Do you know this feeling, when you live in a city but never really visit it because, well, you live here? Until people come to visit you and then you discover your own town with a new perspective? This happens to me quite often and this time even more with my new temporary home in Ruse, Bulgaria. I arrived there in February 2020, then spent 3 months mostly in my flat because of the Covid19. Only during my last weekend there my friend Anna came to visit me. And in only two days it changed my opinion about this place from well-it’s-nice-but-nothing-special to oh-my-god-this-place-is-completely-awesome. Now that I am back in France, I look back to my experience there and have little regrets not to have been able to enjoy the city a bit more. This is also the moment I’m thankful to myself to always take so many photos.
In order to give you a better idea of what kind of city Ruse is and where it’s located, let’s start from the beggining. Ruse is a medium sized city in Bulgaria, 5th by its size after in order: Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna and Burgas. Ruse counts around 150.000 inhabitants which is more or less the same as Sibiu in Romania or Reykjavik in Iceland, two other cities where I’ve been living for a semester as well.
Therefore it’s not small, but it’s definitely not big either. Ruse is located in the north of the country, on the legendary Danube river, itself being the natural border with Romania the neighboring country. The nickname of the city is « the little Vienna » because it has a similar neo-baroque and neo-rococo architecture (although in a way different shape) which is very beautiful. Two fun fact about Ruse: its twin city in France is Saint-Ouen, and it is the city where Jacques Canneti (the French music producer who discovered many french stars to be) was born.
As it is often the case, people living here can be divided into two groups: 1) people who are very proud or 2) people who are not very proud of their city. They can be proud because there is a good quality of life in Ruse. It has a perfect size, many streets are pedestrians, there are some nice parks, the city center is cute and there is a lot to do around. But usually what makes people so happy about their city is its past glory. Every time I have been walking around with a local, I’ve heard about the fact that the first private bank in Bulgaria opened here, the first insurance company, the first railway line, the first movie projection and so on.
You can feel that the little Vienna used to be a strategic place for trade, culture and industry. But, as I said, it used to be, and it is not so much like this anymore. Which brings me to the second group of people, those who are not very proud of their city. A lot of young people move out of Ruse to go study in Varna or in Sofia as there are much more opportunities for work but also cultural events there. I found it quite difficult to find things to do in Ruse, especiallyfor young people, whether it is for english speaker or for bulgarian speaker. Luckily, there are some happy spots, for example the Boardgames Ruse Bar or the Ruse Go community that I would highly recommend.
When you start looking and making relations in Ruse, I am sure you will find your happiness. For example, there are a lot of churches (if churching is your thing) or museums (I couldn’t recommend you any but I’ve heard about a mammuth skeleton somewhere) to visit. There is also an English speaking club happening at the library every second friday, with very warm and welcoming members! But my biggest advice would be to jump on a train and start exploring the surroundings. And here I would like to thank my friend Georgi who helped me discover, among others, Ivanovo monastery (it’s a monastery inside a mountain), the Minzuhar hut (it’s a hut in a forest with fresh beer, a garden and spots to make barbecue) and Lipnik Park (it’s a very beautiful park with lakes), three very beautiful places where you can go with public transport from Ruse that I would highly (HIGHLY) recommend for a day off.
You are still not convinced Ruse is the best city in Bulgaria? Hold my beer! I have one last point to make. Ruse has something that Sofia, Varna, and even Plovdid don’t have. I told you already about it: the Danube river. This is Ruse magic power and to prove this, I don’t need any words. Only picture.
So, would you like to move to Ruse too? Do you think you would like this place as much as I did, or even more? 🙂