I have been attending a lecture, in English, about the history of Bulgaria, but I don’t think I can go again. The lessons have been very subjective, and focus on the positive aspects of Bulgarian history, and skip over the negative. I think it was best demonstrated in the lecture yesterday; our professor talked about the Ottoman rule and the oppressive Sultan regime. However, she did not explain how under the Bulgarian Tsarist regime, the peasants lived in almost the exact same way. It wasn’t until I asked that she told the class that life was identical except for a tax that non-Muslims have to pay. The way she instructed the class put Islam in a negative light, while she didn’t even discuss Bulgaria’s role in the crusades. I need objective history, and I don’t think I can learn Bulgarian history objectively in Bulgaria.
However, I am having a blast learning Bulgaria here. Three hours a day, starting at 9, we have a Bulgarian language lesson. At 12, we switch to specialized one hour classes. I have not been attending these classes as much as I should, but I have gone to a couple of phonetic classes and I think my pronunciation is improving. The Bulgarian language is fascinating, and, although difficult at times, living in Bulgaria greatly increases my capacity to learn the language. Of course, I probably will be confused again when I return to Prague, but perhaps I can continue taking Bulgarian at Charles University. After our language classes, we have free time and some optional lectures in the evening. It has been great to take off these evenings and enjoy the summer. I have realized that I have been in school for about 12 straight months now, but it is nice to have the month to act as a kind of break.
Last night was quite spectacular. Although I knew it was going to be a night of traditional Bulgarian food and dance, I had no idea that I was going to love this aspect of Bulgarian culture. I thought that the folk dances would be too difficult, and we would only watch professionals and that the food would be typical fare we eat in restaurants; I expected I would get some food and leave. However, I was pleasantly surprised.
The food was delicious. There were many Bulgarian dishes that I had not yet tried. I tried banitza, homemade yogurt, typical Bulgarian spices, and an interesting bean dish. They also had homemade wine and rakia (a Bulgarian aperitif made out of plums). Everything was delicious. In restaurants, the food is sub-par, although the prices are terrific, and I assumed that Bulgarian cuisine was not particularly interesting. However, from this meal and from what I have heard, good Bulgarian cuisine can be found in people’s homes. Restaurant food is completely different. I need to meet a Bulgarian family that will invite me to join them for meals...
The dancing was also wonderful. First, professionals came and showed off a very complicated Bulgarian dance. Eventually, they switched to a simpler dance, and students were allowed to join. I have been missing the Bulgarian dance lessons, but the dance did not look too difficult so I joined in. I think I am in love with Bulgarian dancing. It is done in a line formation, and a single pattern of steps is repeated throughout the song. If you google it, you could probably see an example. It was quite tiring, but I had a great night’s sleep after some great dancing.