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.

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