Monday, 16 March 2015
Monday, 2 March 2015
It is the celebration to welcome the coming of Spring and the waning of Winter. It is depicted by a cranky old lady called Baba Marta, or Grandmother Marta. Marta is a play on words for March, the month being called Mart in Bulgarian. Weather wise we find that it is quite similar to April in the UK, one day it can be brilliant sunshine and the next you can be confronted by all sorts of weather. I seem to remember something being said about in like a Lion and out like a Lamb. So the weather can be as contrary as an old lady, one day she can be all sweetness and light, but the next it could be like she has been on a diet of vinegar and lemons. Definitely not an old lady to mess with, and one who will keep you on your toes. So far she has been smiling, so the sun has been out today. It is so much nicer to hear the birds singing in the trees, rather than coughing and sneezing. There have even been a few bees lazily droning by, hunting for the crocuses and snowdrops which are now out in the garden. The daffodils and tulips are also pushing their way up through the soil, hopefully they won't come up blind this year or that we have some late frosts.
On the 1st March Bulgarians exchange Martenitsi, and wish each other Chestita Baba Marta! The custom is to essentially wish each other good health, luck and happiness. When Baba Marta is smiling the sun shines and the weather is warm, but when cross, or her bunions are playing her up, the cold stays longer and it may even snow.
These Martenitsi are the red and white ornaments, made from twisted threads and are often worn around the wrist or neck, pinned to the left side of clothing, especially coats and jackets. You can even see them decorating house doors and hanging in vehicles, some people even buy them for their pets to wear. At this time of year there are many stalls selling these Martenitsi, but there are still those who prefer to do things the traditional way and will hand make them for their friends and family. The colours are quite significant, with white symbolising strength, purity and happiness, and the red with health, blood and fertility. As shown in this picture Snowdrops are quite often incorporated as they are often the first things flowering after winter.
There are different schools of thinking, firstly there are those who feel that a Martenitsa can be thought of as an amulet and is used for protection against Baba Marta, whose mercurial temperament can cause unexpected misfortune. Baba Marta is thought to be gentler and more forgiving towards the person who is wearing a Martenitsa. Some feel that a Martenitsa can also be used for fortune telling or to encourage the desirable outcome of a wish. Some also believe that wearing a Martenitsa will also hasten the coming of Spring. I have to admit to being guilty to smiling when I see the Martenitsa stalls set up, it gives me a little lift thinking that soon the warmer weather will be back with us. Even though the daytime temperatures look to be holding quite steady, the night time temperatures are set to remain above zero. Now that we are wearing our Martenitsi I have already started my annual version of Stork watch, the good news for us is that last year a pair of young Storks built a nest in the village.
This peace treaty came at the end of the war of Liberation which was fought between 1877 and 1878. The Russians became involved due to atrocities that the Ottomans had carried out against the Bulgarians in the April uprising of 1876. Fortunately it was reported by an American journalist who was working for the British press.
Ladies day is hopefully quite self explanatory, and if you are in one of the villages it is quite possible that the village ladies will come calling. That is next weekend so no need to panic just yet.
Thursday, 19 February 2015
His education began in Karlovo, and he was also a local craftsman's apprentice studying tailoring. At the age of 18 his maternal Uncle, who was a superior Abbot and envoy of the Hilandar monastery, took him to Stara Zagora where he gained further schooling, while working as the elder Vasil's servant. He also undertook clerical training, and in 1858 became a monk under the religious name of Ignatius. The following year he became a deacon monk.
"To be equal to the other European nations depends on our own united strength"
"If I shall win, I shall win for the entire people. If I shall lose, I shall lose only myself"
"It's deeds we need, not words"
Wednesday, 11 February 2015
Now those of you who actually know me, will possibly be aware that I have three great loves in my life, that is besides my better half of course. Were it not for Net then I wouldn't be where I am today. Anyway these great loves of mine, they are football, music and reading. You might be wondering where the confession comes into play. Well I think that I might actually be a corrupting influence on unsuspecting Bulgarians. All done quite unintentionally I hasten to add, but perhaps my enthusiasm might have rubbed off somewhere along the way. It's innocent until proven guilty anyway, and enthusiasm is worthwhile for mitigation purposes.
The first charge involves football. I do have to hold my hands up and admit that I prefer club football to International matches. I am a firm believer in supporting your local club. This meant that when I was growing up that gave me a choice between Wimbledon and Crystal Palace, even though my Dad was an Arsenal supporter. Thankfully I decided on the Eagles, and have followed them through thick and thin since, my cousins and other family members might have had something to do with my choice as well. It is probably fair to say that we are not the most fashionable of clubs, but we never have really boring seasons. One thing that many pundits agree on is that the supporters generate a proper good old fashioned atmosphere, and this isn't only limited to home matches. Selhurst Park is an old fashioned stadium and not one of these new soulless bowl type ground, but whatever happens down on the pitch the supporters are there behind our team. I have shown people clips on YouTube, and now a few Bulgarians watch out for our results, some watch the matches on the TV and I know of at least one who has made the pilgrimage to SE25 to watch the Palace. In my own turn I have taken in a few matches at the local ground here, so I also follow Lokomotiv GO.
Next we have the charge with regards to music. As I have previously mentioned in these blogs, when the weather warms up people emerge into their gardens. They also bring their radios with them. Unfortunately the volume controls often seem to be broken, they are either off, or at maximum. No matter how hard I try I can't really seem to get my head round Bulgarian music (Chalga doesn't count as music). To my ears it just sounds like a lot of random notes thrown together. Well that's not quite true, as I do like the haunting quality of Malka Moma as sung by Neli Andreeva. As loud music seems to be the order of the day I also join in. Although anyone wandering about close by is likely to be entertained by something like Madness or The Damned. Maybe not to everyone's taste, but I have been known to play classical music too, but sometimes the dogs decide that they want to join in as backing vocals.
