Stuff Bulgarians Like: Dinner parties

Posted in LIFESTYLE with tags , , , , on March 14, 2008 by insidestory

Each and every visitor in Bulgaria, who manages to make some friends here, finds it very fascinating how much Bulgarians love dinner parties. Actually, Bulgarians love not only dinner parties, but all kinds of parties that include eating and drinking.

They love them so much, that they prolong them for four to five hours…

You think I’m joking? Believe me, I’m not. the local custom of going “na gosty ” ( [na’gosti], means to visit) is very important and includes sitting around the table, eating, drinking, and most importantly, talking for several hours. If you are invited to a “na gosty” in somebody’s home, my advice is not to refuse: you will have a unique opportunity to meet different people and spend the evening in a nice atmosphere.

So, you go to the place and you are welcomed by the hosts. What to do next?

The only downside is that if you do not drink alcohol or you are vegetarian or vegan, you will find yourselves in a tough situation. The typical na gosty begins with sitting on the table and drinking the traditional rakya at the very beginning. This is a strong grape or plum brandy, which in small towns is most often homemade (because each family believes their homemade brandy is way better than the one you can buy in the stores). The brandy is served with different types of salads and pickles, but they are only appetizers. Not drinking and not participating in the frequent toasts is not acceptable, so if you want to fit in well, just be a man and sip. You might as well like it ;)

The meals that follow the rakya are abundant and tasty. Usually, there will be soup, lots of appetizers (salads, sliced meats and cheeses, nuts), meals and a dessert, all served with wine, sodas and other beverages. Your refusal to eat meat and will result in rather disturbing and uncomfortable glances from the hosts.

The emphasis on this initial booze boost at the beginning has a very simple explanation: it helps the conversation. Talking is the main reason people gather and basically that’s what they do the whole evening. This is not the typical small talk during dinner parties you are used to: people talk about a vast variety of things, sometimes quite passionately. Family, local and world politics, and of course soccer are most frequent though.

After the desert people continue to drink, eat appetizers and talk for a few more hours, which can easily turn in to “until sunrise”. If you manage to endure till the end people will recognize you as a real homeboy, but if you’re not feeling badass enough it is acceptable to leave anytime after the main meal )

Peter Stoykov

Reality Bites

Posted in PERSONAL EXPERIENCES with tags , , , on March 3, 2008 by insidestory

I had some time to kill and I was looking on the internet some clips from Music Idol 2. I saw the following clip and I got shocked! In this clip this Funky (never heard about him before) rejects a boy to sing, just because the boy have some kilos in +.I got shocked and honestly I am still shocked. Yes, it’s a freedom of expression, but should it be like this? And I didn’t hear this Funky comment on the musical skills of the boy, he didn’t even let the boy sing – he just said that the boy is too fat. So far I know, the show is called Music Idol, not Vision Idol, and is about the musical skills of people, not about how they look like. Should every girl be a big-legged ‘blondine’ with a lot of silicon and every boy – Brad Pitt? And is Music Idol about an Idol for the people or is it about an Idol for the jury? If the boy was rejected, just because he cannot sing, it’s okay. But the fact that they didn’t even give him a chance to show what he can and just ‘send him home’ because they didn’t like how he looks, I cannot accept.

Maybe this is only about the show (many can say this), but should this be the thing that is entertaining us? Making fun of other people? Where are the values in our society? Is everything in Bulgaria about ‘good-looking folk singers’ with no talent? What about the real people. Are all of us perfect shape? And what about those who are not? Should they just go and jump from somewhere just because they don’t conform to the norms of today’s society? What about Pavarotti and Aretha Franklin? Yes of course, I start to wonder how many in Bulgaria have, in fact, heard about them (I write heard not listen).

I just feel it’s not right that we should judge people by how they look like, not what talent they have. And this only shows me that in Bulgaria, it’s so many talented people that gets rejected just because they don’t have the looks. And the clear proof for this was showed on BTV and on a show that should encourage talented people to show themselves. And okay this boy was not a singer, but how many other, with a talent, has been ‘send home’ because of how they look? And how many of them, do get a courage to try again?  I am sure that there is people in Bulgaria that have the voices of angels, but not the looks. And it makes me sad that these people will maybe never be given the chance to show us what they can and makes us proud. And it makes me sad that we judge others of what is outside, not inside. And it makes me sad that in fact this entertains some of us. And it makes me sad that we accept people being treated like they are not worth the chance. And it makes me sad that BTV shows this. And it makes me sad that we accept this kind of jury and are just quiet. But what, the most, makes me sad is that there is actually so many talented people in Bulgaria, that we will never know about.
Some years ago, the World Music Idol was won by Kurt Nilsen. A simple man (a plumber I think), who doesn’t look like Brad Pitt, or a model from a fancy magazine. He just has a beautiful voice. I believe that this is the ‘mission’ of Music Idol and shows like this- to give a hope to people with a musical talent that they will be heard and valued for what they can and who they are, and not for how they look like!

