The Diary of Diversity: #Together in Karlovo-Plovdiv-Sofia

Day 1: Sunday, 8th of September 2019

Sometime around 8 pm, on a nice Sunday evening, our trip to Bulgaria began. The four of us (Petra, Željana, Lucian and Igor) sat on the bus to Sofia and spent the first 12 hours of our journey together. The trip was long, but we found no problems during our ride, we spent most of it trying to sleep.

Day 2: Monday, 9th of September 2019

We arrived in Sofia in the late morning hours and had some time in our hands before we took the ride to Karlovo. Three seemingly long hours passed away in pleasant conversations and friendly debates about current problems in the world.

4 of us in the serious debate

At 3 pm we reached our destination: Karlovo. We were greeted by the Bulgarian team: Dessy, a warm-hearted red-haired beauty, Vasil, a big but also caring joker, Nina, a very charismatic lady, and in the end, Katya, our loving host.

They took us to the Shterev hotel, located in the heart of Karlovo, which was to be our home for the next 7 days.

In the evening hours, we shared a beer with our new soon to be friends from Bulgaria, Romania and Spain.

1 step: Meeting all

Day 3: Tuesday, 10th of September 2019

The first day of the project started at 8 am and took place in the city hall. It was situated just a few meters from our hotel and the restaurant we had our meals at.

Before doing any real work, we played a few name remembering games. As it took only one morning to learn the names of everybody in the project, we ended up feeling as we have spent a month in Bulgaria already.

After lunch, we had a task to present our countries and organizations. It went surprisingly well for the newly founded team of Croatia ha-ha.

In the evening, we had dinner all together, and by this time, we already talked like old friends. We headed back to the city hall and had a film fest: we shared presentations and films about our countries. We compared our home countries and learned a few interesting fun facts about Romania and Bulgaria, which could come in handy for a pub quiz someday!

What to present? 🙂

Day 4: Wednesday, 11th of September 2019

On this day, we had a gender equality session and were parted into three teams, “the lions”, “the elephants” and “the monkeys”. All of us had to go out and perform different tasks: find 5 people on the street and interview them about gender equality, and, to add some fun, take pictures with strangers that were doing things such as eating or simply wearing interesting clothes.

We took a break by eating lunch and then came back to the hall to watch a video about commercializing women and we talked about women’s rights.

Each group had to make a play to present the role of women through history. Lions had to show us what the role of women looked like in the past, Monkeys presented the present, and Elephants created the ideal future. It was a lot of fun since nobody had any acting skills ha-ha.

Lions, elephants or monkeys? 🙂

This was the day we also celebrated Katya’s birthday with balloons and some cake. We all signed her “Together in diversity” T-shit.

We could say that Wednesday was one of the most fun days of the project because that evening we had the intercultural evening! First, the Bulgarians presented their national song and dance similar to our “kolo”.  We shared our traditional food and drinks, and as the night went on- songs and dances ha-ha. We danced some limbo and macarena, and we are happy to say that the other teams were all infatuated by Croatian dances, such as the tunnel, which created the best atmosphere. We went to sleep enriched by many experiences.

Intercultural evening and food. Don’t forget the food! 🙂

Day 5: Thursday, 12th of September 2019

The day began with a huge breakfast at our hotel, such as any other, but continued in another city: Plovdiv! Plovdiv is the second biggest Bulgarian city and we were really excited to go there. Our guide was Emilia, a lovely woman who was a part of the project since day 1, and is also a citizen of Plovdiv. She showed us the Youth centre, a place where kids and young adults can do all kinds of sports for free. After taking a long walk by a lake which looked a lot like Zagreb’s Jarun, we stopped at the bridge to take some pictures. Our next stop was a museum of contemporary art, where we also had a few photo sessions… Further on, we continued our walk to Plovdiv, which is this year’s European capital of culture. By visiting the park, the many fountains and the amphitheatre, we learned that this city truly had a lot to share. During our free time, we relaxed at a nice, free-spirited coffee house in the centre of Plovdiv’s popular neighbourhood. It was called “Where friends meet” and surely you know the name of the show that it is copying!

Day 6: Friday, 13th of September 2019

In the morning, we had a “First impressions” session, a fun game through which we learned a lot. Later on, our loving hosts took us to see and experience the historical sites of Karlovo. After visiting the house of the Bulgarian fighter for freedom, Vasil Levski, we went to the local church and made our way to the statue of Vasil Levsky, located at a small square. The tour was finished by making a photograph of all the participants in front of the statue.

The free afternoon was spent swimming at an idyllic place just a little outside of Karlovo: The Suchurum waterfall. It was a lot of fun, and even though we almost freeze to death,  worth every penny.

Swiming under The Suchurum waterfall

Shortly after dinner, we celebrated the birthday of one of Spain’s participants.

Day 7: Saturday, 14th of September 2019

By the early morning hours, we had a few beers at the main square in front of our hotel and danced at the local club “Opium”. As we went to bed, we realized that tomorrow was our last day in this nice town and that the friendships we made here were truely memorizable.

On our last day, we put on gloves and took bags- and went out to clean Karlovo! We cleaned for some time and then had a chance to witness a baptism at the local orthodox church.

After lunch, the time came to end the project in the most interesting way: we were gathered in the city hall and in front of us, there was a circle of candles. Each of us sat down, and in nice and friendly words,  we presented the “Youthpass” certificates to each other.

After the lovely ceremony, we each took an envelope off the wall with our name on it, in which we had received letters from each participant.

All participants and now new friends

Some of the participants took it pretty hard, as the letters were very emotional and reminded all of us that it was time to go.

This was also the day that we said goodbye to the Romanian team. Needless to say, there were some tears spilt ha-ha. We promised to see each other again.

Day 8: Sunday, 15th of September 2019

We woke up pretty early, and with already packed suitcases, headed downstairs to meet the other teams and Katya-who took us to our bus for Sofia. We said goodbye to our hosts, to Karlovo, to our new friends.

Spending day in Sofia

Shortly after arriving at Sofia’s bus station, we separated from the Portuguese team, as they had a plane to catch. Therefore, 9 of us remained: the Croatians and the Spanish. We spent the whole day in Sofia. Some of the cultural sights we saw include the national museum of history, the synagogue and the mosque. We ended the afternoon by taking the most fun and interesting free walking tour ever lead by a charismatic and witty guide named Slavyan.

Until the next time…

Then, we said goodbye to our beloved Spanish friends and the four of us found ourselves together at the bus station, being deeply touched by everything we experienced in the last seven days. The name of the project fits perfectly to its goal: we connected with people from different countries, of different cultures, and made friends and memories which will stay with us forever. We believe that the project inspired each and every one of us to make new friends and experiences, to love and care about everybody no matter the origin, religion, or any other matter, and of course, to apply to more projects!

Until next time…………………Željana Vuković, Petra Piršić, Lucian Belić, Igor Banec.

YE: “Together in diversity!”, Karlovo, Bulgaria

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