chokhalGunja B. Chokhal is Nepali who lives in Sofia since 2002. He came to Bulgaria with working visa from India. Chef Chokhal has worked in varies restaurants in Sofia, until now when he is the owner and chef of the Nepali-Indian restaurant “Gurkha”.

- Name your favorite places in Sofia?

- I like it a lot every time when I visit Vitosha Mountain. May be because I was born on the highest mountains in the world Himalayas, I find it very tranquil and beautiful. I also like the city center with its massive and impressive buildings such as the parliament.

- How you find Sofia as a city to live in?

- Sofia is very nice city to live in. I think you should keep the authentic look of the city. I have seen photos of Sofia before 30 years ago. It has been great. If you are trying to look modern and new you will miss this spirit of the city situated in between Europe and Asia. You have great “natural gold gifts” that you should keep such as the hot mineral waters and of course the green resource like Vitosha and the parks in the city.

- What did you know about Bulgaria before you came here?

- I didn’t know anything about Bulgaria at all. I’ve waited a long time to receive a visa. A friend of mine told me to find Bulgaria on the world map next to Turkey and France. Then I flew from Delhi to Moscow and from Moscow to Sofia. When I’ve arrived in Sofia my first thoughts were: “What a beautiful country Bulgaria is?!”. But I didn’t know any Bulgarian. I only had my profession as knowledge. Through my work I discovered Bulgaria and the Bulgarian cuisine. I’ve experienced the European cultural influence in Bulgaria which was also unknown subject for me.

- Why have you decided to stay here?

- My first and the second year in Bulgaria were tough. I worked without taking any breaks. As European people the Bulgarians are more friendly and warm as persons. They easily open their hearts to you and invite you to their houses on any occasion. Therefore I have a lot of really close friends here and I found my environment here to make me feel like home in Sofia. I feel like my closest friends are living here and I think that I have spent most time of my life in Bulgaria. I am citizen of Bulgaria now or how I like to call myself “I am European Nepali”. I got used to live here and the life here is not that tough. After all we are just about 7-8 million people in Bulgaria. There aren’t such natural disasters as where I came from. So I think here you can feel free to live the life that you want.

- How have you learned to speak Bulgarian?

- The Bulgarian language is not easy to learn. It’s not my maternal language and I still have some troubles with the grammar but I think if you have the desire to learn it, you will make it possible. Many people helped me while I was learning it. At the end of the day it’s more important to have to opportunity to go on the market and to buy on your own bread or water. I am not saying that I speak fluently Bulgarian but this is how people recognize me that I not originally from here.

- What is your Bulgarian favorite word?

- There are three words that I appreciate the most. “Dobar den!” (“Good afternoon!”), “Izvinyavai” (“Excuse me”) and “Molya” (“Please”). Sometimes I can understand in the conversation from the intonation of the person next to me that he is angry or not, but this worlds always have a positive attitude for me.
- What have you discovered as unique feature in Bulgarian character?
- Bulgarians often speak not directly. They say something but have another intention. You call it “Bulgarska rabota” (“Bulgarian work”) – If today we agree on something, tomorrow we should discuss it again. I think that Bulgarians are the best clients in my restaurant. They are also very polite and patient. I like the Bulgarian phrase “Burzata rabota sram za maistora.” (“The quickly done job is shame for the master.”). The good food needs some time for preparation and Bulgarians could appreciate it.

- How you’ve learned about Sofia City® Info Guide?

- Ever since I’ve arrived to Sofia I am familiar with the magazine. For every foreigner in Bulgaria this is very useful guide because it is in English. Most of all the information that you give is always accurate and professional. Every month you publish different articles about the city and the content that you are creating is very unique and interesting. My guests always find it very curious to read it and the map that comes with it is perfect to get to know the city. I hope that we will keep working together many years from now, because for 23 years your media is original and trade brand for quality.