Saturday, 4 October 2014

Delicious homemade cheese from Chernichevo

The people in the village of Chernichevo in Rhodope mountains produce cheese with a millennial know-how, preserved to this day in the village.

Cheese and yellow cheese here are manufactured in the same way as locals did it centuries ago. They say that a boiled milk must be "crossed" with a cold ayryan (to make cheese) or buttermilk (to make yellow cheese). This specific know-how must be maintained as part of the locals' traditional way of life and material culture, and to become the basis for future rural, cultural and culinary tourism in the area. Culinary travelers, tourists, restaurateurs, and authors of specialized TV shows, looking for the world's most delicious cheeses, will be amazed to try this one!
Best homemade cheese in the world!

I present to you Sevda Bostandzhieva - one of the most famous local experts on topics such as recipes, culinary practices, preparation and storage of food.
Mr and Mrs Bostandzhievi
This cheese is produced from 4 liters home-produced cow milk and a liter ayryan. Cheese can be produced from sheep's milk too.

When making the Chernichevo cheese, coagulation occurs almost instantly when airan is added, and then the fresh cheese curd is strained and washed. The curd is kneaded, salted, formed into small cakes and pressed under a stone. The finished cheese is kept refrigerated and dry until consumption. From about four liters of milk, about 200-300 grams of cheese can be produced. Production quantities, however, depends on the diet of the dairy animals. When pastures are richer, a larger quantity of higher quality cheese may be produced.

I can say without any hesitation that the cheese from Chernichevo is the most delicious cheese I've ever tasted! And believe me - I have tested dozens of different cheeses from various parts of Europe - from the green Alps and from the sunny Tuscan, from the fields of Wallachia and from the Cote d'Azur!

So don't delay - come and taste the most delicious homemade cheese in Europe!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

The Car Boot Sale in Hotnitsa

The village of Hotnitsa is  located in one of the most beautiful mountain areas in Bulgaria, close to the medieval Bulgarian capital Veliko Tarnovo. A small curiosity is that recently Hotnitsa is one of the centers of the British expatriates in the country.

Since 2013 a new tradition grows here: the Car Boot Sale, which takes place every second Sunday of the month, from the spring to the late autumn. The idea came from the British settlers in the village, but the local Bulgarians warmly embraced the idea. All are welcome to buy or sell. The event even has a Facebook page with regular updates.

The images bellow are borrowed under the Fair use rules.

Would you like to know more about the beauty of Hotnitsa area?
Watch this video with the Hotnitsa waterfall.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Martin Smith's good life in Bulgaria

British photographer Martin Smith relocated from Scotland to Bulgaria several years ago. He is on of the 200+ British citizens in Haskovo district in South Bulgaria.

Martin and his Bulgarian wife Aneta have bought a farmhouse in Stambolovo (a rural region in South Bulgaria, famous for its red wine production).

Martin loves his new life in Bulgaria. He supports Slow Food and Buy Local movements and he found the Bulgarian countryside is the best place to realize his ideas. Here is his last weekend shopping from the local producers: fresh killed beef (6kg), 50 fresh eggs, fresh salad and a spectacular Merlot. Life's good here, says the satisfied Martin. 

Martin's groceries: some very typical Bulgarian village food. 

And here are two photos of Martin's new house. 
It's built in the 1940's, and the Smiths renovated it. 

Martin's house - view from the street
Martin's house - view from the yard
(before he planted the greenery)
And more photos from Martin's good life in Stambolovo:

Log Art - at least the birds are grateful
Figs, just picked from the tree
Fruits from the garden
Sweet grape... mmmmm

Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Roman theatre in Plovdiv, Bulgaria

The ancient Roman theatre in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, is among the best preserved antique theatres in the world. It was built during the reign of Emperor Trajan (98 -117 AD). 

The theatre is characterized by its excellent acoustic, beautiful architecture, and wonderful sculpture works. It was discovered by accident in the early 1970s due to a landslide. 

