From here to God knows where.
Assens Monument

Bulgarian Nazi skinheads the Mafia and a weekend in ancient Veliko Tarnovo

Do you know if you saved 38 euro a week for 1 year you could own a house in Bulgaria in a good area.  There are of course things or people you need to know.  Top of the list is the local Mayor.

I spent the weekend in the ancient capital of Veliko Tarnovo in Northern Bulgaria.  As I walked around the beautiful old town I noticed a house for sale on an estate agents window for 3,900 euro.  3 bedrooms and a massive garden.  When I returned to Kiev Hotel Veliko Tarnovo where I was staying in I mentioned it to Peter the guy running the hotel.  3,900 is not the real price he said.  That is what I was thinking I said.  I knew it could not be that cheap.  No no he replied.  The real price would be 2,000 euro.

Estate agents in Bulgaria are not regulated.  The agents that sell to foreigners usually double the price they have agreed with the owner.  They don’t even need to tell the owner how much they have sold the property for.  Because of this, you need be very careful if you are buying a property here.  The key person to know if the Mayor in the town.  They will know all the properties that are for sale in the area.  Which are good and bad.  Also, advise of what areas are in more desirable areas the others.  I am sure a contribution to their next election campaign might be necessary.

Why is property so cheap?  Do the maths.  Over 25% of the Bulgarian population has left since 1989.  If the trends continue at the same pace that will be 50% before 2050.  Outside the cities that is a lot of land.  In rural areas of Bulgaria, 41% of houses are unoccupied.

Hotel Kiev Veliko Tarnovo Bulgaria

I do hope the trends can be reversed.  From what I have seen the countryside is very beautiful.  There is so much history here and Bulgaria is one of the cheapest countries I have ever been to.   Veliko Tarnovo is well worth a visit.  It is also known as the city of Tsars.  In the middle ages, it was declared the capital of Bulgaria during the second Bulgarian empire.   The Tsarevets fortress is one of the most amazing castles I have ever seen. Nearby Tzarevets hill is execution rock where traitors were thrown to the deaths into the river.  The old town is full of really nice bars and restaurants.  I had a meal in a place overlooking the hill.  The bill including 2 beers came to 9.50 Euro.

Veliko Tarnovo

Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover

I have been popping into a bar near where I am living every now and again.  During the day it is a nice place to have a coffee.  At night it is really near where I am staying.

During the day it has what I would call regular people.  At night it becomes a different beast.  100% of the clients are skinheads and jump up and down to heavy metal.  I normally have one beer before I go home.  Last night one of the guys asked me where I was from and was I aware I was in a Bulgarian Nazi Skinhead bar.  My survival instincts kicked went to red alert.I said I was Irish and that I did know I was in a Bulgarian Nazi Skinhead bar.  Maybe if my survival instincts were better I would not have been in there.

Anyway, the conversation where I mostly listened to went down the familiar Xenophobia, Islamophobia and Homophobia line.  They are still a bit pissed off with the British for bombing Sofia in 1943/44 so you can add Britophobia in there as well.

Since 2003 far-right groups have marched through Sofia to commemorate Lukov the former Bulgarian fascist leader who was killed by communists in 1943.  He was an avid supporter of Nazi Germany and Hitler.  Just over 1000 people marched in this year.

Its worth noting that these groups do not seem to have big support now or back in the 1930s.  Bulgaria refused to hand over Bulgarian Jews to Germany in world war 2 and actually, the Jewish population grew during the war.

I have about 5 bars I frequent in Sofia.  So after having a beer with Nazi Skinheads I then found out one of my other bars is a Mafia hangout bar.  A guy I got to speak to told me that most of the people I had spoken to in the bar were from the Bulgarian mafia.  The Mafia guys seemed friendly enough but I can have a very Cork Irish sense of humour after a few pints.  At times I have found it does not travel well.    The last night in the mafia bar there was a a guy saying he always has problems with Irish people.  I started winding him up a bit and yes I did find out later he part of the Mafia gang that drinks in the bar.  I need 2 more bars.

Train and bus stations and where are you from.

The one common thing I see in every country is points of arrival into any country or city are always places you need to be alert. As the saying goes fish where the fish are.  Anyone trying to rip off a tourist will be in these areas.

A few days back I was at Sofia Central bus station to buy a ticket.  As I walked away a guy came up to me and said I am not looking for anything.  Where are you from.  God how many times in how many places have I been asked where are you from.  The person will not be interested in where or you from and will want something.  My policy is never to stop walking and just say no.

Anyway, this guy followed up the I am not looking for anything with can you give me 2 Lev.  I said no.  I am not unsympathetic but experience has taught me that 2 becomes 4.  4 becomes 10.  10 becomes let’s go to a nightclub where you will be ripped off an so on.   So he gets a bit annoyed as I did not tell him where I was from so I said I will tell you but I am giving you nothing.  I am Irish.  I could see he was about to shout some insult but out of nowhere, he said are you from Cork.  I was a bit surprised as I am from Cork.  I asked had he been there.  He had never been in Ireland.  A bit confused I gave him 2 lev just for getting his longshot response correct.  Then followed the usual pattern. Give me 4 and so on.  I continued my walking.

He had told me he just got out of prison that day.  As he walked ahead of me he was kicking rubbish and just began generally annoying people.  I thought he would not be long before he is back in prison.  10 minutes later he has his hands and legs spread on a police car.

I have to say in the month I have been here in Sofia I have found it to be a very safe city.  Day or night.

From BEER to Eternity

In a strange week where I lost a few of my regular bars, there was some great news also.  I have a new record.  I found a beer for 1.30 lev which is 0.65 cent.  I have checked my beer time machine calculator.  I pulled the lever and I am back in February 1980  Irish beer prices.  I am so near the 1970s.  Can I get cheaper?  Stayed tuned.

This weeks short video is from Tsarevets fortress in Veliko Tarnovo.  See and hear my heavy breathing as I go up the hill to the fortress.  Click here.

Another blogger with an Irish angle and good advice is a radio producer and currently in Eastern Europe. Check him out here.

Join me on my journey. 

Sign up for email alerts and know when a new post goes live.

Comments (2):

  1. Richard O'Keeffe

    August 7, 2018 at 8:29 pm

    Veliko Tarnovo sounds like a very interesting place much better than the skinhead bar!!!

    • PATRICK O Neill

      August 7, 2018 at 8:38 pm

      The skinhead bar was interesting too but unlike Veliko Turnovo, I am not going back to the bar.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *