Sofia is a town full of stores. There are countless stores that sell shoes, clothing, underwear, meats and cheeses, cell phones (called GSM here, after the technology they used to use), electronics, and books. In fact, there is even an Open Air Book Market with rows of people selling books. In a town so full of stores, it’s a wonder I had such a difficulty finding a pencil! In general, the stores are small, more like boutiques, so they are highly specialized. One store may sell ONLY underwear, and seriously, there are a lot of underwear stores around. (I mean, really, how much underwear does one person need????) This makes shopping more like a scavenger hunt.

Let’s say, on a given day, I have a normal list of items I need to buy—perhaps all things I could find in one Albertson’s at home. Here, I may need to visit 4 or 5 separate places. I would go to the pharmacy (called apteka) to buy such things as shampoo, toothpaste, and soap. I would go to the store to buy pasta, cereal, meats and cheeses. If I want eggs, however, I generally have to ask for them because they are in the back:

“Mogeli, shest yetza?” I might say.

For produce, like tomatoes, bananas, and cucumbers, I go to the Open Market, which is a series of stands all lined up with individual vendors who sell mostly the same items, but with some variation.


The electricity outlets are different here in Bulgaria, so I might need some adapters. For that, I go to a hardware store. And after all this walking around and carrying of bags, I might be thirsty, in need of an icy, cold Sprite. Now for that I would find a snack shop, which often look like small windows next to the ground, but are actually stores in the basement area of a building.

And what about the prices, you ask? Well, most everything is cheaper than at home. For example, a small bottle of water here is about a quarter. Produce is VERY cheap. I can buy enough fruits and vegetables for a week for about $3. And for you berry lovers out there, they have all sorts of berries here, including blackberries, fresh blueberries and raspberries. You can get 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) for about .65. Household items, like detergent and soap are closer to the same prices as at home, though still somewhat cheaper. What is expensive here, is him:


His food costs more here than at home. And with the normal doggie purchases of bones, flea medicine (just in case, you know, there are many stray dogs here!), doggie shampoo and doggie breath mints*, he so far has cost as much as TWO humans.

In order to do all this “scavenging”, I have to go shopping a few times each week. There is no way to buy a whole week’s worth of food and then carry it all home on foot. So, there you have it. Shopping in Bulgaria. A whole gym workout just to cook a meal!

*Look. You would buy doggie breath mints, too, if you lived in a small apartment all day and just the dog exhaling is enough to overpower the smell of dinner…