Bulgaria Travel Guide
Expendable 2, which assembles a dream team of action stars including Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jet Li, and Jason Statham all out for revenge after one of their own is killed, hits theaters today.
The action flick was shot all over the world, in Hong Kong, New Orleans, and Sofia, Bulgaria. Sofia isn't exactly a popular location for big budget films but, according to director Simon West, that was what made the country appealing.
Terrorism / Politics Travel / Travel Politics / Bulgaria Travel / Israel / Israel Travel / Crimes / → All Tags
In recent months counter-terror officials have broken up plots to murder Israeli tourists in Cyprus and Egypt and Bangkok and Tunisia and India. Warnings were also issued to Israeli tourists regarding possible plots in Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. Today a bomber managed to slip through the net and carry out an attack at the Sarafovo Airport in Burgas, Bulgaria, killing at least six Israeli tourists and injuring more than 20 others, including an 11 year old boy and two pregnant women.
The details of the blast are still changing, to the point where no one even knows what kind of bomb exploded. Eyewitnesses describe a female suicide bomber who leaned into a tour bus filled with Israelis and detonated, while Bulgarian officials have reportedly told the Israelis that it was a suitcase bomb loaded into the luggage carriage. Whatever it was, the bomb was powerful enough to blow the front off the bus and set two nearby buses (also filled with Israeli tourists) on fire. Photos are here but please observe a strong content warning.
So much for capping off the franchise. After Sylvester Stallone survived the lashings of critics and made a decent amount of money off last year's "Rambo" reboot, he apparently couldn't help going back for more: Stallone confirmed last week that "Rambo V" is in the works and should be released sometime this year.
We know thanks to a few strategic leaks that "Rambo V: A New Brawn" (not its real title) will be filming in Bulgaria, but what should the country stand in for? Marina Hyde of the Guardian (U.K.) newspaper believes he will return to Afghanistan, the setting of 1988's "Rambo III," in which Rambo helps the Mujahideen battle the Soviets. (Spoiler: Stallone drives a tank into a helicopter!)
Then again, his foray last year into Burma didn't solve that country's humanitarian crisis, so maybe he should go back? Other rumors place the movie in Africa, a continent in which he has not yet attacked, or right here in the good ol' USA. (Since the plot may involve John Rambo saving the daughter he never knew he had, she could be among us right now!)
Our pick: Unwinnable war? Unsolvable problem? Please. We need John Rambo taking care of business in Iraq. If he does it right, the film could even double as a 90-minute ad for the Army (with the appropriate endorsement deals). Special cameo by President Obama at the end?
· Will Rambo return to Afghanistan? [Guardian]
· 2007: Honeymooners Down Under Check Out As Sylvester Stallone and Hormones Check In [HC]
· War on Terrorism Travel: Lonely Planet Cracks Afghanistan [Jaunted]
Hipster Travel / Bars / Bulgaria / Bulgaria Travel / Sofia / → All Tags
For years the weak dollar had people looking to Eastern Europe for affordable travel opportunities. Now that the dollar is on the upswing and oil prices are plummeting, you'd think that cities like Sofia in Bulgaria would fall off the radar. Which might make sense, minus the whole "nobody has any money" part.
So people are probably still looking to go to Sofia - and, just as importantly, they're still looking to find affordable bars and restaurants once they get there.
Sofia has enough overpriced restaurants in the city center to trap tourists aplenty. But the late-night bars where the cool kids congregate are distributed throughout the city's winding roads and alleys. If the latter is more your taste you should make a point of checking out The Apartment.
EU residents: Get thee to Bulgaria and Romania quickly--before the union boots the new members out. Since their acceptance last year, neither country has managed to stamp out corruption and fraud to an acceptable degree, a commission found, and now Bulgaria is on the brink of losing a good chunk of funding because of it.
It came to light earlier this year that millions in EU aid had poured into the pockets of high-ranking thieves. The funding was frozen, and a deadline for Bulgaria to fix the problems causing the corruption expires this month.
Experts say that if the trend continues, there's no way the Union will continue to keep the countries inside the circle. Originally, it was thought Bulgaria and Romania's membership would represent the emergence of former Soviet Bloc countries into the Western sphere. Instead, it's come to show the trouble transforming Communist strongholds into functioning democracies.
So unless you're a thick-neck former body builder with a defective conscience or a travel writer, these two countries might not be the vacation destination for you.
Ski Travel / Bulgaria / Weird / Tourists / Bulgaria Travel / → All Tags
We're getting the message from all directions this week: Bulgaria is the new place to ski. Whether it's an EasyJet flight tip or a recommendation for the ski resort at Bansko, we're not surprised that an Irish tourist named David Gibbons decided to take a holiday to ski in the Pirin Mountains.
But we are surprised about where he chose to sleep. After drinking too much to find his own hotel, Gibbons decided to force open the door of a furniture shop and take a nap on one of the showroom beds. Staff arriving for work the next day found him snoring away and called the police.
This would make a great holiday tale to tell his pals back home--except for the $4,000 fine he's now facing. That makes it quite the alternative to a night in his cheap Bulgarian hotel.
We had thought that the bare-chested drivers of trams and buses in Bratislava might have been an all-time public transportation low, but that was until we heard about the latest "innovation" in the Bulgarian train system.
The Bulgarian train drivers' union made a complaint that older trains had no toilets on board and drivers who felt the call of nature had to open the window and, well, go. Management's response?
