Girl Meets Bulgaria

Musings of an American expat in Bulgaria (with detours in Utah and Alaska)


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Kordopulov House Museum | Melnik, Bulgaria

Church ruins and Kordopulov HouseVisiting the Kordopulov House Museum in Melnik was the best 4 lv Vince and I have ever spent!

I’m a sucker for historical architecture and museums in general, so Bulgarian house museums are the best of both worlds. Out of all the house museums I have been to, the Kordopulov House (built in 1754) is, by far, my favorite. The house is the largest of its kind in the country and is really a hidden gem. Alright, I am not sure about how “hidden” it is considering it’s one of the main attractions in Melnik, but I had never heard of it until reading up on the area in my LP guidebook and even then not much was said about how truly awesome it is. Kordopulov HouseEntrance to Kordopulov HouseKordopulov HouseKordopulov House Museum

For a whopping 2 lv (about $1.40) each, Vince and I were given free reign to tour the house, take photos (which I later read online other people have been charged for), explore the house’s huge wine cellar, and enjoy a wine tasting.

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Weekend Getaway | Melnik and Rozhen Monastery

MelnikMelnik, BulgariaLast weekend Vince and I took a little road trip to the lovely town of Melnik. This charming little village is famous for being the “smallest town in Bulgaria” as well as for its 600+ year winemaking tradition. The entire area is covered in vineyards and there are dozens of wineries dotting the rolling green and brown hillsides. In fact, rumor has it that Winston Churchill’s favorite wine was from the region and he stocked up on it often.

Melnik is settled in southwestern Bulgaria’s Pirin Mountains. The area is noted for its unique–almost otherworldly–sandstone mountains and rock formations, into which many people have dug out labyrinthian tunnels to use as wine cellars for centuries.

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Visiting Our Village House

Our village houseVince (and me by default, I suppose) owns a small house and quite a bit of land in the Bulgarian village of Elhovets. The house originally belonged to his dad and uncles, but he saved up some of his Alaska money and bought it from them before we met. His parents still live in the house in the summer months because they farm the land and do a lot of canning and bottling there. In fact, there is a HUGE underground cellar where we store all manner of food stuffs. It’s slightly creepy, but oh-so-efficient.Road towards Greece

It’s the most adorable cottage-y type house ever. We are really proud of it and have spent quite a lot of money over the past few years building additions and doing renovations. When all is said and done–in addition to the already-finished bathroom, kitchen, and living room–it will have 4 bedrooms and an outdoor kitchen/entertaining area. We still have a long way to go, but it’s coming along very nicely.

While my mom was visiting in December we went down to introduce her to my in-laws and spend a few nights in Smolyan. Of course we had to take a little day trip and show her our future retirement digs.

It was snowy but still accessible. I haven’t been to the house since last winter and the changes in that time are nothing short of amazing. We’ve now got a fully functioning indoor bathroom, kitchen addition, new doors, and a new staircase leading to the 2nd floor. There was a toilet before, but it was located in a building outside. No bueno.Bathroom renovation--DONE!Kitchen addition--cabinets ready to hangNew staircaseRaising the roof is a must!Mom and V.Our land

Our future plans include finishing up the kitchen, raising the height of the 2nd floor, finishing off the 3 bedrooms on that floor, redoing the balconies, replacing the exterior materials, and building an epic outdoor patio area that includes a built-in fireplace, benches, lighting…the works. The house is situated just feet from a beautiful river (with fish in it!), so this outdoor area is going to be amazing! I’m thinking a wall with cut-out candle niches and lots of fairy lights will make their way into the design somehow!

I’ve never been able to visit the house in the summer and it totally bums me out. I can only imagine how charming and pretty it is when all the flowers, trees, and grape vines are out and in bloom. I am sure the forested hillside behind the house is gorgeous as well.

One day…

Our village house

Owning property and a village/country house is common for Bulgarians. As jobs became more and more scarce in the smaller towns and villages after the fall of Communism, many people left to find work in the big cities. Now most people use their country properties as weekend and summer retreats. Between our apartment in Smolyan and house in Elhovets, Vince and I are set when it comes time to retire. That’s a pretty darn good feeling these days.

