At the end of the day, when we sat by one of the many lakes in the region for a drink and to grab a bite, we were treated to a live classical music concert… and it made me want to tell you about our weekend in this beautiful German town that has somehow sprouted in between all the water that surrounds it.

Visiting Schwerin in Germany is a must. If you look at it on a map, you will inevitably notice more lakes than you can count. Schwerin’s fairy tale castle is truly beautiful. Naturally, it is built in the middle of a lake. Spring hasn’t come to Schwerin here yet (imagine how glorious it would be when it does) but even now the gardens of the castle are wonderful. The entire city centre is very picturesque, with it’s stunning 18th and 19th century buildings.

When you come to Schwerin, stay at Hotel am Hauptbahnhof. It may not be the most luxurious hotel in town (we found it by chance), but it’s the place to stay! The owners, Svetla and Deyan, are Bulgarian, originally from Veliko Tarnovo. Nine years ago they sold whatever they could in Bulgaria, moved to Schwerin, took two mortgages and bought a slightly demolished former hotel. Without going into too much detail, they have created a wonderful and welcoming place, starting  from scratch and without even knowing the language to begin with. They told us they wanted to give their children the means to pursue their own dreams while preserving their honest and heartfelt hospitality as a central value of their business.

In the restaurant, we enjoyed Svetla’s Bulgarian home cooked food, on the backdrop of Bulgarian folk music and beautiful pictures from Bulgaria. At lunch we were served with Slivovitsa  (traditional Bulgarian brandy), and for dinner we ordered a pumpkin pie and a homemade cake. The hotel also sells Bulgarian cosmetics, based on the famous Damascena rose oil.

But that’s not why I like Hotel am Hauptbahnhof and the people who run it. It is because these are the kind of Bulgarians who make me feel good about being Bulgarian myself. People who have proven that ‘they can’. And seeing them so successful brings me great joy that I absolutely want to share with you. This was not Svetla and Deyan’s first attempt to run a business. They had a restaurant back in Bulgaria, however, it did not work out for them. And now, here is their dream come true, on a much larger scale, regardless of all the hardships they experienced early on.

Today, Svetla and Deyan speak fluent German, continue to work hard, make plans in a predictable environment, provide jobs to others and have brought our national culture to the heart of a tourist German city. And I wish they embodied  the face of Bulgaria abroad. I want all the emigrants who have left behind the security of the familiar to start somewhere anew, to succeed in proving themselves despite all difficulties that every such painful new beginning requires, despite of all they’ve given up. I wish them the courage and strength to believe that everything is up to them and that they have no excuse not to believe.

Now, if and when you come to Schwerin, you must visit the family of Svetla and Deyan Ivanovi, if only to talk to them. And the next time you wish to give up on your dream, because of all the reasons, right or wrong, please remember, every failure happens first in our heads. And so does every success.

Pictures: Radina Ralcheva