And Music Idol Bulgaria? It seems that in our country everything is somehow getting distorted. Everything seems to be about money and show, and not about the real people and their talent. It’s not about helping talented people but making money showing the humiliation of people. And what is the most shocking for me is that some of us actually likes and accept this. I just don’t understand how people can enjoy a show like this. Why everything should be so distorted? Why we cannot be nice to each other, and stop judging each other by how we look like, or where we come from. Why we cannot appreciate what’s inside of us! Why do we let people humiliate others on the national television? Is Bulgaria only about fake ‘stars’?  What about the real people? What about us? What about me? I am not so degraded, I want to raise my voice and I want to say: ‘We are not sheep. Stop treating people like garbage!’

Preslava Hristova

Transport in Sofia

Posted in TRAVEL STORIES with tags , , , , , on February 29, 2008 by insidestory

The subway in Sofia is only a couple of years old and can only be used if you want to get from down town Sofia to Lulin, the further development of the subway will be finished in 2012 when it will have reached Mladost and Airport Sofia.
There are many train and bus lines in Sofia but they are often affected by the traffic in the capital.

Lines that are most likely important for tourists are:

– 84 (bus) Goes from Airport Sofia to Downtown if there is no traffic it would take you about 20 minutes to go from the Airport to the center of Sofia. Important stops – Pliska is a place where the majority bus lines stop.
-313, 413, 213 — All these buses go from the Central Train Station to Mladost. These buses stop at Pliska as well.

The cabs in Sofia.

Carefully choose your cab when arriving in Sofia – you might get a sting. There are many cabs, especially on the airport, that might try to charge higher price than normal for their service. What you must know is that in Sofia, each company uses different call numbers. These numbers are often written on the cabs themselves. One of the trusted cab companies has 973 21 21 as a phone number written on its cars. Another cab company that can be trusted uses 9 12 80 as a phone number. It is normal  to pay round 5 – 8 Euros from the Airport to the city center. And please be careful: “City Center” is the name of one of the city malls. So, specify your destination and don’t just tell the cab driver: “City center, please”.

Vesselin Vassilev

“What is Globalisation?”

Posted in CULTURE SHOCK, LIFESTYLE, PERSONAL EXPERIENCES, TRAVEL STORIES with tags , , , on February 28, 2008 by insidestory

“Bezvoditsa” is a small village some 20 kilometers away from The Black Sea Coast. We have a family house there. It was built by my late grandparents. “Bezvodtisa” means “waterless”, which is actually what it is – a suburban village with serious water supply problems. May be that’s why it is so deserted now. Very few people live there and among them – a couple of English families. I will never understand the motivation of these people to buy a house with a swimming pool in a place which is well known for its water supply problems. However, these english families brought economic prosperity to the local community. Not only did they hire jobless and desperate local people to mow the lawn and to clean the empty swimming pool, but they also brought satellite television to this God-forgotten place.

I went to Bezvoditsa in search of isolation and tranquility, in order to finish my first book. It seemed like the perfect place. I had the whole house for myself. I had enough whiskey and beer for the next two months and there was nobody to disturb my peace. I spent half of the day writing and the other half – duelling with a tree, using my grand-grand father’s sabre, which I found in the attic. As I hate jogging and as we don’t have a swimming pool (because of understandable reasons), this was the only way to keep fit that I could think of. At nights, I lay on the roof and I watched the tremendous stars above. It was incredible. Well, at least in the beginning it was incredible. Sooner or later, isolation leads to madness and on the second week of my stay I was already getting desperate to talk with another human being. All I needed was a conversation. Nothing else. This is exactly when the “cowboy” came into the scene.

I called him the “cowboy” because he was a boy who had a cow. That was his only and most valuable possession. He treated the cow with great love and respect, as if it was his own mother, and there was a deep, spiritual bond between them. The cow’s milk was like gold to him and it was the only source of income for his family, other than mowing the lawn for his English neighbors and maintaining their empty swimming pool. I saw him passing by the house and I called him in for a glass of “Rakia” (strong Bulgarian grape brandy). You see, there are very few people who will decline such an invitation here – in Bulgaria, especially in the countryside. He told the cow to stay still and to wait for him and he came in.

The cowboy was a non-educated, shy and timid boy in his mid 20’s. He had spent his whole life in this village and there were very few themes we could discuss, other than the breeding of cows. Nevertheless, I was extremely happy to communicate with another human being. I was bored of speaking to myself and the depths of this boy’s ignorance definitely intrigued me a lot. Our meeting was a very good opportunity for him, too. He had thousands of questions. Somehow, I managed to answer. It was difficult, because he didn’t understand the meaning of half of the words I was using. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not that clever. It’s just that the cowboy was absolutely, utterly and extremely stupid. After the fifth shot of Rakia he asked me: “Hey, can you explain me what “Globalisation” means? I see smart people on television talking about it all the time, but I just don’t get it. You look like one of them. May be you will know.”

“Wow, that is a tough one”, I thought. “How on the Earth can you explain “Globalisation” to a person who has spent his entire life in this village and who has no more that 500 words in his vocabulary?” Suddenly, an idea struck me. “Your neighbors are English people, aren’t they?”, I asled him. “Yes, they are very nice people. I work in their garden from time to time. They pay very good”, he said. My second question was: “And this is a very small village, isn’t it?”. Without hesitating, the cowboy answered: “Yes, it is! I’ve always wanted to live in a bigger village and to have more cows.”

“So you already know the answer”, I smiled. “You live in a small village and your neighbors come from England. This is Globalisation. It turns the whole world into a small village”. He understood.

Tihomir Dimitrov