Sofia advanced over the years. Bulgaria became a contender for membership in the European Union (and gained it in 2007) and consequently began transforming its streets.
Summer vacation meant another plane ride across the Atlantic to Bulgaria – an unfamiliar country for most, but my summer home. After spending my childhood summers visiting my father’s siblings in Sofia, I became accustomed to the city’s cobblestone streets, fruit stands, shabby clothing stores and concrete homes.
Nevertheless, Sofia advanced over the years. Bulgaria became a contender for membership in the European Union (and gained it in 2007) and consequently began transforming its streets. When visiting in 2010, the change was immediately noticeable, for the very terminal that I was so used to landing in – one with a few podiums and a clear path to the exit – was transformed into one stocked with restaurants, duty-free shops and signs indicating other terminals.
Instead of collecting groceries at multiple vendors, my cousins now drive up the newly paved street to the large supermarket, Fantastico, just one of the many springing up around the country. I saw less and less Bulgarians browsing boutiques along Vitosha Boulevard and more in the shiny spacious malls around Sofia.
But, despite these additions, Bulgaria still boasts its original homey charm for me. Remnants of my memory include the lush green mountains to which we traveled upward in cable cars to see humble monasteries near the village of Dragalevsti, thick creamy dairy products (their thick creamy yogurt is my personal favorite) and long drives to Sunny Beach where we swam in the salty Black Sea.
Are there more dining options when I visit now? Yes, but the atmosphere and the value of spending time with my family there is irreplaceable.