Archive for the LIFESTYLE Category

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

“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