St. Trifon’s Day

The weather here has been beautiful; the park is full of pensioners out for a stroll, the cafes have outdoor seating again and the city center is abuzz. I hope the weather stays like this (though I hear the end of February is supposed to be the worst). After this preview, I can’t wait for spring! I went to Karlovo this weekend where the weather was also fantastic. I met up with Cindy and Roger and joined them at the local English school. They had been asked to sit in on an adult class and ask questions about presentations they were giving. The presentations ranged from “Popular tourist destinations in Bulgaria” to “Greatest love affairs” (The love affairs involved Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez as well as David and Victoria Beckham). I was very worried about the presentation given by a lady about her best and worst vacation. The way she phrased it, the story sounded like her son was going to drown in the sea. The three of us were relieved to hear that he only got a cold. We were braced for the worst! I was very impressed with how well they could speak English after only studying for a year and having jobs or school on top of it! I told the teacher that I hope to be able to speak Bulgarian as well as they could after two years. Cindy will be working with this teacher to set up an “English Club”. The club will meet in an informal location (like a café) and just chat with some of the more advanced students. It’s something I should talk to my tutor about.

After helping with the English class, the three of us were invited to a discothèque with the youth parliament. Youth parliaments are organizations run by municipalities as a mock government for teenagers. They are given a budget and work to improve the community. It is a terrific idea because it fosters civic engagement as well as volunteerism and civic duty. Their English was pretty good. However, it was a bit awkward being in a disco full of minors. This disco is popular in particular because before 10pm, they allow teens under 18 (the drinking age in Bulgaria is 18). It was funny seeing them drink soda and milkshakes at a disco. I later learned that since Roger, Cindy and I (all in our early 20’s) were sitting at the table with them; the waitress didn’t bother checking their IDs when they tried to order alcohol.

Friday was a very important saint’s feast day. It was St. Trifon’s Day; the patron saint of wine and vineyards! Since the day fell on a weekday, they city of Karlovo held the celebrations on that Saturday. I met the dance team Cindy practices with and joined them for the festivities. We hoped on the bus with them and headed out. The bus stopped after two minutes and we hiked up the mountain. We were confused about our very short bus ride but hiked with the cheery dancers in traditional dress. We made our way to a vineyard on the side of the mountain. The view of Karlovo was spectacular.

We milled about, taking photos of the surroundings and the dancers. One of the dancers introduced us to what I believe to be the owner of the vineyard.

He was a very nice man and passed around two bowls filled with red and white wine. Despite it being 10:30 in the morning, we happily joined him. I must be coming well-integrated when I didn’t think twice about how early it was! He asked us all kinds of questions about where we work, what America is like, if we like Bulgaria, what we like about Bulgaria, etc. This conversation was frequently interrupted with “Наздраве!” (Naz-drav-eh or cheers!) The bowls of wine were passed around who ever was stand close and there was a small twig from the vineyard floating in it. They were very kind and warm people.

Soon it came time for the ceremony. An Eastern Orthodox priest started doing his chanting and heavily ritualized motions with a crucifix and Bible.

At the end, he dipped some garnish into holy water and flicked the water across all of us standing there. The mayor of Karlovo then walked into the vineyard and snipped some of vines. The priest blessed the vine and the mayor then poured some red wine on it before taking a swig.

The whole ceremony was to pray for a successful wine season; very important in this culture!

As soon as the ceremony was over, Cindy’s dance troupe started to dance. They danced some traditional horos. It was stunning with the mountains as a backdrop.


We met the owner of the vineyard again and he offered us more wine from the bowls. We gladly accepted. Before we hiked down the mountain for another celebration, a small boy, probably no more than six years old, was offered the bowl of wine!


We headed down the mountain to a large flat area. Here was where the real party was! There was a live band and several dance teams and singers.

There were even Kurchi, the Bulgarian monsters to chase away the evil spirits. In the back of a truck was a massive barrel of wine and a long line of people patiently waiting for some of the blessed drink.

There was also a BBQ. While watching everything, Cindy introduced me to several of her co-workers and friends outside of work. I also met one of her photography friends that she is putting an art show on with. More photos can be found here

We spent the rest of the day grocery shopping for dinner and café hopping. I was excited for dinner since we were making one of my favorites; chicken pot pie! We got everything ready in the kitchen, steamed the carrots, boiled the potatoes and made the pastry. The only thing left to do was to cook the chicken and make the gravy. When Cindy went to turn off one of the burners, the oven sparked and blew the fuse. Only the outlet the oven was plugged into was out. Having expirence with blown fuses, I went to the fuse box and rewired it. I plugged the surge protector back in but it to was also blown. We tried another power strip and discovered that I had successfully rewired the fuse. However, shortly afterwards, we blew the fuse again. I rewired the fuse again and decided to try the outlet the fridge was plugged into. I then proceded to trip the main breaker and blow out all the power in the entire apartment. We had all the vegetables steamed, and half cooked chicken on the stove. After pestering the land lord, we got the power turned back on. We cut our loses and went out to dinner. It was probably the nicest restaurant I have been to in Bulgaria.

Since the weather was so nice yesterday, we ate lunch on the balcony. I really hope this weather stays like this (espically since my heater broke!). I caught the evening bus to Plovdiv to take the train to Chirpan. I bought my ticket and headed home. The ticket conductor checked my ticket. He saw that I had purchased it with a rail card. He asked to see it. Usually when the conductor askes to see the rail care, the mere act of reaching for your wallet is sufficent enough. But this guy studied my card very very carefully. As he was squenting at the card, I offered him my linchna karta (the Bulgarian national ID card) to prove that I was who I said I was. I examined them very carefully. He gave me my ID card back but took my rail card. I was very confused about what was going on. This seemed like a lot of fuss over a 1.65 lev (about a dollar) ticket! He returned shortly after and asked to see my ID card again. He asked me if I had recently purchased the card and I told him I got it in November. Satisfyed I wasn’t trying to pass off a counterfit youth discount card, he gave it back to me. The rest of the trip went uneventfully.


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One Response to “St. Trifon’s Day”

  1. Angelito Quijano Says:

    Hi Jim,
    I just want to say thank you. I am part of the new batch (B-23) arriving in April, and your past several months of entries have been an invaluable resource. I just found out about a couple weeks ago that I am joining the intrepid group of volunteers and your thoughts and aspirations mimic my own. With trying to tie up all my loose ends here at home, it was actually comforting to see that someone else had recently made it through the process. I have so many questions about your experience! Again, thank you for posting your trials and tribulations.

    With great respect,
    Angelito “Angel” Quijano

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