In July we sent our son out on a school trip to Sunny Beach in spite of warnings from friends who'd been there that it's overdeveloped, overpopulated and overpriced. He came back a week later - and said he actually enjoyed the beach and the discos.
However, he told us the following story which can only be another of those scams employed by greedy hoteliers wanting to cheat foreigners (in this case school kids) out of a few extra euros.
On arrival, the front desk management collected the children's passports "for safekeeping." When the group was about to leave, the management said they wouldn't get their passports back because there were items missing or destroyed from the hotel rooms. It appeared that every school kid in the group had either "stolen" an ashtray or two, or had "destroyed" a towel or a blanket. Everyone had to pay 5-10 euros to the management for the supposed vandalism.
It's not big money - we had provided our son with plenty of change and then it's customary for German tourists to leave small tips to drivers and hotel maids. The kid would have left some money anyway, but why should the Bulgarian hotel management cheat us in this way?
Foreigner prices are now banned, but Bulgarian hoteliers find endless gimmicks to overcharge foreigners. I observed an example of the newest system at a place advertising itself as a "family" hotel in central Plovdiv.
The price they told my partner (a Bulgarian) was 90 leva per night for a double room. I arrived at the hotel alone and the price quoted to me was 180 leva per night. I said we'd made a reservation at a different price, but reception told me it was only valid for "Bulgarian business travellers." And how do you prove that you are a genuine Bulgarian business traveller, I asked.
"You have to have a Bulgarian ID," they told me.That's it about Bulgarian hospitality and respect for the law.
A few Bulgarians I know in London swear by the quality of Bulgarian bread. In fact, they have bread with everything they eat, including chips and meat.I have been led to believe by them that the quality of Bulgarian bread is unparalleled in other nations, that it is a staple of Bulgarian cuisine, and that it is freely available at Bulgarian restaurants.I came to Bulgaria this summer and discovered a/ that it was not very good at all because it was either underbaked or stale, and b/ that waiters would always ask you how many slices of bread you want. In foreign restaurants in London and elsewhere they would always leave a basket of bread on the table and no one will ask you how many pieces you've eaten. Is there any explanation for this peculiar Bulgarian bread-eating habit?
VAGABOND The How-Many-Slices-of-Bread question is one of those peculiarities of life in Bulgaria that can infuriate or endear, depending on how many times you've been exposed to it. At first we found it amusing, but after the 60th time you start getting a little unhappy with waiters watching how many pieces of bread you put down your throat. We have inquired of various restaurateurs why their staff keep asking you how many pieces of bread you want, but none has been able to come up with a credible answer. Perhaps it's the desire to economise (a piece of bread goes for about 10 euro cents in middle-of-the-road restaurants), perhaps it's just inertia or maybe simple greed. We are always wondering if the next thing they will start asking us is how many drops of oil we want on our salad, or how many pinches of salt...In any case, we can't easily change the system, so please bear with Bulgaria when waiters ask you how many pieces of bread you want. They don't mean it personally.
A company based in Burgas specialises in fleecing British/Irish people of their life savings. The name of the company is Bulgarian Real Estate Ltd, 111 Aleksandrovska St, Burgas. They use a variety of other trading names and have numerous websites. They have offices in Burgas, Sofia, Varna and probably other cities.Typically, 10 percent of property plus fees is paid to the BRE company account. A week later the remaining 90 percent is paid to their lawyer's personal account. His name is Ivelin Lozev.Once they have your money they have achieved their aim. Any property purchase will now experience an interminable set of "problems." Eventually the penny drops and the client demands the return of his money. To no avail: emails are now ignored, phone calls blocked. You arrange meetings with Lozev and meetings are confirmed but at the last moment Lozev is unable to attend.
On 11 August I attended a peaceful demonstration outside their Burgas office. Two English friends handed out leaflets, I used a megaphone to demand the return of my money. At about 9:30 am I saw two gorillas (muscle-bound thugs) enter their office. Five minutes later they emerged and headed straight for me. I waited until they had their hands on me - I then sprayed both with pepper spray. One of them was using his fists and knees on me while the other tried to steal the megaphone.
Eventually they both ran off.The police arrived. A woman from the BRE office emerged, read a statement denouncing me as the aggressor. An "independent" witness from the crowd affirmed this version of events. I was arrested and taken to the police station. The two gorillas turned up with their tame witness. One of them pointed at me and said: "We get you, Joe!" in a room full of police officers. No one responded to the threat.I am being charged with assault in Burgas. BRE have arranged for several people to accuse me of unprovoked aggression.I hope you can do something to prevent other people falling into the same trap.
I am writing to you in an act of desperation. A property scam is currently being perpetrated by Ivelin Lozev and Bulgarian Real Estate Ltd (Burgas)/ Bulgarian Property Advisors (Veliko Tarnovo) in Bulgaria. This man is as fraudulent as he is violent.In September 2006 I parted with almost 50,000 euros for a house in Bulgaria which has never materialised. There are also several other victims of this scam, some of whom have been attacked and received death threats.
In the year that passed following Ivelin Lozev taking 36,000 euros of our money to purchase a property, we know for certain that they lied consistently concerning the reasons why completion of the purchase did not occur on 5 March 2007 as it was supposed to do.
Although we eventually had help from an investigative reporter and a lawyer, it was only because we were able to demonstrate that they had lied consistently throughout that period and, more importantly, that the property concerned was still for sale, that they were forced into a corner and had to complete. We were lucky. There are many people out there who are not so lucky.
Jeremy Dyde & Margaret Costello
The comments made by Bryan Turner in the Vox Pop section of your August issue only underline why there is, perhaps, an anti-American sentiment in Bulgaria.I am not "an uptight Brit" (personally I prefer to be referred to as an Englishman, as the Bulgarians do) but one who will never suffer an inferiority complex from a nation who counts its history in years against ours of centuries.In the modern idiom today, perhaps USA stands for "Under Sufferance of Americans"!
Recent additions to my Bulgarian cook book (as seen on restaurant menus on the Black Sea coast).• Cream soup of virgin soil with blue cheese.• Cream soap of potatoes.• Gunts in butter.