Friday, 17 February 2012

Snow Snow Oh & More Snow, Spring is Still Around The Corner

This years Sveti Trifun ( wine day) was slightly different from last years, as our weather is poles apart from the same day last year, but I'm sure the Bulgarians did not let the snow stop them! You can read about the Bulgarian tradition of Sveti Trifun on last years blog entry, just click on the link  below....
We went to friends to celebrate Sveti Trifun again this year, I really wanted to show off last years vino we think its the best yet but I know our Bulgarian friends think it is very strong. The reason for these differing opinions, we added more sugar! Personally we prefer the sweetness but the villagers, although they like the taste, believe it to be "extra" meaning it will be very much stronger, I am not at all sure about this.  We got the seal of approval from Yovo though who said it was FANTASTIC!  I have an English friend though who prefers our previous years wines which are drier, but on the whole the 2011 has had a good response. Wine really is all about personal taste, I guess the way to go is, make one barrel sweet & one barrel dry, that way everyone is covered ;-D

This is Hoppie, our little wounded village stray that Nigel feeds
The weather is getting better, but we are still having snow & the build up of the last months snow falls have gone no where yet. In fact we had more snow last night, again this morning & a mini blizzard this afternoon, at the same time the sun was going in & out, as I type this the sun is out. 
 I was due to go & see my friend today but with the snow I freaked out, those of you who are regular readers will know why. Nigel went to help with a problem & I have stayed home.
At first, when the sun came out, I was regretting my decision & could  have kicked myself. Then I looked out of the window & saw a whirlwind of snow, I had to go outside to check it was real,  it was! So I know I made the right choice as I would have been in total panic all the way, then spent the day worrying & panic all the way home. Such a horrible feeling. I really don't think this fear will ever go away now :-(((((
We managed to get into Polski on Wednesday It was great to get out, my first time in a whole month!!! . We have not seen Sue & Arthur for a month, Facebook & the phone just do not hit the spot where friendship is concerned. Also our friends Irene & Dave have moved here permanently & I had not seen them since they arrived, Nigel has managed to see then a couple of times when he has chanced the drive out, but the roads were too bad for me.
It was really lovely to catch up with them all over a bowl of soup, perlenka with off course a lovely rum & coke. Mind you I do feel like I just got verbal diarrhoea, from non socialisation lol, so I'm not sure my conversation made much sense ;-D
So, so, so, so, so looking forward to Spring now. Not because of being at home, but through missing my friends, not socialising, oh & seeing nothing but white everywhere, that gets really bo-or-oring after a couple of months!
I am yearning for the beautiful scenery of my Bulgarian countryside. The greens of many varying shades, the purple, lilac & pinks of the lilac tree's, pink & white blossom of the fruit tree's & the many varied colours of the unknown bushes & brush of the hedgerow, Gawjus ;-D
Loving Spring here, first exchanging Martenitsa brings the excitement, then looking out for the first Stork, knowing that soon we will be seeing them everywhere in their huge Easter bonnet nests. Starting to eat in the garden & having morning coffee in the sun. I am also very fortunate that I have an area which is sheltered & gets very hot with direct sun, I can be starting my tan in May, GREAT!
So as you can see nothing much has changed, we still are surrounded by snow, though I am snowed in through fear Nigel has been, out & in fact is in Peychinovo as I type.Yesterday he took our friend to Strajitsa. She is a teacher in the school here, & had to go in to do a computer course on a new subject to teach the children. Her husbands car is not snow road worthy, so Nigel took them in & then home again. He was stuck waiting there for a few hours so he busied himself doing a bit of shopping for woodworm treatment & a few other bits along with a bit of food.
I am really hoping we can get some proper food shopping done tomorrow, as although there are many different meals I can make with mince, I would like something different now. A joint of Pork roasted would be nice :-)

Friday, 10 February 2012

Bulgaria's Polar Winter, Will We Sveti Trifun?

