SMOKES AND DRINK KEEP YOU IN THE PINK

SMOKES AND DRINK KEEP YOU IN THE PINK

Sat, 09/01/2007 - 18:06

Whether you're a beer, beaujolais, or brandy buff, there's always a tipple to tickle your fancy

beer.jpg

Ask acquaintances about their hobbies or leisure activities. They'll go blank for a moment as they think about what they do in their free time. After a few seconds, most people will offer a vague answer: “listening to music”, “reading”, “watching movies”. A few folks do have real hobbies, like paragliding, or collecting pre-World War II shoelaces, whatever.

But almost never will you hear someone tell you that in their free time they like drinking and/or smoking. Funny, given that these are two of the most popular leisure time activities around the world (or at least in those parts where people don't belong to party-pooping religions, and so on)...

Let's talk about booze. Maybe you're one of those people who enjoy the odd glass of red, swirling and sniffing away, commenting intelligently on the wine's complexity and expressiveness. Maybe you're the kind of person who wakes up in a doorway every Sunday morning, pale, trembling and lying in a puddle of vodka (in which case, you should think about laying off).

No matter what kind of imbiber you are, a rich drinking adventure awaits you in Bulgaria. Come with us now as we investigate the possibilities for swirling, swigging, and waking up in puddles in the EU's favourite new member country...

Though a long way behind world viticultural behemoths like France, Italy and Spain, Bulgaria still definitely swings above its weight in terms of volume of wine produced (though interestingly lagging behind its smaller northern neighbour, Moldova).

Bulgarians are fiercely proud of their wines, at least of the reds. White wine is barely considered wine at all. There's even a traditional song which, translated from the Bulgarian, goes a bit like this: “Oh white wine, oh white wine, why are you not red?”

Several varietals are unique to Bulgaria, including Pamid, Gamza, and Mavrud. A wine expert told me that a good Mavrud should be “meaty”, and “so thick you could cut it with a knife”. Despite the unfortunate metaphors more appropriate to a description of dog food, there's actually nothing wrong with the wine. Those “in the know” report that Bulgarian wines have made encouraging gains in consistency in recent years, and are starting to take market share from their illustrious French and Spanish rivals. At the very least, wines here are pleasantly priced.

If you prefer something a little more “folksy”, though, why not take a Sunday drive out to wine-growing areas for a taste of homemade? It's a fun day out. Villagers set up market stalls and sell their unassuming local wines in Coke bottles. What they lack in sophistication, they make up for in good ol' village-style rustic authenticity. And there's not a single proven case of blindness as a result of drinking them. That I know of.

On the subject of homemade liquor, one tipple that has its roots in the “DIY” tradition is the redoubtable rakiya.

If you've been in the country for more than about an hour, then someone has thrust a glass of this Balkan rocket fuel into your hand. Many Bulgarian “newbies” find it unpalatable. The most popular variety is made from white grapes (aha, that's where all the white wine went), though it can theoretically be made from any fermentable fruit (and probably has been in times of economic hardship).

Issue 12 Living in Bulgaria

Commenting on www.vagabond.bg

Vagabond Media Ltd requires you to submit a valid email to comment on www.vagabond.bg to secure that you are not a bot or a spammer. Learn more on how the company manages your personal information on our Privacy Policy. By filling the comment form you declare that you will not use www.vagabond.bg for the purpose of violating the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria. When commenting on www.vagabond.bg please observe some simple rules. You must avoid sexually explicit language and racist, vulgar, religiously intolerant or obscene comments aiming to insult Vagabond Media Ltd, other companies, countries, nationalities, confessions or authors of postings and/or other comments. Do not post spam. Write in English. Unsolicited commercial messages, obscene postings and personal attacks will be removed without notice. The comments will be moderated and may take some time to appear on www.vagabond.bg.

0 comments

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Discover More

king boris meets people
BULGARIA'S LAST MONARCH
On 3 October 1918, Bulgarians felt anxious. The country had just emerged from three wars it had fought for "national unification" – meaning, in plain language, incorporating Macedonia and Aegean Thrace into the Bulgarian kingdom.

Bay Ganyo in translation
WHO WAS ALEKO KONSTANTINOV?
In Vagabond we sometimes write about people whose activities or inactivity have shaped Bulgaria's past and present. Most of these are politicians or revolutionaries.

vanga monument
RUSSIA BRINGS ON... VANGA
The future does not look bright according to Vanga, the notorious blind clairvoyant who died in 1996 but is still being a darling of tabloids internationally, especially in Russia.

The 23rd infantry battalion of Shipka positioned north of Bitola, Macedonia, during the Great War
FINDING ANTIP KOEV OBUSHTAROV
In early 2021 veteran Kazanlak-based photographer Alexander Ivanov went to the Shipka community culture house called Svetlina, founded in 1861, to inspect "some negatives" that had been gathering the dust in cardboard boxes.

soviet army monument sofia ukraine
MONUMENTAL WOES
One of the attractions of the Bulgarian capital, the 1950s monument to the Red Army, may fascinate visitors wanting to take in a remnant of the Cold War, but many locals consider it contentious.

panelki neighbourhood bulgaria
PREFAB SOCIETY
With the mountains for a backdrop and amid large green spaces, uniform apartment blocks line up like Legos. Along the dual carriageway, 7km from the centre of Sofia, the underground comes above ground: Mladost Station.

boyan the magus
WHO WERE THE BOGOMILS?
What do you do when the events of the day overwhelm you? When you feel that you have lost control of your own life? You might overeat, rant on social media or buy stuff you do not need. You might call your shrink.

Monument to Hristo Botev in his native Kalofer
WHO WAS HRISTO BOTEV?
Every 2 June, at exactly noon, the civil defence systems all over Bulgaria are switched on. The sirens wail for a minute. A minute when many people stop whatever they are doing and stand still.

st george day bulgaria
DAY OF ST GEORGE BULGARIAN STYLE
Bulgarians celebrate St George's Day, or Gergyovden, with enormous enthusiasm, both officially and in private.

Shopska salad is the ultimate rakiya companion
HOW TO ENJOY RAKIYA
The easiest way for a foreigner to raise a Bulgarian brow concerns a sacrosanct pillar of national identity: rakiya, the spirit that Bulgarians drink at weddings, funerals, for lunch, at protracted dinners; because they are sad or joyful, and somet

151020-28446.jpg
SOFIA'S PARTY HOUSE
"Where is the parliament?" A couple of months ago anyone asking this question in Sofia would have been pointed to a butter-yellow neoclassical building at one end of the Yellow Brick Road.

Boyko Borisov_0.jpg
BLAST FROM THE PAST*
Bulgaria's courts have been given the chance to write legal history as former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov is suing Yordan Tsonev, the MP for the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, over Tsonev's referral to him as a mutra.