Our teammate Adelina took an interview from a host in Plovdiv about all her CouchSurfing experinces. Enjoy learing about it and getting to know Svetla.
S: I learned about CouchSurfing in a very interesting way – from an article in a newspaper. I can’t remember whether it was published in “Trud” or in “24 hours”. The article was about a girl from Thessaloniki – Nastia, who traveled all around the world using CouchSurfing. In addition, she hosted people 300 days a year. I was eager to meet her and to try CouchSurfing. Thessaloniki is somewhat close to Plovdiv so it was the perfect opportunity. I registered on the website and I wrote to the girl. She came to Plovdiv, we met and soon after, everything started.
S: Initially I was just meeting foreigners in Plovdiv and I was going to CouchSurfing meetings because my mother wouldn’t let me to host. At that time, I had a serious boyfriend who was at my place almost every night and he didn’t approve of the idea either, so I tried to show some consideration. After we broke up, I realized what a big mistake I had made by not hosting people because of how much I’d been missing out on so I started doing it. In 2009, my first guest was a Bulgarian and in 2011, I had my first foreigner.
S: I’m a sociable person, I love communicating and helping people. I also like open-minded and cool people and on CouchSurfing there are a lot of them. I wanted to meet them and get to know them, to learn about their trips, to explore new horizons. It was also a great way to practice my English – in 2007, I felt less comfortable speaking than I do now. Back then CouchSurfing was full of unique adventurers – hitch-hikers, campers and others – people who have traveled the world for free. I wanted to learn from them and to provide them with shelter and food during their stay in Plovdiv.
S: The first one was Vesko from Varna and he actually came to Plovdiv because he had found a job here. He needed a temporary place to stay until he got his own. When he sent me a request I was working in real estate – rentals expert – I knew that I could help him, so I immediately agreed to host him. He turned out to be a very interesting and brave man. My first guest from abroad was Katya from Finland – also an interesting person. She had traveled a lot. We went to a paragliding festival, slept under the stars, did some rock climbing. I think that people always give their best with their first guest. From her I learned that Finns have private saunas in their houses and also shared ones in their buildings. Men and women enter separately and totally naked. She couldn’t understand why here in Bulgaria we wear swimsuits 🙂
S: I have had guests from Finland, Italy, Ukraine, Egypt, India, Poland, China, Korea, Serbia, England, France, Germany, Australia, USA. The Australians travel a lot because it takes them 6 hours just to exit their country so when they do it, they usually take a world tour. Most of them are young – between 18 and 40 years old, but the Chinese lady was 50, for example, and I’ve met much older people. The question about their careers is a difficult one because I can’t remember but I recall that many of them were still students. There was one girl from Australia who was only 19. She had worked for 2 years in a slaughterhouse in order to save up money for the travel! She had cut up so many animals that she became a vegetarian after that. I had a guest who was a cook – it was very nice, he prepared many different things for me. I’ve also had teachers, translators, musicians… mostly people whose professions have nothing to do with business.
S: Oh, there are so many. For example, one Englishman came to my house, cooked something delicious, after which he went to a birthday party and didn’t come back for two days. Another one is these Egyptian girls. They come from such different a culture that their perception of the world is very different, too. They came during the winter and I had to drive them around in my car everywhere we went because they were freezing. An Australian guy – James – made me take him to Shiroka Laka, because he wanted to see the kukeri and to learn how to play the bagpipe.
S: Yeah, but I have to admit that the most amazing guest I’ve had was a Ukrainian who taught me new things about Plovdiv. He was a writer for the Russian Lonely Planet Guide. He told me that the Gypsy neighborhood in Plovdiv is a unique cultural phenomenon because everywhere in the world Gypsies live in houses while only in Stolipinovo they live in blocks of flats. He was here to write about that, so he went there and he even took some photos… I thought, “Oh my God, is this what we will be famous for?!” After that, every one of my guests whom I’ve told about this wants to go there and see how they live without windows and elevators and with horses in their flats. Another curious thing was when the Chinese woman I hosted explained how to cook a dog.
S: Plovdiv, Sofia, Nessebar, Varna, Veliko Tarnovo… It depends on whether they want to see the mountains or the sea. Everyone has different interests. To the musicians I suggest they go to Shiroka Laka if it’s that time of the year when there are festivals and kukeri. When I have the opportunity, I take them to the Marvelous Bridges, Belogradchik and I tell them to visit the Rila Monastery and Bachkovo. Most of them already know where they want to go, so we just discuss and develop their ideas. In Plovdiv I’d send them on the Free Plovdiv Tour and after that I’d show them Aliosha and Grebnata. We usually go to watch folk dancing at “Na megdana” – a typical Bulgarian restaurant. I also make them try every typical Bulgarian dish I can think of. To the fans of doener kebabs I suggest “Aladdin”, especially after the Egyptians told me that they hadn’t eaten better doener kebabs anywhere in the whole Arab world. But at my place I always try to feed them Bulgarian dishes.
S: Of course – in England, the US, France, Germany, Turkey, Italy and Bulgaria. I’ve seen almost every interesting city in these countries. But sometimes I already have a place to stay – if I am visiting a friend, for example, or I’m on a cruise. In those cases, I use CouchSurfing just to meet new people, have some drinks with them or see the town together. I think that people from the South are the most hospitable – Southern Europe, the Arab World, South America (I haven’t been there yet). Italy is awesome, but men complain that no one wants to host them there. In the USA and in England I have had great hosts. Now I want to see more of the Middle East. I’ve always had positive experiences with a few exceptions, but when one is careful, it’s not dangerous at all. It’s important to select your hosts by referrals and compatibility. I even went to Turkey with my mother. Our host there – Turhan was extremely hospitable and I will never forget him.