Traditions Bulgaria

Donkey Bulgaria

BULGARIA'S DONKEYS

When was the last time you saw a donkey when travelling in rural Bulgaria? For many, Bulgarians included, this is a pointless question. The sight of a grey or brown donkey quietly grazing or pulling a cart is taken for granted in this nation's countryside, both as a charming relic of the past and as a sign that many people in EU-member Bulgaria are still too poor and/or too old to afford farm machinery or cars.

Sun, 08/02/2020 - 11:18
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EASTER IN RILA MONASTERY

The chatter of the small group of people at the gate of Rila Monastery in the cold spring evening is of the sort you can hear anywhere and anytime: hellos, how-do-you-dos, smalltalk, but neither the place, nor the people nor the occasion are ordinary. Monks in habits, practicing Eastern Orthodox Christians and a couple of clueless foreign tourists are gathered at the gate of Bulgaria's most revered monastery and most visited UNESCO-site long after business hours to wait for a car to arrive.

Tue, 03/31/2020 - 10:25
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YAMBOL'S MUMMERS

Situated in the plains in southeastern Bulgaria Yambol is generally off any tourist map. Few Bulgarians would visit unless they have grandparents or friends living in one of the most depressed post-Communist cities in the country. Except for a weekend in late February/early May when the town host Kukerlandia, when a major festival of mummers attracts national and, increasingly, international interest and participation.

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 10:00
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FLOWER POWER: WHY PALM SUNDAY IS ONE OF BULGARIA'S MOST POPULAR FEASTS

Welcome to Tsvetnitsa, or Flower Day, one of Bulgaria's most beloved times of the year.

Tsvetnitsa – or Vrabnitsa, Willow Day, – is the local name for Palm Sunday, the feast celebrating Jesus's entry into Jerusalem. Early in the morning, priests all over Bulgaria bless branches of willow – a regional substitute for the palm branches laid on the streets of Jerusalem in the New Testament story. Then they distribute them to churchgoers throughout the day; it is believed that having at least one branch of blessed willow at home will protect the household from all evil.

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 13:01
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WILLOW SUNDAY OR FLOWER DAY

If your first visit to Bulgaria happens during the Sunday before Easter, a curious sight will attract your attention: long, patient queues form in front of churches in busy cities, quiet villages and popular monasteries. People wait until they eventually reach a table where a priest – sometimes solemn, but usually indifferent – distributes bunches of willow twigs.

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 15:32
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SOZOPOL'S FEAST OF ST NICHOLAS

When the summer is over and the last visitors for the year have gone, Sozopol quickly returns to its former life as a quiet fishing town. The hotels are boarded up, the restaurants are closed and the streets are empty. In itself, this is an incredible sight, especially if you've seen what Sozopol looks like in August. In wintertime, salty wind blows along the empty seaside promenades, and the voices echoing between the traditional houses in the old quarter belong not to the guests of the many B&Bs, but to their elderly inhabitants.

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 14:02
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WHAT IS BOZA?

Foreigners in Bulgaria love Shopska salad and banitsa, and many are filled with strong emotions at the smell of tripe soup with lots of garlic and chilli peppers. But if there is an item of the local cuisine which arouses unanimous suspicious among Westerners, it is boza.

Thu, 05/08/2014 - 13:50
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MOVABLE EASTER

Last year, an early-April trip to Poland provided an interesting insight into the calendar system. Heavy snow still covered the streets and temperatures were unusually low, causing concerns about climate change and the well-being of the storks who had already returned, only to find frozen fields and lakes deprived of any food. In Poland, as well as in the Catholic and Protestant parts of the world, Easter had already been celebrated at the very end of March, and Easter bunnies made of snow were still sitting in the gardens of some creative people.

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 12:06
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14 FEBURARY DILEMMA

The question "What to do on St Valentine's Day?" can be frustrating. For those in a relationship, there is the what-to-buy-this-year horror, while for some singles there is the feeling of loneliness. The anti-globalists become incensed at the heart-shaped mania that is taking over the world and the cynics point to the billions of dollars generated by the sales of romantic lingerie, chocolate and holidays. It is hard to deny that most of the red or pink trivia sold everywhere before 14 February – plus the music on the radio and the movies on the TV – are outrageously kitschy.

Mon, 02/24/2014 - 16:23
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BRAVING EPIPHANY

To be a man in Kalofer, a town of less than 3,000 inhabitants, is hard. Squeezed between the slopes of the Stara Planina mountains, Kalofer was supposedly founded by a legendary hothead brigand, Kalifer Voyvoda, and his men. There were so few women around that they had to steal brides from nearby Sopot. The hilly terrain was never good enough to allow them to do more than scrape a living (though the melons are still excellent) and shepherds had to cope with both wolves and dangerous precipices to keep their flocks alive.

Sun, 12/29/2013 - 12:56
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RIBNOVO WEDDINGS

Muddy streets, soulless buildings and stunning Rhodope landscapes: at first glance, Ribnovo is like every other Pomak village in the western part of the mountains. However, Ribnovo is like no other village in the Rhodope, or indeed in Bulgaria. What gives the village vitality and a sense of colour, even in the dullest months of the year, are its people.

Wed, 11/27/2013 - 14:37
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TIME FOR RAKIYA

If you have at least one Bulgarian friend and they have still not treated you to home-made rakiya, there are two possible explanations. They are sick – too sick to drink. Else there must be something very wrong with your relationship.

Rakiya is one of the national beverages of Bulgaria and the home-made stuff is held in the highest esteem. In fact most Bulgarian only drink mass produced rakiya in restaurants or when their home-made variety runs out.

Tue, 09/24/2013 - 11:26
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WALKING ON FIRE

The unusual, almost Native American-like drum rhythm and the bagpipe tunes echo over the silent crowd, gathered around a large circle of live embers glowing into the night. All eyes are on a tiny group of barefoot men and women in traditional clothes, who dance slowly at the edge of the circle, holding icons.

"They are in trance," says one of the onlookers.

"No, they are afraid," whispers another.

Wed, 05/29/2013 - 09:42
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TWO FOR THE PRICE OF ONE

When the tide of expats flowed into Bulgaria about ten years ago, the newcomers discovered that they weren't the first foreigner to arrive, settle down and feel comfortable in the country following the collapse of Communism. At that time, Eastern Orthodox Bulgaria had already welcomed another vagabond; St Valentine, the Roman Catholic patron saint of romantic love. It was not a big deal, in fact, as all around the world, regardless of their religion, people celebrate their love with chocolates, red satin hearts and teddy bears.

Thu, 02/23/2012 - 14:22
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THE TIME OF THE KUKERI

A mediaeval fortress known to only a handful of people and a completely unknown museum of mining – Pernik's tourist landmarks wouldn't exactly justify a detour from the main road to Thessaloniki or Skopje. What's more, this town of 80,000 is known for certain quirks more likely to put off rather than attract. The local driving culture has become a generic name for the no-holds-barred, catch-me-if-you-can manner in which Pernik drivers use their old Volkswagens as offensive weapons. The townscape of this mining community is dominated by deserted smelters and slag heaps.

Thu, 03/03/2011 - 15:02
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