Girl Meets Bulgaria

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


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Shiroka Laka’s Pesponedelnik (Kukeri) Festival 2013

We’ve only been back in Smolyan for a few days and already we are traveling up a storm! On Saturday we drove out to our village house to pick up some potatoes and bottled goods and see how the property fared over the winter (it was looking good and there wasn’t even a hint of snow left!) We then went to visit family (our adorable 14-month-old grand-nephew, Konstantin) nearby before taking a longer route back to Smolyan.

Sunday we went to the 2013 Pesponedelnik Festival in the village of Shiroka Laka. We went last year as well and knew that we had to try and make it back this year because we enjoyed it so much. I’ve said it before, but I absolutely adore Shiroka Laka. This little village is beyond charming on an ordinary day; add a lively festival with Kukeri’s, unique shopping, and yummy food and I am there!Shiroka Laka Pesponedelnik Festival 2013Shiroka Laka Pesponedelnik Festival 2013Shiroka Laka's main squareMe with some kukeri

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Tough Times in Bulgaria

I’m not sure how much attention Bulgaria’s current political climate is receiving overseas, but here in the country it’s {obviously} the most important topic of the day.

About a week and a half ago, as protests were raging over rising electricity costs, Bulgaria’s Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, resigned. With him went his entire cabinet, which left Bulgaria without a functioning government. A caretaker government is in the works, but so far, nothing (and no one) has been officially announced.

Since that day–February 20th–things have only gotten more heated. Protests continue across the country and many parts of downtown Sofia are affected daily as crowds gather and march on government offices and buildings.

Yesterday, March 3rd (Bulgaria’s Liberation Day), only saw more public protests and heated debates amidst shows of national pride and remembrance of Bulgarian national hero, Vasil Levski. The majority of Sofia’s downtown was blocked by thousands of protesters shouting through megaphones, marching with banners, and waving the Bulgarian flag. In addition to rising electricity costs, the most pressing issues include austerity measures, government corruption, poverty, and a lack of civilians in governmental positions.

While there have been little reports of damage or violence, it’s still a bit of a scary situation for a foreigner (such as myself) to find themselves in. Being married to a Bulgarian and learning more each day about the true nature of how things work here and what the current political policies are like, I cannot blame the citizens of this country for finally thinking that enough is enough. Everyone has a breaking point and it seems as if that point has come for this nation. With Bulgaria listed as the poorest country in the European Union, it is clear that there are major issues that need to be dealt with.

I am by no means an expert on this topic. I am an outsider looking in. I’m just watching and reading English-language news reports as things develop. However, I do feel invested in the outcome of this tumultuous time in Bulgaria as I am connected now, not only through marriage but through a deep love for the country and its people. My heart breaks for the citizens of Bulgaria who are so greatly affected by a cost of living that in no way lines up with average salaries and pensions. Change is inevitable because the country simply cannot carry on as it has been.

For those wondering, I do not feel unsafe or unwelcome in Bulgaria, quite the contrary. People are still as gracious and welcoming as ever, even in these shaky times. Everyone is just trying to live their lives, love their families, and get through each day as best they can.

Hope. I see a lot of hope for Bulgaria’s future. If there is any silver lining to these tough times, it’s that.

I’d love to start a dialogue on this topic and see what others think–both Bulgarians and expats–so please comment below. 

W.

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Bulgarian Liberation Day

Bulgarian Flag

135 years ago today, Bulgaria was liberated from 500 years of Ottoman rule.

As you can imagine, March 3rd is a very meaningful day in the country and most people celebrate in some way. Later this evening in Smolyan there will be a public gathering and fireworks display. Even with continued national protests and government strife, Bulgarians are proud of their country and heritage.

It is common to see statues and memorials of liberation heroes decorated with flower wreaths and handwritten notes of thanks. Yesterday, on our way to Rudozem, we passed the Polkovnik Serafimov monument–high in the mountains above Smolyan– and it was covered in beautiful flower arrangements.

bulgaria_national_day_2013-1057007-hp

Being married to a Bulgarian has made me feel much more invested in this country and its history. Our children will be half-Bulgarian and I want them to be proud of their heritage–on both sides.

To all of my Bulgarian friends and family, Happy Liberation Day!

W.

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Saturday Brunch

They may look like scones but mekitsi are SO much more than that! They are fluffy pillows of deliciousness sprinkled with powdered sugar. Most people like to eat them with jam or honey, but I just like them with plain with sugar. Mmm! I sure missed my Mother-in-Law’s cooking!

mekitsi

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Честита Баба Марта! (Happy Grandma March!) | 2013

Честита Баба Марта!