Our Sophie
Well we are, as you may have heard, unless you have been up a mountain somewhere, in the midst of a Polar winter! Yet as a household & I would say village, this is no way near the worst we have lived through. We have, so far, done well! Yes we have had very prolonged cold & yes we have deep prolonged snow BUT we have had worse winters since we have been here.
Bulgaria as a whole has had it bad, though not as bad as the Ukraine, Romania, Serbia & other Eastern European countries. I feel so sorry for the suffering that is going on! In Bulgaria we have also had a village called Biser flooded by a burst dam, killing 10 people. I can't imagine this! In this terribly cold weather with so much snow to then be besieged by freezing waters.A terrible tragedy! Take a look at this link
If anyone wants to or can help, here are the details;
The text service (17777) is a national service organised by the BG authorites. send SMS with text in Latin DMS BEDSTVIE to 17 777 (for customers of three mobile operators in the country). The cost of SMS is 1.20 donation.
If anyone wishes to send parcels they can do so to:
Sakar Hills Camping
2 Georgi Rakovski Street
Matt says "When sending the parcel if people include email addresses or FB stats I can acknowledge the receipt via email".

I have friends who have had frozen pipes (one for over a week!), cars, batteries etc, this makes life very difficult. I count us very fortunate to have got to here with no problems (so far). Roads in Bulgaria have been closed & lorries & trucks have been stopped so food & supplies are not getting through. This has lead or is leading to lack of food etc in the shops, but unlike in the UK the Bulgarians do not panic buy & will always find something. We are hoping that the thaw will start in a week. The dates are being put out are Nationally the 20th Feb & my village the 17th Feb, fingers crossed!
Nigel has been out in blizzards & freezing temps to feed the little dogs that have no home. It started out as just a little black dog we call Hoppie, as she has a bad paw. Now it can be up to five dogs.They come running when they hear him coming & jump up & chat to him, awe bless them.
Here they come running up to Nige, Hoppie leading the way.
This is Hoppie, unfortunately we can't see her in the glare of the snow
We have fared really well which is through a combination of things. Mainly we have not lost our electric, up till now, which has meant we have not had frozen pipes. Our meter pit is deep & made of very thick concrete with a very heavy concrete lid. All we do is chuck a load of sacks & bags in to keep it from freezing, on the advice of Plamen the voda man. This for the last four years has worked even though it doesn't sound enough!
Our main problem last year was the pump room where the water pipes come into the house, even though the pipes are all lagged its just not enough in -20c odd . So this year we have a little heater in there which has stopped the room freezing & therefore the pipes, so far. I keep saying "so far" as you never know what each day will bring.
We have also stocked up two freezers full of food, just for the time we would be stuck. I preserved everything I could from the garden & made sauces & soups out of all our produce, which is only now being used, froze vegetables & we made sure we had more than enough dry wood for the log burners, all chopped & ready to just chuck on. We still have plenty in the form of beams, from taking down a barn roof. These need to be chopped, but by the time we need them we will be in spring, so it won't be a problem getting the chainsaw on them. They will only be needed for some evenings & the nights.
Our main problem, so far, has been crashing the car but now I just stay home. Nigel has managed to get out once a week but I have only managed once in the last 4 weeks. We have a 4x4 with 4 x snow tyres & snow chains on the back wheels, yet still it is too dangerous apart from on these 4 days when the roads have been recently ploughed. Our village road out is not plowed, as the tarmac under the snow has subsided & there are huge pot holes,  so not even the village plough has been down it.
The problem gets even worse as time goes by,  the snow gets impacted & freezes then the sun comes out , melts it just a little & when the temp drops it freezes again. Then more snow is added & on & on. We now have thick layers of ice with more snow to come.
I find myself ready to give up & dreaming of spring. The smells & sights. The little flowers, crocus, snow drops, primroses etc, will soon be poking through & then the daffodils & tulips.
Looking forward to seeing the cherry blossom on our trees & the apple blossom that will be everywhere. I have been daydreaming of sitting in the sun reading my books & spotting the first Stork's to come home, Spring will soon be here!

