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Speaking Wongolian

Navigating through a foreign country where you don't speak the local language isn't so bad, as long as you can speak a little Wongolian. What exactly is Wongolian, you ask? Well ... it's not a language you can study in any school, nor can you find any book written in the language. The only way to learn Wongolian is to go to a foreign country armed with only a phrasebook and if lucky, perhaps some tiny knowledge or familiarity of the language.

Wongolian is what I call the language used when walking around a foreign city, hopelessly lost, and butchering the local language while trying to get directions. It's not so bad as a native English speaker visiting a country that speaks a romance language - French, Italian, Spanish, even German ... the pronunciation will surely be wrong, but you can at least attempt to speak a few words of the language without horribly bastardizing the pronunciation, since our languages share some similarities. Sometimes just saying a street's name with raised eyebrows and in the form of a question is all it takes to get assistance from a local. If not, some hand gestures or pointing to a spot on your map is enough to at least get pointed in the right direction.

Even in places like Bosnia or Montenegro, it's still possible to speak a little Wongolian and get some help, because even though there are numerous unfamiliar letters, it's still essentially the Latin alphabet. But Cyrillic ... good luck with that! While there are a handful of Cyrillic letters that correspond to the English ones, many are unfamiliar and to the untrained eye, look more like symbols from a math textbook. And to make things even more confusing, there are a number of false friends, familiar Latin letters which are different than we expect. The letter P? It's actually an R for us. H? It's an N. How about X? It's an H, according to the Latin alphabet.

It can make reading a map very difficult - many times I've stood on a corner, staring at a street sign while holding a map, trying to see if the name on the map matched the name on the sign. You'd think it'd be simple, but depending on the font, it wasn't always obvious. Even worse, the maps given at the TIs are often Tourist "Friendly", meaning the street names are all in English which is helpful in a way, but not when you're comparing it to Cyrillic! It must be comical for locals to see tourists looking dazed at confused, staring at their map, then the street sign, then their guidebook, trying to transliterate English into Cyrillic.

I can only imagine two people trying to get around in a car, with the navigator trying to direct the driver "Take a right on ... uh ... backwards R, phi, lower case B with a tail, W with a squiggly tail, 3 ... uh ..." Even taking a bus, sometimes you're not really sure if you'll end up in the right town. Sofia and Varna in Cyrillic are easy to figure out, but Koprivshtitsa? Nope! Or when going to Sunny Beach, bus signs usually abbreviate the name. Coming back to Sofia was eye opening - the first time around, I had a hell of a time finding my way around, being unable to make heads or tails of the street signs in Cyrillic. But in hindsight, navigating Sofia was easy compared to everywhere else in Bulgaria ... at least some of the street signs here are in English! And after a few weeks traveling here, you start to pick up on certain street names in Cyrillic, as almost every Bulgarian city or town has streets named Hristo Botev or Ivan Vazov, which were named after famous historical figures. Now Sofia's a breeze!

Confusion!

Confusion!


View From Hostel Mostel in Veliko Tarnovo

View From Hostel Mostel in Veliko Tarnovo


Delicous Bulgarian Baked Goods ...

Delicous Bulgarian Baked Goods ...


Sofia City Garden ...

Sofia City Garden ...


Curse of the Solo Diner ...

Curse of the Solo Diner ...


Oreshashka Salad ...

Oreshashka Salad ...


Beautiful Roasted Lamb ...

Beautiful Roasted Lamb ...


On the House ...

On the House ...


Sveta Nedelya By Night

Sveta Nedelya By Night


Dumping a Book ...

Dumping a Book ...


Picking One Up ...

Picking One Up ...

Posted by vagabondvoyager 17:00 Archived in Bulgaria

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