An escape in the south: Through the Eyes of Denny Zlatanova

Or why Turkey has become a top destination for their north neighbours

Editor’s note: Denny is an intelligent Bulgarian woman who will certainly leave you feeling inspired after reading her experience in Turkey. Undoubtedly she will be your lodestar for your next visit to Turkey since the way she observes Turkish culture and social dynamics are well beyond average.

“There is no surprise – Bulgaria and Turkey have shared a great amount of history. It comes naturally that both Bulgarian and Turkish people tend to know each other pretty well – in fact much better than anyone else of their neighbors. Culture, traditions, food & drinks, dances, music, lifestyle and even a great amount of Turkish vocabulary – all of this can be found extremely easily in everyday Bulgarian life. Also, there is no doubt – everybody here appreciates a good kebap after work.

Growing up I have always been surrounded by Turkish people, as they are the biggest minority group in Bulgaria. But it took me 21 years to land on Turkish soil for the first time, as a work/travel trip from the foundation that I’m a part of. Little did I know what a megapolis Istanbul was until I paid a visit – it’s situated on 2 continents (and it is the only city in the world which holds the title), but it’s also over 160km. long, a home of more than 20 million people (according to unofficial data) and it is the biggest city in Europe. “Tsarigrad”, as many Bulgarians still call it, is only 5 hours away with a car and it is truly something you have never seen before, especially on the scale of little Europe. 

The most modern Turkish city stretches along the Bosphorus, dividing the country into two – Anatolia and Thrace – or Asian and European Turkey. It doesn’t matter which part of the country you will decide to visit – wherever you are in Turkey you will be treated with immense respect – for being a tourist, a foreigner, or especially a Bulgarian. I have never been greeted more warmly and respectfully anywhere on the Planet.  Turkish hospitality cannot be mistaken – you will be left with the impression they are ready to do anything for your comfort and pleasant stay – and it is true.

Balat/Istanbul
Credits: D. Zlatanova

Over 2 million Bulgarians have visited Turkey only until October this year – the numbers are growing massively as countless Bulgarian tourist busses snake around the border area waiting for hours to cross over. And it is not only Istanbul which entices the Bulgarian wave to go south – Turkey has become one of the best holiday destinations, offering affordable vacations in Izmir, Bodrum, and Antalya. 

A coffee shop in Istanbul
Credits: D. Zlatanova

The geographical closeness to Bulgaria undoubtedly has a huge role to play when it comes to tourism. But besides Greece, the other Bulgarian neighbor who also receives marvelous touristic attention especially in the summertime, Turkey attracts visitors for one major reason – it is different. A few hours drive from Plovdiv, for example, (or “Filibe” as it is famous in Turkey), takes you to another world, kissed by the lavishness and vividness of the Orient, its myriad colors and fragrant odors, and most importantly – its people, who will make you feel like at home.

Edirne through the eyes of Denny

Another reason why Turkey is becoming more and more popular is because of shopping. Edirne is a city, situated in the north part of the country, 10 minutes away from the border. The number of Bulgarians who go there on an everyday basis is tremendous –  local people have learned to speak Bulgarian and they do operate with Bulgarian currency. Turkey’s retail industry has been indeed blooming for years and overflowing the Bulgarian market (cities like Asenovgrad have transformed into shopping centers notably for the Turkish clothes import). But as it turned out, it is still way cheaper to travel a bit and go buy Turkish clothes on the spot! Moreover – anything that comes between shampoos and detergents to make-up and personal care – in Turkey you will bargain those goods for a price which is minimum twice cheaper compared to Bulgaria for the same quality! And don’t be surprised when people from Edirne greet you with komshi (a word that I very much adore and which translates into neighbor) – almost every second person you meet in Edirne will be a Bulgarian, on the weekends – pretty much everyone. 

It’s mesmerizing how just a few hundred kilometers can offer you the ultimate getaway, which, yes – will stand in stark contrast from what you have experienced so far in the old continent. When it comes to me – I’m truly anticipating my next trip to the beautiful land of baklava, which always manages to stunt me with its authenticity, generosity, and love.

Bir dahaki sefere kadar, Türkiye!