by Lubomir Popiordanov and Bulgarian Association of Alternative Tourism
In recent years, ‘Green’ has gone through all sorts of metamorphoses. Businesses are also highly sensitive to that color. Energy efficiency and passive houses are widespread as a topic, so is food of ecological origin, and even organic wines. The “Green” wave in tourism is not just another passion for entrepreneurs and architects, but a new model for planning holidays, which are emotionally enriching and intense. In Bulgaria this message is supported by the Green Lodge network and a few tour operators who pay a particular attention to social and environmental effects of their businesses.
How can we recognize these houses and these trips in the ocean of travel websites? How could a trip be something more? Instead of advice, we will give you some hard info:
1. Each certified Green Lodge is unique and has a concept of its own. The theme comes from the hosts and doesn’t necessarily take into account the standards, which are symbols and beliefs of mass tourism. We all know that not safety, but the thrill of the unknown and curiosity motivated Alexander the Great and Marco Polo. Our life and the World are more beautiful when we look beyond the standards.
2. A family-run farm with a nice garden; beds of strawberries, tomatoes and raspberries; climbing grapevines and fields with potatoes: it says so much about the hosts’ flair and good taste. I can not imagine coming back home in Sofia without compotes, fresh vegetables, home eggs or poultry. 20 years ago, in the dawn of rural tourism, when I was wandering around looking for undiscovered accommodations, there were still girls’ dowries in the houses; you could buy antique rugs, blankets, utensils that had been used by 5-6 generations. Even today I don’t give up looking – this is my favorite shopping!
3. Every connoisseur would appreciate the small botanical garden in the yard of every Bulgarian house. What they don’t know is that, for the past 70 years, people in the villages have actually made a living out of these gardens and have helped their children, who moved to the cities. Today, tomatoes and cabbage are often replaced by well maintained green carpets that have spread under the fruit trees. There are chairs, swings, and even small pools.
4. Family recipes are those, which makes patatnik, kavarma, tarator and even the most ordinary tinsel different and unique. Trust your hosts, who have great imagination. You don’t even have to look at the menu; it’s all written in the smile of your hosts.
5. While modern architecture is an absolute beginner compared to what is being built in the mountain villages of Bulgaria. You won’t be bored. There are at least 7-8 architectural styles left from the National Revival period and the early industrial age, no matter which corner of the country we visit. All you need is some artistic vision and you might buy a decorative ornament, or go back home with an idea for a façade, or even decide to buy a house and settle down in the village…
6. I’ve spent my whole life looking for new horizons, new peaks, and new people to meet. Traveling in Bulgaria becomes truly exciting, if you are curious about Bulgaria’s people and are interested in their lives and faith, if you are able to share your privacy and to give up convenience from time to time. If you are willing to give. If you’re traveling not with the rush of the paparazzi, but with the eyes and soul of a child.
7. Escape from the power of your iPhone, Blackberry, Android…… In a Green Lodge you might find a recipe, hear someone’s story, learn dance steps or a song, or even …………. If you learn to listen to others, you might learn something about yourself. You’ll see yourself mirrored in someone else’s eyes.
8. The sight of bright solar panels or people planting a tree or a house with a roof-garden might be the keys to our own decisions to use less water and electricity, for more frequent use of the public transport, or for being part of the movement for global change.
9. Every night spent in a Green Lodge, every product bought from the local market or even every beer from the local pub makes a difference to the economic and social balance in small towns and villages. Let’s make this effort and travel to places where the local people will be eager to meet us and will open their hearts and minds for new visitors!
10. Small businesses are the main ingredient and the splendor of each nation. Let’s choose carefully to whom we entrust our money and our holidays. Bulgariacan be proud of its adventure, eco, rural tourism and Green Lodge network which all create a good alternative to the ‘all-inclusive’ times we live in. This is our share of responsibility. There is probably nothing more refreshing than an active holiday – biking, walking, horse riding, kayaking, climbing or simply spending a night with our kids out under the stars. Or let’s race with the wind…