One of my lovely cherry trees
My boy Reg, guarding something
Then there are the weeds! Kammi sunning herself
Mini chewing a stick & pretending to be angelic
This years Sveti Trifun, Feb 14th,  may be slightly different. I will certainly give it a try though. Our weather last year was very different on that day, but I'm sure the Bulgarians will not let the snow stop them! You can read about the Bulgarian tradition of Sveti Trifun on last years blog entry, just click on the link  below....
I am not even sure if we are celebrating with our friends, we will have to find out, as I really want to show off (again) last years vino. We think its the best yet but I know they think it is very strong. The reason for these differing opinions? We added more sugar! Personally we prefer the sweetness but the villagers although they like the taste believe it to be "extra" meaning it will be very much stronger. I am not at all sure about this??? I have a friend who prefers the previous wines which are drier. Wine really is all about personal taste, I guess the way to go is, make one barrel sweet & one barrel dry, that way everyone is covered ;-D
Here are some photo's from last years celebration & boy was this a celebration!!!!
Note the mobile in his hand, the only source of the music
So much food & drink, foods we had never had before & quite frankly some we will NEVER try again ;-D

Yordanov Den (St Jordans day), I Love It

I love this, my name day is a day devoted to the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan river & is one of the greatest of the calendar of saints! See this blog post
It is a day of enlightenment and light and is celebrated by vodosvet -water is sanctified and after the ritual the priest throws the cross in the river or the sea. The men at the bridge dive after the cross to draw it out from the cold water. It is believed that if the cross freezes in the water the year will be fertile and the people will be healthy. Taken from
I love my name & its meaning & even more now we live here it has more added to it & as Im a Christian I am very chuffed!
Well I had a lovely evening on my name day with my Bulgarian family, it was a very happy evening & I will  definitely be celebrating this every year. Yovo, Pavlinka & anton were all really happy & were joyful & laughing all evening, such a light hearted night. They bought me a present too, a camping gas kettle which we will make good use of in September when we camp over night at Trinity rocks farm for the music fest. I am really looking forward to that!
First up was salad, olives & Rakia, Pavlinka baked one of her amazing Bahnitza's & we devoured the lot
I made traditional Bulgarian meatball soup, one of our very favourite Bulgarian dishes, which they loved. I put a little chilli in & they mentioned it was a bit hot, although for the first time in the last 5 yrs they never stopped to talk or let it get cold! That soup was devoured in a non stop soup fest :-) A compliment indeed!  I served this with my own mixed pepper bread, again they loved it & Yovo kept asking about me making it myself. I love to see them enjoy my cooking as they are very traditional people. When I make something like the bread I  never forget to tell them its made from the produce we grew, this makes it OK & becomes Joanna's traditional Bulgarian whatever, so the fact the bread was homemade, with peppers from the garden, this made it very acceptable, brilliant! Although the soup was very filling I obviously served cake for dessert, they love their cake as do we. I was delighted to find I had plenty in the freezer so there was a selection with Plum muffins, apple & cinnamon cake, grape cake & PumpkinMuffins with a liberal helping of cream.......
I would post photos but my laptop, with said photos, is currently broken, Iwill post asap.....

