Add initial test site

master
Alan Orth 2 years ago
parent 1ac9a8b908
commit 6471a71fd3
Signed by: alanorth
GPG Key ID: 0FB860CC9C45B1B9
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title="English Bulgaria"
baseURL="https://dev.englishbulgaria.net/"
#theme=["hugo-theme-bootstrap5-blog", "hugo-snap-gallery"]
theme=["hugo-theme-bootstrap5-blog", "hugo-video"]
enableRobotsTXT = true
# number of posts to show on home/category/tag pages (Default: 10)
paginate = 3
copyright = "Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a [Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license](https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/)."
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#
# Default JPEG quality setting. Default is 75.
#quality = 82
[permalinks]
posts = "/:year/:month/:slug/"
page = "/:slug/"
[params]
# Site author
author = "Alan Orth"
# Description/subtitle for homepage (can be Markdown)
description = "Life in the Balkans... in English! ![om](vlah)"
# Format dates with Go's time formatting
date_format = "Mon Jan 02, 2006"
# verification string for Google Webmaster Tools
google_verify_meta = "DDjjsgQkHNfTs0c7eNhK9cLOKICiG4UV4S25Y08LTZU"
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# Optional about block for sidebar (can be Markdown)
about = "_English Bulgaria_. Life in the Balkans... in English! [Read more →](/about)"
# How many posts to show on the sidebar (Default: 5)
#num_recent_posts = 2
[[menu.sidebar]]
name = "Alan in Kenya"
url = "https://alaninkenya.org"
[[menu.sidebar]]
name = "Mjanja Tech"
url = "https://mjanja.ch"
[[menu.sidebar]]
name = "Picturing Jordan"
url = "https://picturingjordan.com"
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---
title: 'About'
date: Tue, 08 Dec 2015 17:06:42 +0000
draft: false
---
{{< figure src="DSC_1242.JPG" title="Alan in Syros, Greece" >}}
Alan lived and worked in Kenya for eight years, first as a volunteer teaching computer science at a rural college, and later as a Linux systems administrator at a [livestock research institute in Nairobi](https://www.ilri.org). During his time in Kenya he traveled extensively around East Africa and [blogged about his experiences](https://alaninkenya.org "Alan in Kenya blog"). He is passionate about open-source software, information security, and the freedom of informationnaturally, he [blogs about that](https://mjanja.ch) too. Now Alan finds himself living in Bulgaria, the land of feta cheese, alcohol that burns off your nose hairs, and children who light firecrackers for no apparent reason at the playground outside your flat. These are his stories from Bulgaria, the Balkans, and beyond! Наздраве!

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---
title: 'Beautiful Ligatures in Macedonian Cyrillic'
date: Mon, 08 Feb 2016 09:14:15 +0000
draft: false
categories: ['Language', 'Travel']
tags: ['Bulgarian', 'Cyrillic', 'Macedonia']
slug: 'beautiful-ligatures-in-macedonian-cyrillic'
description: 'Macedonian is a Slavic language closely related to Bulgarian, but has (at least) one beautiful difference: ligatures.'
---
Macedonian is a Slavic language closely related to Bulgarian. My untrained ear can't tell the difference between the two, but my eyes spot differences immediately. In addition to minor variations in spelling and grammar, [Macedonian's Cyrillic alphabet](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macedonian_alphabet) uses a handful of characters not present in Bulgarian's, for example the beautiful ligatures for "ль" and "нь": љ and њ, respectively.
{{< figure src="macedonian-ligatures.png" caption="Ligatures for upper and lowercase \"Lje\" and \"Nje\" characters (rendered in PT Sans)" >}}
<!--more-->
[Ligatures](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typographic_ligature) are interesting because they were originally invented to solve a practical typesetting problem during the days of the printing press. When using metal fonts, certain characters had features that collided with other characters, so troublesome letters were combined into a single piece of type. In Latin script this is most obvious in combinations involving the lowercase f, for example "fi" and "fl".
Macedonian Cyrillic's use of ligatures fascinates me because in modern, digital typesetting they are generally only stylistic, but also because they involve the [beautifully subtle and rare _er maluk_](https://englishbulgaria.net/2016/01/finding-er-maluk/) (ь) character.
Sightings
---------
On a recent trip to Skopje I was fascinated to see these characters in use on signs and billboards. This advertisement for [Laško](http://www.lasko.eu/en), a Slovenian beer brewery, features the ligature for "ль":
{{< figure src="DSC_0135.jpg" caption="Advertisement for Laško beer in Skopje, Macedonia" >}}
For comparison, here's how the sign's text ("with love since 1825") would be written in Macedonian and Bulgarian:
* **Macedonian:** Со љубов од 1825
* **Bulgarian:** С любов от 1825
First, notice the striking similarity between the two. Aside from the minor differences in Со/С ("with") and од/от ("since/from"), the љ character in the Macedonian version has the same function as the лю sequence in the Bulgarian versionboth are responsible for the "lyu" sound in "_lyubov_" (love).