Bulgarian train drivers have been issued with rotating chairs so they can pee out of the window without having to stop.
Now there's a collection of words we'd never expected to be able to publish.
[Photo: St Stev]
· Train Drivers' Wee Perk [Ananova]
· Public Transportation Love-Hate: Getting From A to Bratislava [Jaunted]
They're a pretty open-minded mob over in Bulgaria, it seems. You know those handy TV screens that display bus departure times at bus stations? Well, in the evening when the buses in Sofia are few and far between, bus station managers decided that just showing one bus time was way too boring for passengers. So what did they put up? Soft porn films.
We wanted to give the passengers something to take their minds off the cold and to pass the time while waiting for a bus, and there are unlikely to be children around that time of night.
So said station management. Maybe the kiddies are all tucked up in bed, but does everybody waiting for a bus want to watch pornographic videos on giant plasma screens? Heck yes! Apparently the station security guards keep getting told off for standing in front of the screens and forgetting to do patrols. Let's all go catch a bus (or not) in Bulgaria.
[Photo: jonny yen]
· Soft Porn for Bus Passengers [Ananova]
· Sofia, So Fresh [Jaunted]
Beer / Alcohol / → All Tags
The European Union welcomed Bulgaria and Romania into its fold from January 1, and there have been a few surprising repercussions. One is the sudden boost in sales of Boza, a Bulgarian beer that is famed for making women's breasts grow.
You see, joining the European Union meant that customs duties and taxes on the beer were eliminated, and it's made it affordable again to non-Bulgarians. The biggest customers are Romanians from just across the border. One Bulgarian was very excited about his purchase:
I've bought a case for my wife to try out. I really hope I see an improvement.
Bar-owners and shopkeepers from the rest of Europe are also cashing in on the breast-beer boom, with an Austrian ski resort owner admitting that getting Boza tax-free was a good enough reason to bring it back for his customers. But if you really want to grow those tits, better get to Bulgaria yourself and be sure you get the original. How the beer knows not to grow breasts on men is a mystery to us.
· Breast-Boosting Beer [Ananova]
· Romania's Page 5 Girls [Jaunted]
If you're looking for handsome guys on your travels, put Bulgaria on your list. This week in the Bulgarian capital Sofia police were called to deal with a fight over a handsome boy. And we're not talking a conflict between two best girlfriends here, but a brass-knuckles, smashed beer bottle battle between 23 teenage girls.
Twenty-three girls. That's gotta be one especially handsome Bulgarian guy, and we want to know if they're all like that. We figure a trip to this relatively seldom visited part of eastern Europe is more than justified: just be sure you don't take 22 of your friends with you.
· 23 Girls Brawl Over Handsome Guy [Focus News]
Bulgaria, or Sofia anyway is a city that at one time was a real jewel of Eastern Europe, but it has been trampled on so much throughout every war. It's been bombed. It's been taken over. It's been given up. I mean, it's really been just harassed and of course, seeing remnants of the communist regime there, it's interesting the kind of buildings that they have there. It's like you're almost in a time warp or a kind of broken city somehow.
What's interesting also about it is that the youth there, they have a lot of very promising sort of creative outlets there. There is music and dance and art. There are a lot of young people there who are very enthusiastic about life, and some of them are wanting to join the EU. Others are very much against it. There is a real kind of passion there right now and so in some ways it feels very sort of forward thinking and then in other ways it's like being in a time warp.
There are a lot of strange things like if you go to the markets there, there is all this Nazi paraphernalia that you can buy. It's really interesting. It's very strange, very strange.
Hope Scarlett was able to get all her Nazi paraphernalia through customs, we know she has had some declaration issues in the past.
Online travel forums are filled with gems, if you have the time to dig for them. Luckily we do the dirty work for you in our somewhat regular Forum Ferreting feature.
Bulgaria: It's on everyone's lips, right? Sofia's a party town, there's cheap skiing, cheap seaside resorts, cheap this, cheap that. It gets difficult to tell what's true and what's travel writing B.S., so once again, we'll dip into the magic that is the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum to educate ourselves on the ins and outs of Bulgarian tourism:
Varna: Varna is well worth a visit in the summer, it's a great city. Lively nightlife, laid back attitude and nice beach. It's also a good place to base yourself to explore the rest of the Black Sea coast. Resorts like Sozopol and Nessebar are very pretty, but packed with tourists in summer and accommodation is pretty hard to find and can be very expensive. Varna is the only place along the coast with youth hostels and the prices (food, drink, taxis etc) are much cheaper than elsewhere as there are not so many Western tourists.
Sofia: I think one of the major problems is that the city doesn't have a central focus for people (and tourists) to congregate. Instead, it has many smaller areas -- parks, squares, etc. -- that take a little more time to see and appreciate. It's also not as pedestrian friendly as some other major cities in the region. And it doesn't have a quaint and historic "old town" like some other Bulgarian (and Eastern European) cities. Since it's the major transit hub for the region, you'll probably be heading to Sofia anyway. For that reason, I'd say it's worth a full day, and perhaps two, depending on how much time you have to travel.
Nessebar: If you will be there when the weather is warm, it is a nice place to go and walk around all the little shops that are there. It is beautiful as well --since it is its own peninsula.
Bulgaria--the next Slovakia? Discuss.
· Forum Ferreting [Jaunted]