Sirni Zagovezni In Bulgaria

Welcome to World Blog Surf Day. I hope you enjoyed The Skaian Gates by Yarzac. The theme as you may know is about Holidays and Celebrations and for sure there is bound to be a great varity form around the world. A big thanks to Sher at Czech Off The Beaten Path who again has taking this third World Blog Suf Day event up a league with her dedicated work and excellent communication to participants.

I have already written about my favourite celebration in Bulgaria and it has been published in my book Simple Treasures in Bulgaria. If you like what you read I am offering my book (in the ebook format) for free to all World Blog Surfers who take part in this event. Just let me know your email address in the comments and I will return the ebook which retails at £3.75 (£11.95 for a hard copy.) If you want to see a preview of the book you can here -> Simple Treasures In Bulgaria.

Enough said, here's the World Blog Surf Day post.

Sirni Zagovezni
One of the most popular festivals in Bulgaria is Sirni Zagovezni, meaning ‘Shrove Sunday’ or ‘The Great Lent’. This falls each year on a Sunday some seven weeks before Easter. I have experienced two seasons of these now; it is a time for celebrating the beginning of spring and a period of fasting, in fact the longest fasting period of the year in the Orthodox tradition. This means abstaining from meat, dairy products (fish once a week is allowed), no traditional dancing and no marriages to take place until Easter. This fasting does still go on, but the food here is too good and too tempting for me to even consider joining this part of the ritual. Many villages and towns have the tradition of building large bonfires, and Skalitsa is no exception. There is either the usual communal bonfire or individual groups made by neighbours on their own. The fires are built on higher land in the belief that this will prevent hailstorms striking the areas that they light. I live right up on the high ground of the village, so just outside my house is a good place for this. The preparations for this festival include hand-carving wooden rockets and laying them out for a week or two until they are tinder dry for the day. This is really tough on the hands and my carving efforts only resulted in three rockets.

Each rocket is fixed to its launching stick, and then lit from the bonfire before blasting off to challenge the other rockets as they soar up to a hundred metres over the neighbouring houses. As each is launched, a name is shouted out and that rocket subsequently dedicated to that person, family, friend or lover! The handmade rockets are collected up by young Bulgarian maidens — whoever collects the most will be deemed to be the fairest in the town or village. The young male pilots of the rockets therefore usually aim their rockets at their favoured maiden’s home to make it easier for her to find. This is a tradition where both young and old gather. The bonfire is the place where asked-for forgiveness is given from the young to the old; a time to rid everyone of past quarrels. This is also traditionally a time for the younger members of the community to respect their elders. Jumping over the fire is another part of the ritual, usually performed by the younger members of the community, although many older members have been known to have a go, and some of them did this cold Sunday evening! It is said that the farthest jump would give that young man a wife in the autumn, but all attempts will give good health to the participants in return for their efforts. I had a go, but graciously let others beat me in distance —the reason being quite simply because I didn’t want to get married again!

Even when the rockets and jumping have finished and the wine and rakia have been passed round until they’re almost gone the festivities don’t stop. This, after all, is the last day of feasting and dancing prior to the fasting period, so it’s back home for Bulgarian apple-bobbing, wining, dining and dancing until the early hours; for the morning brings about a focus of the body and mind until Easter. Which was just as well, as I didn’t fancy anything to eat in the morning….

Please take time to visit Karen at Empty Nest Expat Karen is an American expat blogger last seen in Prague. The Wall Street Journal said of her, "Her blog makes a fun read for anyone looking for reassurance that change can be a wonderful thing--and also for anyone interested in visiting the Czech Republic." Some creditable review that lives up to her blogs if I may say so.

Finally please visit the next wordl blogger in line on your world tour. Sezinia by Sezin. She describes herself as follows:
I'm a global tumbleweed with roots currently down in Prague, Czech Republic, who writes about culture, politics, spirituality and horror.
What a mixture!
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Finally Got A Job In Bulgaria Again

Thank you all for all your comments regarding my last post. There is a burning inside me that wants to spill all that happens here but it is being held back by time. It is something that I thought I would have lots of here - this is not the case right now. Far from being a rat race, things just take far longer to do here than in my previous life and trying to acclimatise with this is still something I am trying to fight, although never as much as I used to.

After being made redundant here back in 2007, it is with relief that I have now found local work here at the minimum Bulgarian wage (around 18 BG Leva a day.) I am now otherwise occupied for over 40 hours a week sweating out with other labouring non-English speaking Bulgarians. I am very lucky indeed, as many people here do not have any work at all here. It was found through the family grapevine and social connections, without this I would now probably be on a plane to the UK with borrowed money for the flight and find myself homeless and jobless there.

So as it stands now I am working as a labourer full time. It is physically demanding and I’m totally knackered at the end of the day, (which I really love for some strange reason,) but now have a living here where a contribution to the family budget can be made. I certainly feel less guilty eating the food that is constantly laid on the table. After work it is working on the farm, even in the dark and weekends still at the village of Skalitsa maintaining the farm there (without Internet connections.)

