Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Rachel Nusbaum, a friend who I met teaching English in Korea, came down on Saturday morning for a long weekend. She is also a Fulbrighter, but in the Czech Republic. We have a LOT of shared memories from Korea, so it was great to catch up and introduce her to some aspects of Bulgarian culture. The taxi driver from the airport was hilarious. He asked what I was studying, and when I told him I was studying politics, he went on and on about the corruption in Bulgaria. Then he started talking about Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton. We all have problems in our political systems.
We jumped on a bus at around 10 AM heading to Plovdiv, which is a city in the southern part of Bulgaria. The weather hasn't been the best in October, but Rachel brought the sun with her, and the drive was pleasant, especially the views of the various mountain ranges.
Being me, I was stupid and forgot my cellphone; the other Fulbrighters had a day trip and we needed to meet up with them at some point so we could catch the van home. We tried to call them using payphones, but it didn't really work out. So, we tried to enjoy the city and hoped that we would bump into them.

Plovdiv is a city of 500,000 (either the second or third largest city in Bulgaria). It is a lot more aesthetically pleasing than Sofia, and is calmer than the capital. Some sort of fair was going on, and Rachel ended up buying a piece of honeycomb. I had a nice opportunity to use my Bulgarian, and asked if we could eat it. The old lady laughed, did her curious head shake and said yes. We continued on our way to the old town which has very cute winding streets and nice architecture. Historically, it had a long period of Roman influence, and there was a large, very impressive, amphitheater near the top of old town.

In the above phot, Rachel is sharing the honeycomb she bought earlier. It was incredibly sweet, and unlike the processed honey we get in the states. Bulgarians produce way more honey than they consume, and I hope at one point I can make it to a bee farm. Apiculture, the pretentious way of saying beekeeping, is fascinating.
Somehow, we managed to run into the other Fulbrighters right outside of the amphitheater. We all went out for lunch. Rachel and I both ended up ordering the same thing: chicken and kashkaval in kavarna. These are clay pots that are used to bake either individual or larger dishes. The food, while not as exciting as Korean food, is great. Especially if you love cheese as much as I do.
Afterward, we headed back to Sofia with the Fulbrighters. We stopped at Starbucks and then walked around the city. My knowledge of Sofia is pretty decent now, so, everyone, feel free to come visit! On our way home, we stopped for some more food. Rachel had tarator (yogurt and cucumber cold soup) and the traditional shopska salat. Since Rachel has been living in the Czech Republic, I was pining for one of my old favorites: fried cheese. I'm not saying that Bulgarian food is particularly healthy, but it is satisfying. Top it off with red wine for two dollars, and I'm a happy camper.

After dinner, we rested for a bit at home. I invited some of the Fulbrighters over for the evening, and Laura, Ellen, and Kristin came to my apartment. We played some Korean drinking games (did I mention Rachel and I continue to be obsessed with Korea?) and then headed out to a club. We wanted to dance, but the first club we came to was pretty much empty. At the door, a girl approached us and started to complain, in English, about how all the happening clubs are chalga. Chalga is a Bulgarian popular style of music that foreigners don't generally like. This Bulgarian girl was telling us about how its awful how Bulgarians are obsessed with short skirts and big breasts, and was railing on her country for a while. I do have to agree. Chalga does not paint a pretty picture of Bulgaria.
This may or may not be safe for work...

After promising the girl we would come back to her club if we couldn't find anything else, we went on a search. After about 15 minutes, though, we all crashed and decided we weren't up for clubbing. Making an early night has become one of the themes of my stay here. Unless I start to like chalga, I probably won't be too much of a night owl in this city.

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