Interview with Hotel Sokay

Healthy lifestyle and Bulgarian tradition- we present to you hotel Sokay.

*you can find the original interview in Bulgarian language, published by Mira Petarcheva on 08.11.2018 here.

We continue our series dedicated to Bulgarian hotels that combine the Bulgarian way and the search for a healthy lifestyle. After we introduced you to “горкси дом“ (Forest home), a truly unique hotel, fate brought us to another special place near the picturesque town of Tryavna. You may not believe us, but we strongly affirm that there are many sites worth visiting in Bulgaria as well as being felt. Sitting on the terrace, gazing at the mountains, breathing in the fresh air, we did some kind of an interview with Momchil Manolov – the manager and an owner of Hotel Sokay.

1- There are certain hotels that one remembers as an experience. Hotel Sokay stands out from standard hotels. Tell us more about the background of this place and why is it called “Sokay”?

Our goal was to create something different. Not the typical and traditional hotel. A more personal approach towards the guests. We wanted to establish a place where we can mutually alter one another. A place where we can found a community doing good deeds and helping others. We seek guests who understand our way, with whom we can relate and connect, who appreciate and share in striving to find the right direction. We chose a name that is strictly Bulgarian, genuine, old, unique and typical for Tryavna. Not another “Mountain resort gardens” for example.
A jewelry that was worn long ago by the Bulgarian beautiful woman. We meant hotel Sokay not to be just another hotel, but center of what is actually Bulgarian, a place where our guests can admire artefacts that are truly unique, but unfortunately long lost and forgotten.

2- The hotel looks like a place, suitable for a shooting location for a film, based on a Stephen King’s novel! Why did you choose this particular location? Tell us more about the furnishing, the interior design and the architecture itself.

First of all, I would like to say to our worried readers, that our hotel has not been built over an ancient native American burial ground.
We actually used the old 19th century school building of the village of Burdeni. The original stone masonry of both the ground floor and the first floor still exist unchanged in the building. The only thing, that was left for us to do, was to close our eyes and to imbue our own ideas and taste in accordance with the already existing old, traditional Bulgarian style.
I would like to tell you that with smiles on our faces and dancing while holding hands, we created the hotel as it is now, but that would be a lie. We confronted bureaucracy, the company monopoly, and every other possible difficulty of a construction site out there in the middle of the forest. Each room has its own unique name of a woman, named after herbs that can be found in our area: Kalina (Viburnum), Iglika (Primrose), Ruja (Marsh Mallow), Perunika (Iris), Lavandula (Lavender), Mashterka (Thyme), Salvia (Salvia), Dilyanka (Valerian).
Every room is different in its own way. We put a lot of effort and care decorating them. Some of the furniture we made ourselves, other is the work of woodcarvers and craftsmen. The setting, created by the rare combination of this particular style and the mountain environment evokes a strange feeling- a mixture of melancholy and an unexplainable joy of life, which we want to share with our guests.

3- After all, this is a family project. Could you share a family secret or two?

My father’s kin originate in Poduyane (nowadays part of Sofia). With lots of the typical region stubbornness, he succeeded to lay the foundations of a family business, thanks to the ancestral farming fields that were once nationalized and now returned to us by the state.
We always had projects that got the whole family involved, but “Sokay” definitely stands out. My brother and I graduated from university abroad, but eventually we decided to come back to Bulgaria. Back to our roots. We believe we belong here.
The truth is that none of us are using the profit from the hotel for personal use. Sometimes we have covered overheads with our own funds in the difficult months.
Sokay’s main purpose is to be financially self-sustaining and to turn it into the center I mentioned in my answer to your first question. Its secondary purpose is simply charity. In time we realized that money isn’t the final link in the chain we call life.

4- What do you mean by: “Our goal is to create the right idea of a healthy lifestyle. You feel harmonious and beautiful. And most importantly, healthy!”?

There is a lot of information and plenty of literature sources on what is best for the human’s body. And all of them have their own theories.
We believe that a healthy lifestyle is contingent on each individual. It depends on their beliefs. We have a more out-of-the-box approach. We try to guide our guests to reach to the same conclusions as we did.
We don’t sell magical pills and herbs. We simply try to show that air, water and food are least harmful for your body in their basic and purest natural form. Of course the advantages of the location itself help: the lack of city noise and stress, the clean air, crystal mountain water and the wild herbs. We simply expose their effect on the human’s body and spirit. After sampling, everyone is free to see for themselves if this is their “Right” lifestyle.

5- What kind of healthy lifestyle events do you have? Yoga and Dao massage somewhere near Tryavna. Isn’t that a bit exotic?

Healthy lifestyle is not something you can practice for a week or two. We had lectures about homemade sprouted and fermented foods; about the properties and medical applications of honey and bee products. All of these lectures had an educational purpose, aiming to encourage our guests to live healthy instead of just having episodes of a healthy lifestyle.
We do not provide yoga activities. Sure, our understanding of life is similar to ideas and beliefs typical of the cultures of the far east, but we merely provide the place and setting that induces in people the right attitude to practice yoga and Asian techniques.

6- What type of people visit you? Tell us some stories with your guests.

One of the rules we follow strictly is confidentiality. We value our guest’s trust, so I can’t really go into any details. I can honestly say that our guests exceeded my expectations for this first year. I am glad they spent time reading and understanding our idea from the text on the website. This way they know what to expect from hotel Sokay and we can avoid all discrepancies between expectations and reality. I put my hopes the most into those that have spent some time living abroad. I see well educated and mannered people that obey the law, respect and consider others opinions.
I was impressed with all our guests that believe in some kind of life equilibrium. An exact equation containing what we take on the left and what we give on the right side respectively. A link between our actions and the consequences they cause. I even had the pleasure of having the chance to speak with some of them.

7- Who writes the tales in the blog of your website? ( What messages they bring to your guests?

Each one of us makes a contribution to the writing and publishing of the texts on our website and Facebook page. The main credit goes to my dad. He spends a lot of his time in Tryavna’s and Dryanovo’s museums, going through old letters and testimonies, researching and gathering stories piece by piece, word by word, and writes them.
His tales are based on true events and characters, built upon stories he heard, read and slightly altered. There is so much history in this area, that somehow remains neglected and unexposed.
Some of the tales partly present events that actually took place in our history, but are quite related to contemporary issues, others are more like a confession, a burst of feelings, a result of all the anger and deviousness that surrounds us.

8- What else would you like to have in Hotel Sokay?

We have plenty of plans for the future, but conceiving them in our minds is way easier than actually achieving them. For now, we want to focus on rebuilding and repurposing the old village store building into a museum. We want to create a place where people can witness how Bulgarians have lived. A place where you can sit in the chair of Pencho Semov, to experience the recreation of traditions and weddings with brides wearing the “Sokay” jewelry. We need this place to exhibit the rest of the artefacts in our collection. We hope to spark the patriotism and the willingness to sacrifice for a greater good, that we believe still exists.

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