Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cvobodna li ctaya?

Awo! :)

Today I was thinking about the motherland, and I remember that at one point, last summer, after reading a Frommer's travel guide to Eastern Europe (though I think Bulgaria should have it's own edition!!) while standing up in a Barnes and Noble bookstore and covering the entirety of the chapter on Bulgaria and taking some notes I do believe I have since then lost, I made it my task to make my 'intended itinerary' of things I would like to see and do while on a visit to BG.

Mind you, the security at the store was staring at me like the whole time.. I had to be standing in that one spot for about an hour and a half, just reading, smiling, and copying things out of a book....I think the guard just wanted me to buy the book already, but I didn't want to because it was a bit of money and wasn't exclusively about BG-- though I may reconsider when I have some cash because I do want to see Greece and Romania and the like, and don't know if those countries have their own travel guides.

After reading, I had all thees names, and places, and streets in my brain, and I realized after a few moments of thinking, that I really want to do see many many things and places, which is fine with me because once I find the financial means to travel abroad, granted I don't have any outstanding obligations, I would love to stay in Bulgaria for quite some time, no shorter then 2-3 months, and even perhaps a year.

Because I have lost the sheet I wrote on -- my mother probably threw it out thinking it was trash because she can't read Cyrillic, haha-- I want to re-start my itinerary here. I would love any suggestions, reviews of places, etc.

I love to eat, so any restaurants/cafes are great
I love music, so any local musicians, music halls are definitely something I'd wanna see, regardless of genre (I'm into everything)
I love dancing, so any clubs that you know are fun
I love books, so any good stores, markets, or libraries

This is just a start, I would love an impossibly long list...
a) because I can't run out of things to do -- though surely there WILL be days where I just want to sit back, and be captivated by everything around me, and relax
b) because it would be a reason to go back (amongst many, many others)!

I'll see what I can come up with in the next post! ^___^

Leka nosht! (Good night!)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Bulgaria: The [abbreviated] Basics (Part II)

Awo! :)

So in our last extremely brief history lesson, I left off with World War One and Two.
Discouragingly enough, Bulgaria has been on the losing side in both both World Wars, leaving it at a disadvantage. As Bulgaria's history has confirmed, war isn't pretty and can ruin economies and the well-being of people by slowing cultural growth.

In World War One:

Prior to the war, both the Central Powers (Austria-Hungary, Germany) and the Entente (Russia, France, Britain) were pressuring Bulgaria to join their respective sides in the escalating conflict. Ultimately, however, Bulgaria made a 'secret treaty' with the Central Powers. 1918 saw much revolt in the land. Under Radoslavov, Bulgaria in the midst of war was doing poorly in terms of its ability to stay afloat internally. War had tired the people, and none of the territory that was supposed to be granted to Bulgaria according to the promises of Radoslavov were there. Needless to say, in time, the Radoslavov government resigned in this same year, and Entente forces moved in.

In World War Two:

In World War Two, Bulgaria managed to maintain neutral from 1939 until 1941. It was still hoping to gain territory, especially that which it had previously lost. It regained Southern Dobruja which had become part of Romania. Bulgaria, in 1941, joined the Axis Powers, though still at the outset, remained fairly passive until an invasion of Greece and Yugoslavia was underway. Germany later caused Bulgaria to move against the US and the United Kingdom. Repercussions followed in the bombing of Sofia, and other Bulgarian cities. While a member of the Axis Powers, Bulgaria managed to keep relations with Russia intact. Shortly after, by September 5th, Russia seized Varna and Bourgas. There was a political resistance movement taking place in Bulgaria, called Fatherland Front. The Fatherland Front was crucial in that it staged a coup and then (wih Russia), retaliated against Germany and the other Axis powers.

A later post will be dedicated to current issues in Bulgaria just out of curiosity and as a point of reference.

**If there are any inconsistencies, please let me know, keep in mind, I'm no historian though I'm sure that's obvious by now, and would like to be as accurate as possible. :) Blagodariya (Thank you)! **

Priyaten Weekend!


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Chestit 3-ti Mart! :) // Ден на Освобождението

Ден на Освобождението
(Liberation Day)

Happy March 3rd! Today commemorates the Liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule, thanks to the The Treaty of San Stefano, signed between the Turkish Ottomans and Russia on this day in 1878, in San Stefano -- or what is now known as present-day Yesilkoy. This treaty, established Bulgaria's autonomy as a principality, and is the last step before Bulgaria was to fully achieve independence as a state much later in September of 1908.

The above is a video of some great footage, I love the music!! :)

Happy Liberation Day to all Bulgarians everywhere!


Bulgaria: The [abbreviated] Basics -- Part One

:] Kak si?

