So I was sitting on a train the other day, rumbling through the late-summer countryside somewhere between Kostenets and Stamboliyski, and I fell into a conversation with a guy who helped me to understand something huge about Bulgarian culture.
Everyone loves chocolate here. Not likes. Loves. Adores. Flips out.
Need a co-worker to help you fix your computer? Chocolate. Having a birthday? Chocolate. Wooing a secret someone? Yep, chocolate works for that one, too.
Not that people in other countries don’t crave the cacao. I once worked in a newsroom where the good stuff came out every Friday afternoon, and suddenly the weekend deadline seemed attainable. Fridays for me have never been the same.
But in Bulgaria it’s different. Forget the Euro. Adopt Godiva as the national currency and this place wouldn’t miss a beat. Walk into a grocery store and you’ll find one full aisle on display — Lindt, Suchard, Toblerone, Ferrero Rocher, Nestle, Milka — and sometimes two.
So I asked my new friend Dimitar, who works in a paper factory near Plovdiv. What is it about chocolate here?
He smiled, racked his brain for a moment to pull up the right English phrase, and gave me his theory. It had something to do with the end of Communism, he suggested.
Today you can get anything you want, he said. Back then, things were different.
He tried to put this last bit into words. Finally he captured it.
“Back then,” Dimitar said, “there was only one model.”