I just got back from a week in Bulgaria, which was an interesting experience. I was based in a tiny village in the far west of the country, close to the Macedonian and Serbian borders where my mum has a little house. 

Being born, and growing up in the UK means I am most familiar with life in western Europe. I am accustomed to the general standard of living in this part of the world and it's easy to forget how things change as you go further east. Particularly today in 2017. People are poor, and life is basic in many ways. It's like stepping back in time. The rural communities still grow and preserve much their own food, tend goats and live largely hand-to-mouth. Winters are hard. I saw a lot of abandoned buildings, both large and small. And the village populations are predominantly elderly, with, I can only guess, much of the youth leaving for the larger towns and cities. Overall it was a humbling and timely personal reminder of how good we have things here in the west. It is good to get a little perspective from time to time, and to remember that so many of the things we like to complain about really are first world problems.

A week is not long but in that time I was able to explore quiet villages, the larger local town of Kyustendil, and we made a trip to the beautiful monastery at Rila which was founded in the 10th century.

From a photographic point of view it was actually quite challenging. I use small cameras and I am used to being able to blend in and not be noticed too much. Not so here. By and large I found people to be rather cagey and suspicious, and it was difficult to photograph them on the whole. There were of course some exceptions, but I often found myself reduced to 'shooting from the hip'. 

I look forward to a return trip in summertime when I expect it will have quite a different feel.

Pictures below. Click for large.