When someone asks me where I am from, I have a 'typical answer' which goes something like, "I am Puerto Rican and Jamaican, but I was Bulgarian in a past life." If the person I'm speaking to isn't scared off by this point, it's usually a good sign that often gets me to talk more about Bulgaria to others who are interested as to why the heck 'someone like me' would be so into a country 'like that'.

The first question they usually ask is: Where is it?

Bulgaria is a small Balkan country bordering the 'Cherno More', or Black Sea. Her neighbors are Greece and Turkey (southward), Romania (in the north), Serbia and Macedonia (in the west).

Next, depending on who I am speaking to, I usually hear something about Russia or Communism.

Yes, Bulgaria has seen its share of different types of governance. It has a very long history that dates back around to the 4th century (if memory serves me right). It had established what is the First Bulgarian Empire, followed by a second, then was later subject to Turkish-Ottoman expansion/rule with the capture of Turnovo (the capital at the time). This point in history is one I find rather fascinating, yet sad -- as any 'conquest' often is. What amazes me the most about Bulgaria and it's people is that after nearly 500 years of Turkish rule, they were able to maintain many of the traditions, the language, the cuisine that they had previously called their own. I find that there is tremendous beauty in this.

1876 saw the April Uprising -- a rebellion against the Ottoman Empire that resulted in many deaths, but established two independent Bulgarian provinces. Shortly after, Russia swept in and participated in the Russo-Turkish war, lasting a year (1877-1878) until the Treaty of San Stefano was signed on March 3rd of 1878. This day is celebrated as Liberation Day in Bulgaria. This period of time is a bit confusing as the land that constituted Bulgaria was moving back and forth from Ottoman control, and changing with the various signing of treaties, and the persistent occurrence of war.

Later World War One and Two occur, but there is more on this in Part Two of this post. Look out for it soon!!

So today I received my martenitsa from Babo, it's quite beautiful! Though it makes me feel like I must work much harder on mine next year. I posted pictures of my martenitsa, Penda on Facebook -- everyone thinks she's a voodoo doll! Haha. When I get the chance later tonight, I will edit this post so you can all see it. :)

Leka Nosht,


Monday, March 1, 2010

Chestita Baba Marta! // ЧЕСТИТА БАБА МАРТА!

Dobro utro!
(Good morning, good day, etc)

Today is a special day in Bulgaria, so I thought I'd share before running off to school. In last night's post, I ended with making 'martenitsi' for the celebration today.

What's so special about today, March 1st, you ask?

March first is what is known as 'Baba Marta', or grandmother March, to take a literal translation. It is a holiday that is meant to welcome the coming of Spring, but also symbolizes wishes of good health and happiness towards family and friends. Baba Marta is traditionally seen as a volatile woman with mood swings that are evident by the weather in the month of March. The holiday aims to please her so that the coming of Spring will come faster.

So how do you celebrate Baba Marta?

Generally speaking, it is Bulgarian custom to make what is called 'martenitsa' (plural: Martenitsi) to give to ones friends and family. These are often in the shape of bracelets, or even dolls -- named Pizho and Penda. Of course many people no longer have the time to make many of these by hand, as I have figured out last night... (It took me about two hours to make one with all the care I could.) This being said, one is able to buy many of these from street-side vendors. Some are hand-made, others are made in China (which surprised me to some degree) but one common theme remains, no matter where the martenitsi is produced or who it is for: the colors; Red and White.

The color red takes on a number of meanings, some of which include: blood, femininity, passion, life. White can mean purity, masculinity, or the melting of the winter snow.

The story behind Baba Marta:

the origins of Baba Marta are explained in a few folktales, one of which is about the founding of Bulgaria by Khan Koubrat, the founding of the first Bulgarian kingdom by Khan Asparoukh, the observance of the god Mars, (the god of war and spring). Each of these stories further explains the meanings behind the red and white colors of the martenitsi. This tradition is hundreds of years old and still remains to be celebrated by Bulgarians to this day. (it is important to note that other countries like Romania, Poland, Moldova and Greece have celebrations on March 1st as well, though some may be for slightly different reasons, as far as I understand).
Now before I run off to my classes for the day, here are some pictures of the martenitsi I made.

This is a bracelet I tried to make... Not the greatest, I wish I knew how to do the traditional designs, but I at least I got the colors down! ^__^

This took me about an hour and something to make...but I don't think it's too shabby!

This is me after I thought I was done because I could find no white string around the house... I knew white was part of the tradition, but I thought since it was first time making one, it would be okay, but I was sad I wasn't able to follow the rules as tradition calls for.. Lo and Behold I later found a spool of white thread... I think Baba Marta was looking out for me :)

This was the final version after I'd searched the house for white string all day, and tried to bleach red yarn (which didn't work!!! I must figure out why!?)

Well, its 10:16 and I should have already left the house, haha OPA!

Priyaten Den!
(Have a good day!)