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Bulgarian Culture

I got up relatively early. It was after the sun was out, but before pretty much everyone else in the room. It was maybe 7ish when I left and not a lot of anything was open. I was able to get a cheese and spinach pastry for breakfast at one of the street stands, but that was about the only thing. The whole city was empty but bright. I love that all the shops have brightly decorated windows. I can't quite explain it, but the stores all felt friendly and welcoming as opposed to many places where they seem snooty and standoffish. Plus, they all had tons of bright yellow in the windows. Maybe that, plus the plants everywhere and bright flower are why. I don't know. I just know that the whole city felt bright and friendly. I headed down some back neighborhoods to the Ladies Market. At around 7:30-8, it was just opening. Vans were arriving with produce and people were putting out all their wears, paying meticulous attention to how everything was stacked. Just nearby, a bakery was already open. I went in, asked the girl behind the counter what her favorites were, and got one of each. Everything was good, but one thing stood out. She had me get this banana-creme-filled blintz-like thing. It was amazing. It was one of the best things I've eaten in a while. It was so creamy with just the right amount of sweetness. Yum! I headed back to the main part of the market to see if anything interesting was going on. Not really. Just more people putting out produce. Since I do have access to a kitchen, I was considering buying some, but everybody was smoking all over the goods. I really don't need smoked strawberries. I headed out to the edge of my map and found a little park on a bridge. I found it odd that people were just sitting there, smoking and reading like they weren't surrounded by a road, but instead by nature. Nearby was the metro, so I decided to take that to the south side of town instead of hoofing it. I got off in a large park by the stadium. This park had trees and some fields, unlike the one I had just been in. There were people out for walks, and even a few ladies maintaining some of the flower beds. i passed what was marked on the map as a "lake" for boating and ice skating. There are swimming pools bigger than the lake. You could row across it in under a minute. But, if you had a group of friends and wanted to have a cookout, it might be nice. I saw they have one of those grill boats. Nearby, I stopped to look at the Soviet monument. It was quite interesting. The statue clearly showed equality for all- women were working, just as the men were. Obviously, the soviets didn't actually have equality across the board, but the ideal is well-represented in the art. From the park, it was a nice walk past the cultural building (nothing really to see) back into town. By now, everything was starting to open up and I was able to get a real sit-down lunch/third breakfast. Right near the Courthouse, there is an interesting health food restaurant. The lady there had me try linseed tea before I was allowed to eat. She said it was bad, but healthy, which maybe isn't the best marketing for it. Or maybe it just lowered my expectations so that I was pleasantly surprised. It was something I would drink again. When I asked her for the "most Bulgarian" things she had, she gave me vegetable crepes and a spinach and cheese pie, both of which were good, although not great. The important thing though, was that I was full, but not so stuffed I'd struggle to walk. As the Free Sofia Tour last night was so great, I was joining the Cultural Tour run by the same group today. We met by the courthouse and then started walking towards our various cultural stops. The guide was very fun and informative. On the tour, we learned about the different traditional clothing, and then saw some at the ethnographic museum shop. We learned about the music and dance, and then got to dance in their traditional style. We ate learned about local foods and rose production, and then had a bunch of local foods, including rose jelly. I hadn't had it before, but it was quite good and interesting. We also learned about modern life, made spring bracelets, used the Glagolic and Cyrillic alphabets, drank homemade rakia, and talked about famous Bulgarians. (Although none were so famous that I had heard of them before.) I came away from the tour with a much better understanding of and appreciation for Bulgaria. Because we were doing, and not just looking and listening, I felt more involved and had a really good time on the tour. I highly recommend it. It was raining a bit when we finished, so I headed over to the indoor market by the mosque. It reminded me more of the Quakertown Farmer's market in that the stands weren't just food. You could also get a haircut, buy clothing, or buy drugstore items there. Plus, many of the places with food weren't just selling ingredients, many were counters where you could sit and eat. I found one with some good-looking cheesy pasta, so I decided I needed second lunch/pre-dinner. I pretty much got a big bowl of melted cheese sauce with a little bit of pasta in it, the complete opposite of what I'd get at a lot of other places. By the time I was done, I was completely cheesed out. I've been eating cheese at every meal, and some of them have been mostly cheese. I feel so done with the cheese. One thing I had seen at the Ladies Market in the morning, and had learned a bit about on the cultural tour was the Bulgarian pottery. They make this deep red clay pottery, and then do this crazy dipping and swirling painting technique that results in some very cool looking handmade pottery. I wanted some, so I headed back to the ladies market to buy some. The shopkeepers who were selling it didn't really speak English, but we were able to negotiate very reasonable prices for a few mugs and a hotpot. It was pouring rain, which may have contributed to my need for a restroom. A word of advice- don't use the restrooms by the ladies market. Some lady sits at the entrance, setting out toilet paper for you with her bare hands. It's not enough for anything, and she charges you for it and to enter. There aren't papertowels or anything to wipe your hands, there wasn't soap, and the bathrooms were pretty dirty, especially if you're paying to use them. Wait until your hotel, if you can. I had a very pleasant but wet walk back to the hostel, where I decided that I wanted dinner that wasn't cheese. I was directed to a Chinese restaurant nearby. Sadly, one of the most interesting things on their menu was fried cheese. But, I ordered a non-cheese stirfry dish that was just eh. The cherry juice they had was excellent though. That, I can recommend. I went back to the hostel to get a quick rest before the pub crawl, but then heard bad things about it. One guy who had done it last night said that it was so full they basically took over every bar and didn't get to meet any locals. Another said it wasn't that fun. Their stories and my tiredness made me decide not to go again.

At the bakery

At the bakery


Ladies Market

Ladies Market


Soviet Monument

Soviet Monument


"Lake"

"Lake"


River

River


Flowers all over the city

Flowers all over the city


Bulgarian carpet

Bulgarian carpet


Cultural Tour

Cultural Tour


Market by Mosque

Market by Mosque

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Bulgaria

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