, and he’s never had a problem.

After the warnings I received, I expected to find Sofia, Bulgaria to have a completely different feel. But it hadn’t, really. OK, I haven’t seen any keys left in doors or engines left running, but women leave their purses on the next chair in restaurants (they don’t do this in places like Peru where you have to hold your purse in your lap even in fancy restaurants), and the parks are full of playing children unsupervised, along with families walking together.

Tonight, however, I went out after dark for the first time and found myself in a very different atmosphere. One thing I loved about Greece was the streets were hopping late into the evening. At eleven o’clock on a weeknight, the cafes were packed with people, and the sidewalks were a traffic jam, complete with women pushing baby carriages.

Sofia, Bulgaria at night, however, feels like an American suburb. Any restaurants open may have a few customers, but the streets are otherwise deserted. Where did all those people go who were out earlier? I felt a bit apprehensive walking around, and doubly so when I was approached by a guy who offered to accompany me in to a strip club.

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