For all my Bulgarian readers, do you or your family have a village house? How often are you able to enjoy it?

I love hearing about other people’s relaxation getaways!

W.

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Pernik Surva Festival 2013

22nd Suva/Kukeri Festival in Pernik, Bulgaria

Last weekend Vince and I drove about 40 minutes outside of Sofia to the nearby town of Pernik.

Each year the city plays host to the largest Surva Festival in not only Bulgaria but all of Eastern Europe (according to the event’s website). Kukeri/Mummer groups from all over Europe attend the event and parade through the city center in their costumes and masks before performing a short routine before a panel of judges.

Kukeri Festival--Pernik, BulgariaParticipants of all ages

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Exploring Istanbul | Part One

*Make yourself a cup of coffee or tea, relax, and settle in…this is a long one!*

I know I have been putting up a lot of travel posts recently (ahem…5 on Vienna alone!), but with the absolutely amazing travels I’ve been blessed with the past few months…I can’t help it! Because Istanbul is so fresh in my mind, I am going to tackle it first and then finally get around to posting about our AMAZING cruise a few months ago (where does the time go?!). Vince and I don’t have anything major planned for the next few months, just a few trips here and there in Bulgaria (and possibly a weekend trip to Greece if we can afford it), so expect more varied posts coming up.

Alrighty…Let’s talk Istanbul!

Blue Mosque
Istanbul is a surprising city. It’s likely not what most people would expect. While it is heavily influenced by the Muslim faith; everyone seems to live in relative harmony, no matter their religious beliefs. Simply standing in one spot and thinking about all the world changing events that occurred there is, at times, overwhelming. Istanbul is right up there with Rome and Athens when it comes to sheer historical significance. The city itself is sparkling clean (in most areas) and seems to be very safe. I don’t know why these two things surprised me, but they did. It does still have that gritty feel that huge cities inevitably take on over time–and that makes it even more appealing and interesting. The juxtaposition of old (we’re talking ancient, here!) and new is nearly seamless. Based on the look and feel of Istanbul alone, it is hard to believe that Turkey is not yet a member of the EU. I hate to admit it, but in many respects it seems to deserve membership more than Bulgaria. The differences in the border facilities alone are staggering. One definitely knows when they have crossed over from run-down, litter-strewn Bulgaria into shining new and tidy Turkey.

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Wordless{ish} Wednesday: Quirky Turkey

**Linky Below** Mannequins outside a restaurantFalse storefrontsEvil Eye planterA turkey in Turkey!Istanbul's famous Pudding Shop

The Lale Restaurant (or Pudding Shop, as it’s more commonly called) is a located in the Sultanahmet area of Istanbul.

Wikipedia has this to say, “It became popular in the 1960s as a meeting place for hippies and other travelers on overland route between Europe and India, Nepal, and elsewhere in Asia – the ‘hippie trail’. The restaurant got its colloquial name as a result of “word-of mouth” from numerous foreign travelers that could not remember the name of the eatery but did remember the wide and popular selection of puddings sold there and thus referred to it as the ‘pudding shop’.” The restaurant featured in the book and movie Midnight Express (NOT a movie to watch right before venturing to Turkey!).

A big part of me wishes I had hung out here and then started my own journey to Asia!

(I’ll have proper Istanbul posts up this week, but for now you can check out some photos of my trip on Flickr.)

Happy Wednesday!

xo

W.

Please comment and link up your own WW post below!

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Sacher Torte: Vienna’s Famous Sweet Treat

Historical Cafe Sacher
Vienna is well known for a few different foods, but Sacher Torte takes the cake (literally). The “Original Sacher Torte” (or Sachertorte, as it is spelled locally) is still served at the five star Hotel Sacher and the adjacent Cafe Sacher. Stepping through the front doors of this opulent café feels like stepping back in time; the period decor is beautiful and the white tie service was really fun to experience–although I felt very under dressed in jeans and a long sleeved shirt!

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