Friday, July 14, 2006

Money

The currency in Bulgaria is called Lev, which is equivalent to the dollar. Currently one lev is equal to .065099 dollars. Below I have provided pictures of the paper money.



Go to http://www.bulgariatravel.org/etis/article.php?aID=188 to convert any amount into US dollars or Bulgarian Leva

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Rila Monastery

The monastery was founded by Ivan Rilski (John of Rila) in the 10th century as a colony for hermits. It has been destroyed by fire, and abandoned by the monks. Its

presentday place, 119 km south of Sofia, is the one in which it stood during the 14th century, when the proto-sebast Dragovol Hrelyo settled in the monastery as an

independent ruler. In 1335 he built the five-storey defence tower, topped by the Transfiguration Chapel, fragments of whose murals can still be seen today. By the end of 14th century, the Rila Monastery had turned into a powerful feudal entity with many villages, lands and properties. Tsar Shishman alone, the last Bulgarian ruler, donated it over twenty villages in different districts. The monastery's unquestionable authority influenced the Turkish sultants who confirmed the rights granted by the Bulgarian kings by special firmans. Irrespective of this, the Monastery was devastated around the mid-15th century. It started rising again after the relics of Ivan Rilski were brought from Veliko Turnovo here in 1469 (passing through the whole of Bulgaria as a nationwide patriotic procession). The fate of the Monastery became the concern of the entire Bulgarian nation. A new centre was needed for the cultural life, which had declined or was transferred abroad. Many of the time's most outstanding men of letters gradually started gathering in the monasteries. The first links with Russian monasteries were established. A charter of Tzar Ivan the Terrible, kept today at the Monastery Museum, allowed the monks unlimited access to the Moscow Principality.

To learn more about the Rila Monastery and many other Bulgarian Monasteries please visit www.bulgarianmonastery.com

Music

Bulgarian music is part of the Balkan tradition, which stretches across Southeastern Europe, and has its own distinctive sound. Traditional Bulgarian music has had more international success than its neighbors due to the breakout international success of Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, a female choir that has topped world music charts across Europe and even farther abroad.
Bulgarian vocals are said to be "open-throated", though
this is actually a misnomer. Singers actually constrict their throats to amplify the voice's focus and strength, giving it a distinctive

Folk music

Regional styles abound in Bulgaria. Dobrudzha, Sofia, Rodopi, Thrace and the northwestern Danube shore all have distinctive sounds. Folk music revolved around holidays like Christmas, New Year's Day and the Feast of St. Lazarus, as well as the unusual Nestinarstvo rites from Strandzha, where villagers fell into a trance and danced on hot coals as part of the feast of Sts Konstantin and Elena. Music was also a part of more personal celebrations, accompanying weddings and the departure of young men for military service.

The most important state-supported orchestra of this era was the Sofia-based State Ensemble for Folk Songs and Dances, led by Philip Koutev. Koutev has become perhaps the most influential musician of 20th century Bulgaria, and updated rural music with more accessible harmonies to great domestic acclaim.

The distinctive sounds of women choirs of Bulgarian folk music is partly because of their unique harmony and polyphony, where a singer appears to be singing two notes at the same time. In addition to Koutev, who pioneered many of the harmonies, and composed several songs that were covered by other groups, (especially Tedora), various women's vocal groups gained popularity, including Trio Bulgarka, consisting of Yanka Roupkina, Eva Georgieva, and Stoyanka Boneva, some of whom were included in the "Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices" tours.

During the Communist era, some musicians lived outside the state-supported music scene. Without official support, wedding bands were also without official limitations on their music, leading to fusions with foreign styles and instruments. Thrace was an important center of this music, which was entirely underground until 1986, when a festival of this music, which became a biennial event, was inaugurated in the town of Stambolovo, and artists like Sever, Trakiîski Solisti, Shoumen and Juzhni Vetar became popular, especially clarinetist Ivo Papasov. On the picture on right you can see me with Ivo Papazov. He had his concert here in Seattle last year and since I know him from Bulgaria, it was nice to see him here.

Traditions & Customs

Bulgaria is a country with many traditions and customs. The Nation focuses on those traditions and it celebrates every single holiday. Many are still practiced, a few have changed a little, and some have just changed its dates.

The most important Holiday and traditions are:

Bulgarian Folklore

St. Trifon Zarezan

Bulgarian Martenitsa

April 1

Kukeri Festival

Nestinars - Fire Dancing

Festival of Roses

Apollonia Festival

Sourvakari

Officially converted to Christianity in the ninth century, many of Bulgaria's ancestral pagan beliefs and customs continue through to the present day and are profoundly embedded in Bulgarian folklore. Bulgarian folk narratives are distinguished by their stark, primal qualities, their spare poetic beauty and powerful archetypal characters. The characters are larger than life - epic heroes, warrior women and beguiling beings who inhabit a magical landscape that has its own reality, laws and logic. They are many-layered and reveal some very ancient roots, perhaps going back to Thracian times and beyond. Very popular folk festivals are held in Koprivshtitsa, Shiroka Luka, Rozhen, Silistra, the Pirin and the Strandzha Mountains, etc. There are folk festivals held in Bourgas and Varna. The music festivals in Sofia, Varna, Slanchev Bryag (Sunny Beach) and Rousse are well known and very prestigious, too.

