Saturday, December 8, 2012

What is the Bulgarian National Pastime?

“How do Bulgarians pass the time?” is a common question I’ve received from friends and family who have never visited Bulgaria. As is the case anywhere, most people spend their time working, eating, attending to personal issues, and sleeping. When they do have some free time, Bulgarians do different things; they have diverse interests and spend their time doing what interests them and is within their means. Many Bulgarians spend time watching Turkish soap operas and other rubbish on television. More spend time gardening and preserving the fruits of their labor for the harsh winter. And even more spend time sitting around smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee, beer, wine, and/or alcohol, especially rakia. But something almost every Bulgarian does with some regularity is sits on a bench, chats with friends, and watches the world go by. Indeed, there is nothing more intrinsically part of Bulgarian culture than bench sitting.

And it’s one thing that I really loved about Bulgaria. As a kid, I spent part of every summer visiting my grandparents in Wisconsin. They, like most of their elderly neighbors, spent their evenings sitting on their front porch gossiping and chatting up passersby. Bench sitters in Bulgaria reminded me of my grandparents and those days gone by from my youth.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Стара планина (Balkan Mountains)

The Balkan Mountains (Стара планина in Bulgarian, which literally means Old Mountains) run from the Serbian border straight through the heart of Bulgaria all the way to the Black Sea. I contemplated hiking the Kom-Emine trail from beginning to end all the way across Bulgaria upon the completion of my service but decided against it after drowning my camera in the Grand Canal in Venice. I did, however, convince some friends to climb Връх Ботев (Botev Peak), the highest peak in the Balkan Mountains.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Пирин (Pirin Mountains)

Other than a couple trips to Банско (Bansko), I really hadn't seen much of the Пирин (Pirin Mountains) until this summer. And then foul weather prevented us from doing all of the hikes we wanted to do. I may return to do a few of them when I'm back in Bulgaria in a week or so. With scenery like this, it's hard to pass up that chance.