The time spent blogging now is maybe an hour or two at the most prior to hitting the pillow for some well earned sleep. Somehow the pressure to fit things in this time is making blogging stressful trying to cram everything in. For now all I can do is keep things ticking over and that’s what I will try and do. This is being written in a rush at 6:00 am prior to setting off to work at 7:00 whilst eating a banitsa and drinking Ayran.
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Blogging Takes A Lay Back

Blogging Takes A Lay BackI’m sorry there have not been recent posts here as so much has happened over the last few weeks my own normally high and motivated zest for telling people about what goes on here has taken a bit of a bashing.

Why this has happened is quite hard to explain. There was a sudden flash in my mind saying, why am I telling people about life in Bulgaria? This was a question that I found very hard to answer. It is quite common for expatriate to have a quest to tell everyone what it is like in the new country they have taken on board and then after a while it wears off. Has this now become a trait in my own will to tell that has rolled on and run out of steam?

There must be others who have arrived at the same conclusion. The problem here is that I am not in Bulgaria for leisure, but to earn a living and that takes a great chunk of time out for doing things that don’t pay. Blogging certainly doesn’t do that. It may cover the cost of the Internet and maybe buy a loaf of bread each day but that’s where it ends.

There is now a little easing down in the farming for food, but my time has to be focussed on making a living and that is where my goal lies. This blog will run on, but at a much slower pace now with prioritise time on pastimes that can pay for my living here.

All said and done, I would much rather be here scraping a living here with the life that surrounding me than in the UK getting further into debt each month and of course no life at all.
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Working Abroad Away From Bulgaria? No, Just Talk Really


Would I rather be living in France, Spain, Greece, Cyprus (I’m half Cypriot) or more exotic lands such as Thailand, India, Japan, Sri Lanka, which I absolutely adore? The answer a few years ago was yes. Any one of these countries could have easily been my choice of becoming an expatriate, but the bottom line was they were all too expensive. Now of course I have found my niche, a new family life and work in Bulgaria.

Who is to say that Galia and I won’t still move on to new countries to work? We are both free and still relatively young enough to work for another ten or so years. The chances are that this won’t happen though as we are in the poverty trap. Just the cost of an aeroplane trip form Bulgaria to Cyprus, only two hours away, would cost a month’s wages.

We have often talked about whether we would like to work in another country and Spain was the country that was talked about the most. May Bulgarian work there for a few years and come back for a year or so to recover before going over again when the money runs out. We did exactly this in the UK two years ago, working for a few months then coming back with some funds to live off, but the whole experience was too stressful for us both. The UK is out of bounds due to health reasons.

Right now whether we like it or not we are in Bulgaria for life, it is lucky that we do like it although like most people we would like to have a bit more income to cover all the increased fuel bills during the winter months and perhaps enough to afford a week away on the Black Sea Coast (and be able to afford to eat in a restaurant there) in the summer. We are luckier than most as we both have a vocation here and we can afford food, many don’t and have to do with much less.

Part of living a Bulgarian life is to experience the poverty, which many Bulgarians have to endure. It remains that for many outsiders looking in that they will never be able to understand what it is like not to be able to afford basics. We have been in exactly the same position many times over the years and rely on support form other members of the family to help us out. We of course help others family members out if they are in need whenever we can. You cannot know what this is like unless you go through it at first hand.

The question is that if we did travel abroad to work we would probably miss our family and friends so much that it would be short lived anyway and of course not have jobs to come back to when we return. It may sound like we have itchy feet, but like most things here we just talk about it because that what everyone does here.

Image via Wikipedia
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A Passion For Rakia Making Amongst Food Galore In Bulgaria

A Passion For Rakia Making Amongst Food Galore In Bulgaria

Grapes are in full swing in Bulgaria right now. The pickings are taking place all around the country for wine, rakia and of course eating. Not a day passed right now when we don’t get grapes presented to us from friends, family and neighbours. Every bunch of grape received is of course the best grapes in Yambol!

Rakia houses are running at full steam right now and you can see a trail of smoke on the horizon as the kazans (distilling systems) had been expelling smoke all night from the wood that supplies the heat. All this of course well worth the effort as this year’s grape rakia will be ready to drink by November when the pig slaughtering season starts – I can’t wait as my own grape rakia process had started last week with 150 kg of Yambol grapes now fermenting away. This is on top of the 40 litres of Yambol sliva rakia already in store and being drunk daily right now. You might want to check out The Rakia Site if you are interested in this wonderful spirit.

Food is coming in from all angles. Tomatoes aubergine and peppers have been flowing out beyond the stocking that has filled out freezer to bursting. Cabbage and leeks (which are the third succession of crops this year) are ready to eat now and will be picked and stored by the end of November.

No pictures unfortunately as my camera is still waiting to be replaced and the offer of 100,000 Entrecard Card credits and $20 for a replacement still stands. My Yambol Daily Pictures site just can’t function without one.
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