Babin Den, Grannies Day In Bulgaria

My friend Sue,  has had the great honour of being chosen by her village as Baba of the year. Baba is Bulgarian for grandmother. I was on my way to be with her but unfortunately we crashed in the snow so I have Sue's account of the day for you, as I think its wonderful for a village to choose a European to bestow this honor on. What a wonderful village to have accepted Sue & her husband Arthur, into village life so readily. This I think is such a positive & shows what Bulgarian people are really like, friendly & welcoming!
Sue says ;
"What a brilliant day today, shame about the snow but I think it added to the pleasure of the day, It all started when a group of ladies came to collect me from the house, they gave me a cooked chicken, a large round of bread and a bottle of wine, then they started singing and put a string of popcorn with a pepper on around my neck, & a garland of leaves with the flowers of the Christmas cactus on my head. We then went into the centre of the village into the Town hall.  When we got to the village hall I had to have my hands washed with soap then all the ladies gave me a present mainly aprons, towels & tea towels, then they gave me the complete Bulgarian traditional dress which was lovely.
There was a room set up with food and drink. There was hot Rakia, wine and soft drinks, 2 kebabs with potatoes, salad and bread. After we had a cream bun with chocolate on and a meringue yum yum.  They then did a tombola, I won a small wooden board and a bottle of washing up liquid lol. After 3 hours we then went back to my house for coffee, cakes & biscuits.
It really was a lovely day and I hold the title of Baba of the year for 1 year such an honour for me".
What a wonderful honour, what a wonderful Village!
The Folk Law......
Bulgarian folk tradition celebrates Midwife’s Day on January 8th, popularly known as Granny’s Day. In modern times, the date January 21 is marked as the day of childbirth assistance, celebrating Midwife’s Day. Now it seems to have been added together into one day. Some celebrate Jan 8th & others like Sue's village celebrate on 21st.

In the past, when Midwife’s or Granny’s Day came, all men in the village would hide, because on that day women reigned supreme and if a man is seen, he would be mocked by all the women who met him. Pulling his hat off or even trying to strip him naked was considered normal on that day and men could not argue or be mad about it. They could get away by bribery, which added to the general merry-making of the day. Tradition has it that all money collected in this way would be used for the shared evening feast, where men can join the party and they all celebrate together. During the day only the musician men were safe, as they had to play music and look out for the ladies enjoyment.
Red wine to warm up the freezing January day was the other compulsory accompaniment throughout the day. This was the only day when it was considered natural for a woman to drink wine, get dizzy and dare share a joke or two on men. In some regions one of the women could dress like a man on Granny’s day and the party would act out parody sketches, some suggesting erotic scenes. Only on Granny’s day could women free themselves through laughter and jokes, of  their dissatisfaction with their husbands. This overall party spirit, however, used to take over around noon. Before that women had a number of very serious rituals to perform.

The name of the Granny’s day feast comes from the old tradition when elderly women were the ones assisting younger women in child delivery. Each village had its midwife or Granny in the past. Her care for the baby, however, did not end with the delivery. On Granny’s day the village midwife visits all babies born with her help throughout the year. She bathes them ritually, spreads some honey and butter on their foreheads so that their life be sweet and rich, then blesses them for good health and long life. She also brings with her a tuft of lambs wool – to rub on the heads of the baby-girls, so that their hair be long and beautiful, and on the cheeks of the baby-boys, so that their beads and moustache be thick and manly. With a bunch of geranium tied with red woollen cloth, the Granny sprinkles holy water over young married women, so that their future deliveries be easy and painless. After this it's the turn of young brides who visit the granny at her home and perform rituals of gratitude and respect to the village midwife. Each woman brings a gift to the granny – a soap bar, a towel, a bunch of geranium flowers, a shirt, knitted socks or some money – signs of gratitude for her care. Another sign of respect to the work of the granny is the ritual of pouring water so that she washes her hands. It was believed crucial for this ritual to take place under a fruit tree as a symbol of fertility.
During that ritual, the granny is wearing a string of hot chilly peppers – symbol of manly power. All rituals on that day, whether seriously or in a joke, convey the message of multiplying the children in a family – that being one of the basic values in Bulgarian tradition.
After all the magical rituals for fertility, the granny invites everyone at her home and dinner table and then the party begins
I just love my adopted country, I love the fact they have all these fascinating traditions that they still practice in each village. The UK is so devoid of tradition to my mind we (English) have lost our culture & identity. The Bulgarians have kept their identity with even the young generations loving it. Ask a Bulgarian what year did Bulgaria come into existence & they will know & give you a history lesson, ask us & we have no idea! Children are taught their countries history first & foremost they are taught their traditional songs & dance, its wonderful.. And I absolutely love the fact they have welcomed without prejudice my friends into the bosom of their village even bestowing on Sue a great honour. Yes other countries can learn a lot from them.