Posts Tagged ‘Bulgaria’


Monday, February 25th, 2008

Rone and I gave an interview with Sam Chupp of The Bear’s Grove podcast last night. The rest of my family was in Smochevo, so I camped out in the Blagoevgrad office. It was a good time, my first interview ever.

Come 0630 GMT, my father- and brother-in-law dropped by to take me to coffee. We went to a decent cafe in the center of Blagoevgrad, where we met a handful of acquaintances. It turns out that one of them is the #2 guy in the KLA. What was he doing in Bulgaria? Scaring up capital for a construction project – a hotel in Prishtina. From guerrilla to real estate mogul…

Compost in your Campaign?

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

Before I get to the subject of this post, I thought I’d share a couple more pictures. These two were taken on the street outside my house in Smochevo. I really like the one of the cart…


OK, so to the point… In the back of my sister-in-law’s house, there is a compost pile. Nothing too strange about that, really. I have one in my garden in WA state. But this one is inside the foundation of an old structure that no longer exists. You can see, in the second photo below, that there used to be a stairwell here descending to a cellar of some sort. The masonry was too unstable, so they blocked it up and used the old stairwell as a compost pile.


I think I’ll use this in a game or story some time. A compost pile is not the first place someone is bound to look, when searching for adventure. It’d be a nice change from the more normal story elements.

Miro discovered the tomb by accident when he went to visit his father’s people in the highland stronghold. The village was a collection of hovels strewn across the crest of the Kirim Mountains, surrounded by birch and pine forests. With the men off to war, and the women conscripted to work the land, Tartarus lay empty. Only the elderly and infirm remained

So what happens to a small mountain village when the ancient tomb of a great king is discovered? How fortunate for Miro that he is one of the only able-bodied warriors left in the area. But the young lord has his hands full when the tomb’s guardians are loosed upon the village. And what of the brigands and scofflaws who prey on villagers in the absence of law and order? Can Miro defend his father’s holdings, contain the monstrous beasts he has released, and claim the treasure buried in the earth?

Brush Fires

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

Friday was kindof slow. My in-laws had business meetings all day, so Eli and I were in the office together. It didn’t feel bad, but odd – my wife and I in an office, doing work, instead of at our house where we usually interact. I was wary of working for my sister-in-law because I didn’t want Eli and I to get off work, at the same place, and have nothing to talk about. I’m glad that hasn’t happened. Or couse, we don’t have the same job, and I also have other things to draw my attention. Still, I’m glad it hasn’t been a bone of contention.

We left Sofia at 15:49 GMT, picked up my nephew at soccer practice, and headed to Smochevo for the weekend. We spent the ride talking about an upcoming tourism / investment conference in MOscow we may attend. Unfortunately, none of us speak Russian fluently, so there may be no point. Still, we have a connection that will be there, and we plan to at least have him pimp the company to the Russians. I’ve suggested we create a video which can be played at the booth. We’ll see if that comes to pass.

It was close to 18:30 GMT when we turned off the highway, into the Rila valley. All around us, the sky was filled with smoke and the smell of burning brush. You could see people in the fields, walking to and fro as fires hungily consumed the bushes and grasses. It seemed as though I was witnessing some pagan ritual; I have expected to see druids and other such personages circled by chanting faithful.

It was nothing like that of course. It’s late February; Spring is almost here, and people want to get the fields ready for planting. To keep bushes and weeds and wild grasses in check, they burn off the vegetation and till the ash into the soil – the added benefit being a richer soil for planting. It was still unsettling, though.

When I woke up this morning, the fires were still burning.

Sophia replaces Lenin

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

In the heart of Sofia, there once stood a statue of Lenin. In 2001, the communist leader was replaced by a new emblem: Wisdom.

Sculptor: Georgi Chapkanov

If you ever visit Sofia, you can find this beauty at the intersection of Maria Louisa and Todor Alexandrov Blvds. There was some controversy when Sophia was erected; some considered her to be too erotic and pagan to be referred to as a Saint.

This eight-meter high, copper and bronze statue is adorned with the symbols of power (crown), fame (wreath) and wisdom (owl). The crown is also a reference to the Tjuhe, Goddess of Fate, the city’s ancient patron.

I really like this statue, especially her hair. It’s got great detail. The bronze and gold made me think of an angel, while the owl reminded me of Athena. (Which might explain the gyro I had for lunch today.)

– – – – –

As an interesting aside… I’m not sure what the coins are that hang from the crown. Coins are a common Bulgarian adornment, with many different meanings, so one can’t just assume they stand for wealth.

For instance, parents will place a shiny coin on a newborn’s forehead. This isn’t to make them look good, but to ward off the attention of evil spirits. The idea is that people will see the beauty of the coin and admire it, instead of the child.

