Spring Break

Update:Tyler Wasson has more. More photos posted below.

After the dance concert, Tyler and I hit the rails. We boarded the midnight train to Varna. When we got on board, we bought tickets for the sleeping car which were very comfortable.

Sure beats a seat! Nothing like a bottle of domashna rakiya!

We arrived in Varna at five thirty in the morning. The city was quiet and the weather overcast. We headed out to the Black Sea in time to see the sun peaking through the clouds. The wind picked up and the weather got cold so we headed to the Hostel. The guy who ran the hostel spoke great English. It turns out, he learned English from PCVs and had known volunteers over the last 15 years. Needless to say, he loves the Peace Corps. In fact, the PCVs who spent the night before we got there were worried that there wasn’t going to be enough room for the rest of us got there. He told them “not to worry”. I’m pretty sure he would have kicked people out to make room for us! He was a great guy and took us on a tour of the city. We walked through the city park were we saw lots of trees had been cut down.

It turns out that the city has been cutting these branches. The people, however, haven’t been told why. Rumors have spread that the city wants to build a parking lot. The citizens banded together and in what would have been unthinkable move twenty years ago, stopped the city. The day we went through the park, people we telling others what was going on, putting up signs on the trees (saying something to the effect of “stop tearing off our limbs”) and had a petition. You can’t see it in this picture, but down at the bottom, the people spelled out “Sahara”.

We went to the Varna Archaeological Museum where he got us an 80% discount! He showed us around and explained, with great pride, the ancient history of Bulgaria. The major exhibit was the gold mask from a Tharcian king:

It was all very impressive. The rest of the day, we milled about. I had sushi for dinner (not a very Peace Corps meal!) It wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, more like “Haven’t-eaten-sushi-in-nine-months-good”. That night we bumped into some US sailors who were making a port call. We spent the whole evening with them.
It was great speaking English with American who weren’t PCVs and getting their perspective.

The next day we woke up and explored the city some more.

The Dormition of the Theotokos Cathedral

That evening, we headed out. I went to Shumen and in the morning, I went up to Isperih and met up with Tyler. He showed me around his town and I met his friends. We had baseball practice with his team

and showed me about town, including the massive statue of Khan Asparukh, the founder of the first Bulgarian kingdom:

That night, we had a six hour na gosti with one of Tyler’s friends. He is a retired anesthesiologist and we originally went to his house to help is daughter with her English homework. He is a very sharp man and knows an impressive amount of current events and world affairs. What’s even more impressive is his English. He speaks very well, perhaps the best Bulgarian English speaker I’ve met. Incredibly, he taught himself, just by listening to Radio Free Europe and jazz. (He showed his contraband jazz collection. Owning jazz tapes, or anything Western for that matter, was illegal during communism). He has a hungry mind and actually prepared a list of questions ranging from the roles and responsibilities of the FBI, DEA and ATF to the differences between “below”, “beneath” and “under”. He told us he loves America (and calls himself the biggest fan we’ll ever meet) but also feels let down and abandoned with the way they were treated by the West after the fall of communism. Our conversation would jump from word pronouncation of words to a heated debate on wither or not Americans care about our work (and by extension, Bulgaria), and American foreign policy. He raised very logical questions and we both challenged each other’s positions. It was a great evening and we all had a great time. He and his wife invited me back the next time I’m in the region.

The next day, the other PCVs from Shumen and we went to a Roma sabor. We went with Tyler’s Bulgarian friends. However, when we got to the field, the situation got the best of them, and they didn’t want to be around “them” and left us there. It didn’t matter to us so we wondered around. We bumped into people that other PCVs had met and went down to the mosque in the valley. There were several things going down there and it was packed with people. In the main room in the mosque, people were filing in around a table. At the end of the table was a hat that believers were putting on and taking off. This happened about three times before the line moved. This was supposedly the hat of the founder of the mosque and people did this for good luck during the up coming year. Out side, there was a rock people were lying on for strength,

a tree’s whose bark provided fertility,

a stream for heath and a “game” were people closed their eyes and walked towards a wall with two grooves.

If their outstretched hands got into the grooves, the person gets good luck for the year. Outside the compound, the trees were covered in bits of clothing tied like martinitsa.

People tied these for good health for whatever body party the cloth covered.

We hiked up a steep cliff (I don’t have any photos since I didn’t want to take my bulky camera. I’ll post the photos I steal later). The top had a beautiful view of the bluffs we climbed.

While we were up there, we met a family who invited us over. We shared lamb, bread and rakiya with them while shooting the breeze with them.

They were eager to share their meal with us and talk about why we’re here, etc. We headed back where Tyler’s Bulgarian friends picked us up. I guess they were feeling lonely. They took us to their hija (cabin) and we drank and ate more. We learned several drinking songs and swapped stories.

It was a long, but great weekend! Bravo to you for making it through a long post!

More photos here:

May Day and St. George’s Day

2 Responses to “Spring Break”

  1. Cyrillic Alphabet Day « Chronicling Bulgaria Says:

    […] marching and other preformances. This is probably one of the biggest holidays in Bulgaria, after St. George’s Day. The introduction of the Cyrillic alphabet was of enormous importance. More that any other […]

  2. A year in « Chronicling Bulgaria Says:

    […] taught themselves English. I’m always blown away. For instance when I met Mr. Wasson’s friend: [W]e had a six hour na gosti with one of Tyler’s friends. He is a retired anesthesiologist and […]

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