(Happy Grandma March)

martenitsa2

March 1st is one of my favorite Bulgarian holidays.

Why you ask?

MARTENITSI!

Martenitsa_magnolia

These red and white bits of awesomeness make for one great month!

Read about martenitsi and the holiday here and here.

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The big move back to Smolyan is today so things will be a little quiet on GMB for a few days until we get internet.

We’re heading to Shiroka Laka tomorrow for the 2013 Pesponedelnik/Kukeri Festival, so expect lots of photos when I return!

♥W.

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…Lately…

I thought I would forgo the picture and travel madness that have consumed my blogging lately and instead update you all on the recent happenings in my little corner of the world… 

-Vince is away on a business trip to Stara Zagora. Not having him around to pester and giggle with is getting to me (and it’s only been one day!) His work said I could go with him but I’ve been there already and I figured I should stay home and get some packing and cleaning done.

-We are moving out of our apartment this week. We’re saying goodbye to Sofia and moving back to Smolyan for a bit.

-Having to give up my apartment on the whim of our landlord and real estate agency for showings is really starting to grate my nerves. I finished reading Maze Runner on my Kindle in the span of two days when I had to go out and sit in the car while our landlord showed our apt. to prospective tenants. It’s just too darn cold to sit out on a bench and read!

-I’ve managed to keep a plant alive since December! We bought this little beauty at Carrefour before Christmas and it’s still hanging in there.

My cute plant

No idea what kind of plant it is, but it’s cute!

-I found a new favorite cookie. These suckers are DE-LISH! They vaguely remind me of Paradise Bakery’s sugar cookies. Yum!

Butter cookies--Mmm!!

Butter cookies. Mmm!

-I spotted the first of the martenitsi stands last week and boy am I excited! Baba Marta is on Friday! I love this time of year in Bulgaria!

-We are hoping to attend this year’s Pesponedelnik/Kukeri festival in Shiroka Laka this weekend. We went last year and it was awesome! We’ve been invited back by the town’s mayor so we are really going to try and make it, even though we will be tired from moving and driving.

-Vince and I went out to dinner at Made in Home over the weekend. While the service was horrendous, the food was yummy and it was a fitting end to our time in Sofia as it was the first restaurant we ate at after moving to the city.

-The strikes and demonstrations continue in downtown Sofia. Bulgaria is without a government and things look like they will get worse before they get better.

-For Valentines’s Day, we went out to dinner at Pizza Niagara (some of the best pizza I’ve eaten in BG) and to a movie; Identity Thief. I needed a good comedy! Movie popcorn in Bulgaria is SO much better than in the states. I don’t quite know what it is!

-Lauren’s post on pancakes made me laugh because Vince is a pancake (crepe?) making machine–it must be a Bulgarian thing! I wake up to a delicious breakfast every weekend. He specializes in Nutella (or whatever knockoff we happen to have at the moment) and banana. They are amazing!

Rollin' up the banana and crepe (pancake?)

Ventsi: The Great Crepe Maker!

Nutella and banana crepes

Reddit. That is all.

I know I’ve been alluding to big changes for Vince and I in the very near future. I apologize for the vagueness; it will all be revealed very soon!

What have you been up to lately?!

W.

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European Apartment Living

Living in a European apartment comes with its own unique set of positives and negatives. Well…Perhaps negative is the wrong word. I think quirks is a better way to describe it! Add in some uniquely Bulgarian features and it really is quite the experience! Anyone who has moved overseas probably has their own stories of odd living spaces with a list of things that took some getting used to. I’m sure many people also have a long list of things they love (or loved and miss).

We’ve been living in our apartment in the Druzhba neighborhood of Sofia for about 4 months. I’m getting around to this post now because we are actually moving out next week and it was now or never. The specifics around the move are a bit of a long story–one that I will get into in another post soon–but for now I just wanted to show you all the place we called our own for the first time in our marriage. It may have been short lived, but we have really enjoyed it.

So, here we go! A tour of our Sofia apartment; quirks included!

Our apartment enters into a long hallway. Straight ahead is our bedroom. The first door on the left is the laundry/storage room (closet, really), second door on the left is the bathroom, and the door at the end of the hall on the right leads into the living room/kitchen.
DSC_2163_bLooking down the hall towards the kitchen/living roomHall--looking towards entrance

Bulgarian tradition dictates that shoes are removed at the door. Most people have slippers for their guests as well as for themselves. Most Americans do not take their shoes off at the entrance, so this is still something that I struggle with sometimes. Oftentimes I forget and just walk into the apartment and Vince never hesitates to admonish me! We keep most of our shoes in our closet and just those that we wear the most often by the door.

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