When I was at church on Sunday, one of the girls got angry because people were commenting on how cute my kids are. Urochasvam!, you’ll catch bad luck! This was followed by a bout of old women spitting on the kids. Again, the idea being that evil spirits, who covet things of beauty to corrupt, will not look to the girls. Why would they? People are spitting on them, so they must be grotesque!

Office Window

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

The office where I work is on the third floor of a building that looks like it could be in downtime Philly. It’s shiny and pretty and clean. But, if I look out the window in the wall behind me…

Currency and Coinage

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

Bulgarians denominate their currency in lev. Right now, the lev is pegged to the Euro, at a 2:1 ratio. This means that, while prices aren’t as bad as they’d be at 1:1, they’re a lot higher than they were fifteen years ago, when Bulgaria went through a currency restructuring.

As far as I can tell, Bulgaria doesn’t have a one lev note. It appears that a single lev can only be had in coin form. If I remember correctly – it’s been 20 years – the UK has one quid coins as well. I wonder if this is true of Euros, Yen, etc.

The interesting thing about having your base denomination in coin is that the 2 ‘x’ denomination becomes more useful. I don’t think I’ve ever used a $2 bill, but I use 2 lev notes all the time. It seems natural, since they’re the lowest denomination of bill. One other side effect is that I pay attention to my coins. In the US, I just throw them in a bucket. Not here. I might throw away a “1”!

Blagoevgrad Church

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

My first trip to Bulgaria was in 1993. My parents were missionaries here; my sister and I came to visit during our Christmas holiday from college. Without retelling the last fourteen years of my life, the short version is that I liked Bulgaria, especially the beautiful girl who’d eventually become my wife.

Roughly ten years ago, my parents left Bulgaria. The people they were staying with took over the ministry, with the church meeting in the very flat that my family used to call home. I knew it would be special, getting to meet these people again after such an absence. I wasn’t disappointed. They’re very sweet people, with gentle dispositions. Good people, whom I’ll enjoy worshiping with while I’m in country.

This is a picture of my family and I, worshiping with the Christians in Blagoevgrad.

Smochevo, Bulgaria

Saturday, February 16th, 2008

During the week, I live and work in Sofia, Bulgaria. On the weekends, my family and I retire to Smochevo, a small village in the Rila valley. I know the village is bigger than the street I live on, but I doubt I’ll bother exploring it all. My house is near the top of the street; my in-laws living half-way down the hill. It only takes a couple minutes to get from one to the other, depending on home many sheep droppings are in the way, so I see no reason to wander far afield.

According to my wife, the village use to have more people living in it. There used to be 2,000 families, but 9 in 10 homes stand empty. This is a common tail in the villages of Bulgaria. The young moved to the big cities after the fall of the communist regime, with the best and brightest going to The West. I saw it ten years ago, when I was up north – whole villages with nothing but old women and goats.

But back to my little home, in my adopted hometown. Our house has electricity, but not for heating. We use this stove for that. If you look to the left side of the stove, you’ll see two grey pipes. These circulate water through a cavity along the walls of the stove, heating the water and pumping in through the radiators scattered throughout the house. It works fine, as long as you constantly feed the fire. This means I have to get up multiple times each night, or sleep in the cold. I generally choose the latter.

The house we now live in is not the one that stood here when we bought the place. The old structure was almost a barn. You can see the old beams in this picture.

We saved the beams and one of the old outside walls, but destroyed the rest and rebuilt it from scratch. Everything is stained wood, save the stucco ceiling. Of course, the actual walls are brick with cement, but who wants to look at that!?!

I’ve yet to walk the whole plot our house sits on. I think it’s a decare, but I’m not sure. My sister-in-law handled the purchase. I do know that, just beyond the vine-covered yard, there is a small plot of land where an old woman keeps a garden – and it’s right in the middle of our plot. I really don’t mind her farming her land, but it’s funny to think that she owns a postage stamp within my larger plot. I’m thinking about buying it from her, or trading her for a portion of our land that’s closer to her house.

The mountains are beautiful this time of year. It’s very cold outside, though not as cold as New York in the 80’s. But that crisp air is refreshing. I’ve started waking up and taking a long walk every morning. The exercise is good, and the solitude allows me to think. If only I could dictate my thoughts…

I’ve been trying to upload a video of the view from our porch, looking off toward the Rila Mountains. I can’t seem to get it to work, though. Can anyone help out? If so, I’ll edit this post with the video…

Bulgaria, or Bust

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

I got my VISA in the mail today – and it only took six weeks. (j/k) Now I must book my flight to Bulgaria, clean up the house, get my projects in order, pack my bags, and… Yeah, I’m fairly certain I’ll miss something in there.

I can’t wait to see my girls again.

Polegnala e todora

Friday, January 18th, 2008

After poking fun at Bulgaria, in my last post, I figured it only fair to say something nice. The audio for this clip is my favorite Bulgarian folk song. It’s beautiful. Enjoy.