Sometimes it is mistakenly called "amphitheater", but indeed this is a real traditional Roman theater. In 1999 Ritchie Blackmore performed here with his project "Blackmore's Night".

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The Following Dance - an ancient dance from the Rhodope mountains

In the Rhodope mountains there is an unique ancient folk dance: the Following Dance (Bulgarian: Слядно хоро). This dance still exists in the small mountain village of Chernichevo. The great Bulgarian academician Lyubomir Miletich, who wrote about Chernichevo, claimed that this was a specific mournful dance, performed only once a year. And this is the truth.

The Christian community of Chernichevo danced the mournful dance each Good Friday, when Christians grieve about Jesus' death, and according to the tradition, it wasn't appropriate to dance fast and lively dances. Also the songs, sung with the dance, were sorrowful.

On September 28th, 2013, with the folklore group of the village, we presented some of the traditions in a famous TV show on air. The effect was just... sensational!

The Following Dance is special in the way in which people dance. In difference with the ordinary dances, when people stay shoulder to shoulder (see examples 1 and 2),  in this dance the dancers follow each other. Women and men dance separately, not together (the dance in the TV show was an exception, just to illustrate the know-how). Women follow one another by putting hands around the waists, and the men by putting hands on their shoulders.

We also know that during the Balkan wars gangs of Ottoman volunteers (aka bashi-bazouk) killed about 90 people from Chernichevo. Prof.Miletich wrote that a year later the people in Chernichevo still were in grief for their victims, therefore they didn't dance their playful dances. Instead, they danced only the Following dance, which as we noted previously, was performed only once per year. And even today, the local peasant still speak with a deep sorrow about their relatives, who died in the massacres. This was a collective trauma that still resonates in the locals' souls.

Additional curious fact is that several decades ago the great Bulgarian composer and arranger of folk songs Filip Kutev used the Following Dance for one of his spectacles! On its basis he created a male dance with the same steps. 

Sunday, 26 January 2014

The Village Museum in Bucharest, Romania

This blog is dedicated to Bulgarian communities and cultural traditions, but actually many Bulgarians live outside the contemporary state borders. For instance: in Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Romania, Ukraine and even Hungary. Therefore I decided to share some photos from others lands where there are Bulgarian settlements too.

In late 2004 I visited several times the Romanian capital Bucharest, and I had the chance to walk in the center of this interesting city and to see its landmarks. 

One of them is the Village Museum. It was created in 1936 when the government moved many old traditional houses in a specially designed park. Today the museum consists 60 houses from all parts of Romania - Wallachia, Transylvania, Moldavia and so on, which present some excellent examples of the Balkan rural architecture. In order to create a more authentic atmosphere, the museum's managers moved even the centuries-old gravestones of one family. 

So enjoy! Muzeul Național al Satului „Dimitrie Gusti” 

Even the gravestones were moved.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

The male dance from Kalofer

Yesterday, January 6, Orthodox Bulgarians celebrated Epiphany - one of the most important Christian holidays. The ancient tradition is that the priest throws a cross in a river or spring. According to the belief, the first man who catches the cross, will be lucky and healthy during the year. Sometimes there is a very tough competition who'll reach the cross. 

But there is one place in Bulgaria, where the people are not competitive. For centuries in the town of Kalofer men perform a ritual that unites them and stresses their male brotherhood! This is the male dance! Each year they go in the cold river water and they dance a majestic dance - horo

During the communism, when Christianity was oppressed and the religious rituals were restricted, the men in Kalofer had secret meetings in the early mornings, and they danced in the dimness. In the last years this local tradition spread among other Bulgarian towns. It corresponds with highly valued gender traits in the society. Nowadays many Bulgarians perceive it as a symbol of patriotism and a real manhood, so yesterday in at least ten different places men danced the male dance... But the roots of the tradition lie in Kalofer. Enjoy the video!