Shopping in Bulgaria’s ‘Kolonaki’

Sandanski is known to Greeks as the Kolonaki of Bulgaria because the living standard of its 30,000 inhabitants is by far the highest in the country. At weekends on Macedonia Avenue, you can only tell who the Bulgarians are by the newspapers under their arms. Everyone speaks Greek. The economy of southern Bulgaria is based on more than 150 Greek factories employing as many as 200 workers apiece, as well as hundreds of smaller businesses. Alexandros Serafeidis from Nea Michaniona, Thessaloniki, has a paper napkin factory in Sandanski and an employment bureau for seasonal laborers. «This year I’ve sent around 500 workers to northern Greece. Without them, our crops would be lost,» he told Kathimerini. Florina, famed for its red peppers, now buys them from Bitola, and some Greeks find it easier to buy bread and cheese from there than to make it themselves. Folk musicians from Bitola, Yevyeli and Gotse Dechev play at feasts and celebrations in the villages of Florina, Kilkis and Serres, while more economically robust neighbors shop in Kastoria, Kavala, and Thessaloniki, and build holiday homes in Halkidiki and Thassos. A shortage of women brings men back across the border from Orestiada, Serres and Ioannina in search of brides, and the first cross-border health centers set up on Greek territory have gone into operation.

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