I have previously been asked if people can borrow books, so that they can practice their English. Rather than confuse them with American spellings and vague grammar I have tried passing on English writers. Not wanting to replicate English Literature classes from my schooldays I avoid the Dickens and Shakespeare. Instead I have passed on the likes of Colin Dexter, Peter Robinson and Stuart MacBride. Perhaps they might not paint a totally accurate picture of life in the UK, but at least they are written in English.
It is a two way street though, and I am sure that bits and pieces have rubbed off on me. I now seem to be more patient, I have more time for people and I have remembered that enjoyment can be gained from even the simplest of things. I will still be following the football, listening to music and reading though.
Friday, 23 January 2015
One of the first things that I noticed in the village, was that to my mind the houses don't look typically Bulgarian. I had often wondered why, and finally I might have found an answer. It would appear that once upon a time workers for the Governor of a neighbouring village, Varbovka, settled here. They were generically called Albanians , but could have come from anywhere in that general area as it was a larger country than it is now. They were not even the first settlers here as traces of both Thracian and Roman settlements have been discovered, as well as traces of a Roman road. It is not surprising as the land is so rich and fertile, and being in a hill top valley protected from a lot of the weather.
It would appear that at one time there was a military presence here as well. They took over the management of the school during the 1970s, by which time it was no longer a school. Maybe I am putting two and two together but perhaps it had something to do with the president's former hunting lodge, which we pass on the ridge road, or at least that is what we have been told that it was. Up in the woods I have found what appear to be tank berms, there is a short runway which is now used by the crop spraying aircraft, and in Strelets there is what appears to be a military style bunker. All very Cold War'ish.
No matter what the history of the village actually is, it is a pleasure living here. The air is clean, the peace and quiet can't be beaten, and the villagers are second to none. Everywhere you look you are surrounded by beautiful countryside, wildlife and birdlife abound. This really is a little slice of heaven, and I consider myself lucky to live here. It might be called Paisii, Paisiy, Arnautlii, Arnautli, Паисий or even Арнаутлии, I am just pleased to call it home. Hopefully I haven't bored anyone too much with my findings about this little hideaway.
Sunday, 11 January 2015
Over the last couple of days the temperatures have certainly been on the rise. I even took the chance of driving down into Draganovo to refill one of our gas bottles. Today I was outside building my wood pile back up without having to wear 93 layers of clothes. To say that it was quite pleasant would be a slight understatement, there were even bees flitting round. Heaven only knows what they expected to feed on. We have been quite lucky so far this winter, we have only had about four nights where the temperatures have dipped down below -15C. So far all of our water pipes have survived, I did have a bit of an ice build up on the kitchen waste pipe as it exits onto a North facing wall, but that have been sorted out now. The thaw has come quite quickly so now the garden is a bit of a boggy mess. If I', unlucky I will be mowing the grass before I realise it.
As to whether the winter has finished with us, I very much doubt it. Everyday the sun is rising just that little bit earlier, and setting a little later, we have had cloud but we have also had blue skies too. The weather can be a fickle thing. Looking on the bright side of things the Martenitsa stalls will soon be out in the main square of Gorna, and apparently Storks were building a nest in the village last year so hopefully they will return again this year.
Wednesday, 24 December 2014
Perhaps more so in villages, this is a time for the family gathering together. You will often find many different branches of the same family in just the one village, although some have now moved away to seek a better life for their families. If they can make it back they do so, as this is an important time for families. The festivities start early with incense being burned thoughout the house, this is also meant to drive away any evil spirits. Once the table has been incensed and blessed the oldest member of the family breaks the ritual bread. Traditionally this is homemade and often decorated with crosses, circles and flowers, a coin is also baked within the bread. The first piece of bread goes to the Virgin Mary and the families ancestors, the next goes to the house, then to the animals and the finally a piece of bread is given to each family member from oldest to youngest. Whoever gets the coin will be blessed with health and luck for the coming year, should it be in one of the pieces given to the Virgin Mary or the house then everyone will be healthy and fortunate. On sitting at the table everyone moves a place to their right which is said to leave room for family ancestors and benevolent spirits. Even when the Christmas Eve feast is finished the table is not cleared away. There are two thoughts behind this, there is always something to offer an unexpected guest, and also it is these for those departed ancestors.
They do say that there are two different groups who come round to the villages houses singing Christmas songs. The first group is made up of boys who go round during daylight hours, once nightfalls the men take over. As you might expect for doing the difficult job of blessing houses and households certain small items are passed their way. However if you are in a small village such as this everyone is busy with their own families, so marauding bands of carollers are something which we have yet to witness. Many say that the Christmas Day church services are worth attending, but when you have a village priest responsible for several villages it can be difficult to know where such services are being held. Maybe we will just get the bells this year, and when the church is only a stone's throw away they can be hard to ignore. So the celebations often continue onto what we would call Boxing Day, or St Stephen's Day on the 27th. There are some familiar traditions too, such as the Yule Log (badnik), which is normally Oak and is placed on the fire on Christmas Eve, and is supposed to keep burning until Christmas Day, the ashes are then gathered and used in rituals in the coming year, as is the straw from beneath the table.
Finally all that remains is for me to wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas. Also to pass on my heartfelt thanks to you all for your support of this blog. At the start of the year it had been accessed 30,000 times, which I thought was no mean achievement. Now come the close of year that figure has moved up to 90,000. None of which would have been possible without people reading these blog articles. Thanks to you all, this blog has far exceeded my wildest expectations.
So once again wherever this blog may find you I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May the coming festivities bring you all that you need, and some of what you wish for.