There are some family holidays that are of great significance for the Bulgarians. The most important of them are Christening (the Holy Christening), the First Steps (to celebrate the first steps made by the small child), the Birthday, the Nameday, Offering (the offering of an animal or some food to heathen gods and saints to make them show more grace or to thank them for good fortune, health and long life); the Engagement, the Wedding. Inauguration of a New House, Parting (before sending out someone on a long journey). All of these have been preserved for many ages and are a live tradition in Bulgarian families regardless of their religious beliefs.

The most interesting and unique Bulgarian holidays and customs are the Kukeri Carnivals of the masked koukeri; the martenitzi – white and red threads and anthropomorphic pendants exchanged between relatives and friends on Granny Marta’s Day to wear for health and happiness on the occasion of the coming spring; the customs German and Russalii (Mermaids); the nestinarski dances on red coals on the Day of St. St. Konstantin and Elena; the custom of well wishing by tapping people on the back with a “sourvachka” - decorated cornel-tree twig on Christmas and New Year’s Day; the Day of Humour and Satire; Cross Day with an imposing prayer procession and pilgrimage in Krustova Gora (Forest of the Cross) area in the Rodopi Mountains., etc. Many Bulgarians and foreign tourists visit these celebrations, the former celebrate them the way their forefathers did for centuries on end and the latter take pictures and participate in them, too.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bulgarian Dishes

Bulgaria is a nation that has many traditional foods. People prefer to make their own meal, instead of buying it. There are rarely fast food restaurants or frozen choices. Even in restaurants, the food is being cooked right the way, with talent, and being prepared and served with talent. Bulgarians just love meat: lam, pork, beef and chicken. The most traditional meal that is made on May 6 is stuffed whole lamb with rice and its meat. It is made on May 6 because that is national name day holiday. Like every person has a birthday, some people in Bulgaria have name days. These come with the history and for the heroes to be remembered, the national celebrates name days. It is tradition to make lamb for every person names Georgy.

Another traditional meal is to kill and eat pig on Christmas. Almost every person has a village, where relatives get together to celebrate holidays. Christmas, like in the US, is a family holiday. The men kill a pig and take it apart. Then the women are supposed to cook it. Every part of the pig is cooked in different ways. The best meat is being made to steaks on a fire, the skin is being baked, and some of the insides are made to meat pasta. The meat pasta is usually being spread on bread.
There are many other traditional foods, like the kabapche and kufte. This is mostly considered the Bulgarian "fast food". The picture on the right shows the kebapche with fries and tomatoes. It is considered fast food, because you can buy it anywhere on the streets, every restaurant, and even you can find in every home. It is kind of the hot dog here and that is how it is being served.
Here are a couple web sites for other foods and recipes:

http://www.roesing.net/recipes/
http://www.passionateaboutfood.net/bulgarian.php
http://www.bulgarianrecipes.com/
http://www.omda.bg/ENGL/cook/entry.htm

I will be glad if you try and make any of this dishes and then let me know how you liked it. Please don’t hesitate to ask me if you have any questions.



ENJOY

Monday, July 10, 2006

Summer in Bulgaria

The summer in Bulgaria is the best time of the year. This is the time when students are out of school, people are taking vacations from work and more than half of the country goes to visit Black Sea. (I will be there in a week :) ). The picture on the right shows the summer resort of Albena. This is just one of the many resort places on the east coast. People are enjoying the sun, the salty sea water and the sand. As far as things to do there the tourists are enjoying the clubs, the discos, having a wonderful time at the live music restaurants, casinos, and visiting pubs.
One of the attractions at the coast are the hotel architectures. Every hotel is unique, interesting and just beautiful to look at. The young architects have the greatest opportunity to express themselves, their ideas and we are more than happy to be able to enjoy that.
The typical places where people would like to eat are restaurants, taverns, cafes, grocery stores and grab 'n go. Like every nation, Bulgaria has its own traditional meals.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Fun


Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, also has a mini version of Disney Land, it is called Sofia Land. There is a web site for you to check it out, but I apologize they dont have the english version of it. If you are more interested and have questions, please ask and I will be more than happy to tell you.


www.sofialand.bg

Mall of Sofia




Two months ago, the first mall in Bulgaria was introduced. It is located in the capital Sofia. It also has the first 3d Movie Theather. The poeple in Bulgaria are really excited to finally have something like this. Here is the web site where you can check it out. It looks cool :)

www.mallofsofia.com

Pictures


Here you can find a lot of different pictures of Bulgaria. There are different cities shown and different attractions for all cities.

http://www.myphotographs.net/bulgaria/bulgaria.html

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Travel by Air

There are several airlines traveling to Bulgaria. The main one is the national carrier Balkan Bulgarian Airlines. Others are private Bulgarian airline companies, many foreign airlines from Aurope, Africa, the Middle East and North America.

Here are some healpful links to help you book your flight:
http://www.smarttravelnetwork.com/
http://wholesale-fares.com/
http://www.balkanholidays.co.uk/
http://www.aua.com/us/eng
http://www.czechairlines.com/en/czechia/cz_home.htm
http://www.britishair.us/pages/1/index.htm

Location

Bulgaria is situated in Southeast Europe and occupies the eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula.
To the north it borders on Romania, to the west on the Republic of Macedonia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, to the east on the Black Sea, to the south on Greece and to the southeast on Turkey's European part.