Macklin / So, what was Bulgaria really like?

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HONESTLY, it’s becoming a cult. If you’re not planning a trip to distant parts, booking passage or accommodations at one of those fancy, new Airbnbs, applying for visas or packing frantically, you’re not part of the congregation.

Robert Macklin
Robert Macklin.
And if you don’t have a recent traveller’s tale you’re hardly worth talking to. Who wants to hear your views on global warming unless you’ve actually seen a fjord melting or an Antarctic ice shelf crumbling into the sea?

The airports are humming, the cruise ships are bursting at the seams and most everyone else is on the “grey nomad” trail. In fact, I have an awful feeling that there’s no-one’s left in town to read these wistful meanderings. However, when they return they’ll tell us all the amazing things they’ve seen and done. Well, maybe.

“Travel really is broadening,” they’ll say, and not just in the beam from all that “wonderful food” on the ship to NZ or the boat up the Yangtze or down the Danube.

“Oh,” you enquire politely, “what sort of food did they serve?”

“Marvellous,” they say. “Prawns, oysters, the most delicious ham…”

You bite your tongue. “Australia,” you think, “has the best prawns and oysters in the world, and our ham isn”t bad either.”

You change the subject.

“So, what was Bulgaria really like?”

“Oh Bulgaria; very poor. Lots of rural poverty. Not nearly as interesting as Romania.”

“Gosh, what happened in Romania?”

“Well, they have supermarkets, cars…”

“I see. But we have…”

“We were only there a week!”

“Oh, sorry.”

“Montenegro was the place…the people.”

“Really? What were they like?”

“Horrible. Didn’t see a smile in the whole three days…”

“So have things settled down since the war…you know, Bosnia…?”

“They hate the Bosnians. Bosnia was just over the mountain. We saw it from the train.”

“Pretty country?”


“The Brindabellas…”

“More like parts of Switzerland, the foothills. Gloria bought the most beautiful cardigan there. Made in China, of course, but we don’t get the same quality here.”


They crush you with a look. You try another tack: “How were the flights?” This is where the cult kicks in; there has to be some suffering among the initiates.

“Shocking. We up-graded to Premium, but in the next row we had a kid that screamed the whole way.”

“How awful.”

“Not really,” says the true believer, “I watched a really good movie. I just turned up the sound and the Premium headphones are really good.”

“So otherwise it all went swimmingly?”

“Except for the connection at Dubai. Our plane was late and we had to run to catch the next flight to Frankfurt. Ollie burst into tears. He just sat down and refused to move.”

“How awful”

“Not really. They confiscated his whisky. They were going to charge him but Pam talked them out of it. They escorted her into an interrogation room. Took ages. She came out all flushed and giggly.”

“Good Lord. What happened?”

“Don’t ask. One of the joys of travel. But it was great to get home. Best country in the world.”

“Then why…”

Another pitying look.

“Next year El Salvador!”

Of course. Or perhaps…Amen?

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Robert Macklin
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