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---
title: 'Beautiful Ligatures in Serbian Cyrillic'
date: Wed, 24 Feb 2016 11:37:16 +0000
draft: false
categories: ['Language', 'Travel']
tags: ['Cyrillic', 'Serbia']
featured: true
description: 'Serbian Cyrillic uses beautiful ligatures for "ль" and "нь".'
---
Ligatures for "ль" and "нь" are unique to the Cyrillic alphabets of several Slavic languages in Southeastern Europe. We don't have them in Bulgarian, so I can remember being confused the first time I saw them in Serbia. My confusion turned into fascination once I realized that their construction fused two characters that I knew how to use into one that we simply don't have. You can see љ (_[Lje](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lje)_) on this road sign for Жељуша in Serbia (with the [Serbo-Croatian Latin](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaj%27s_Latin_alphabet) representation below it):
{{< figure src="2016-02-10.jpg" caption="Road sign for Жељуша town in Serbia showing the Cyrillic ligature for \"ль\"" >}}
<!--more-->
It is a linguist by the name of [Vuk Karadžić](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vuk_Karad%C5%BEi%C4%87) who created these ligatures during a major reformation of the Serbian language and alphabet during the early 1800s. [Typographic ligatures](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typographic_ligature) themselves are an interesting concept dating back to the days of physical typesetting. The icing on the cake with these particular ligatures is their use of the beautifully subtle _er maluk_ (ь) character, which is [slightly rare](https://englishbulgaria.net/2016/01/finding-er-maluk/) in Bulgarian. I have recently seen these [ligatures in use in Macedonia](https://englishbulgaria.net/2016/02/beautiful-ligatures-in-macedonian-cyrillic/) as well, but after learning about Vuk's reforms it seems appropriate that it was in Serbia where I first noticed them.
A Tale of Two Karadžićs
-----------------------
The Karadžić name became known worldwide after the [wars of independence in the former Yugoslav republics](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yugoslav_Wars) during the 1990s. In a rather mind-blowing twist, it turns out that there are two well-known, directly related Karadžićs:
<!--Evstafiev-Radovan_Karadzic_3MAR94.jpg Вук_Стефановић_Караџић.око_1850.jpg-->
The first is, of course, the celebrated poet, ethnologist, and reformer of the Serbian language and writing system. The second is [Radovan Karadžić](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radovan_Karad%C5%BEi%C4%87), a Bosnian Serb who is now being [tried for war crimes](http://www.icty.org/case/karadzic/4) at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). His indictment includes the alleged direct responsibility for the [Srebrenica massacre](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Srebrenica_massacre).

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---
title: 'If You Give a Bulgarian Man Some Grapes...'
date: Wed, 02 Nov 2016 17:58:18 +0000
draft: false
categories: ['Bulgaria']
tags: ['Grapes', 'Rakia', 'Wine']
description: 'I spent a little bit of time in the Bulgarian countryside learning about the production process for one of the most popular drinks in Southeast Europe.'
slug: 'if-you-give-a-bulgarian-man-some-grapes'
---
If you give a Bulgarian man some grapes, he'll want to make wine. After he drinks the wine, he'll want to use the pressed and fermented remains of the grapes to make a traditional brandy called [rakia](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rakia). This is easily the most famous _cliché_ about Bulgaria, but in my experience it's not that far from the truth.
{{< figure src="IMG_20160715_205458.jpg" caption="Pitting plums to add to the grape pomace" >}}
<!--more-->
And so I found myself pitting plums in a remote village one Saturday afternoon this summer, taking part in a [long tradition of fermenting grapes in Bulgaria](https://englishbulgaria.net/2016/05/katarzyna-estate-and-the-legend-of-thracian-wine/). With last year's wine nearly finished, we were starting the preparations for this year's rakia.
Remains of the Grapes
---------------------
The main byproduct of the winemaking process is a rough bunch of stems and squashed grapes called джибриit sounds like "jibri" in Bulgarian, and is otherwise known as [pomace](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomace) in English. In many wine-producing regions of the world this debris is regarded as waste, but in Bulgaria it is commonly used to make one type of rakia called джиброва ракия (_jibrova rakia_, basically: "of jibri").
{{< video src="VID_20160715_183911" >}}
There are dozens of _other_ ways to make rakia, though I suppose it almost always begins in a large plastic vat full of grapes and or other fruits. If you spend a bit of time in rural Bulgariaor anywhere in Southeast Europe, reallyI think you'll eventually see something like this in someone's back yard.
Making Rakia
------------
After removing the seeds from our bucket of plums, we added them to the vat of _jibri_, along with a mixture of twenty kilograms of grocery-store-variety sugar and twenty liters of water. (The plums are added for their fructose content, not for their taste.) We stirred the mixture up, and then topped it off with another forty liters of warm water, leaving a hand or so length of space at the top to allow for expansion during fermentation.
There's quite a bit more work involvedincluding waiting, which I ain't got time for!but if all goes according to plan, we should have about eighty (yes, 80) liters of nice, strong rakia when all is said and done. And that, by the way, is something I can definitely make time to help with. Наздраве (to health)!

@ -0,0 +1,44 @@
---
title: 'Katarzyna Estate and the Legend of Thracian Wine'
date: Sun, 22 May 2016 17:29:25 +0000
draft: false
description: 'Thracian wine from wineries like Katarzyna Estate in Southeast Bulgaria was good enough for Homer and Odysseus!'
categories: ['Bulgaria']
tags: ['Homer', 'Katarzyna Estate', 'Svilengrad', 'Thrace', 'Wine']
slug: 'katarzyna-estate-and-the-legend-of-thracian-wine'
---
{{< figure src="IMG_20160518_100129.jpg" >}}
Much of modern-day Bulgaria and Northern Greece was inhabited by loosely organized [Thracian](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thrace) tribes during the first millennium or so before Christ. Legend has it that they have made wine along the banks of the [Maritsa river](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maritsa) for the last 5,000 years. The ancient Greek poet Homer partially corroborates this in his epics written around 800 BCE. From <cite>The Iliad</cite>:
<!--more-->
<figure>
<blockquote cite="http://classics.mit.edu/Homer/iliad.9.ix.html" class="blockquote">
<p>Prepare a feast for your councillors; it is right and reasonable that you should do so; there is abundance of wine in your tents, which the ships of the Achaeans bring from Thrace daily.</p>
</blockquote>
<figcaption class="blockquote-footer">
<cite>Homer, <a href="http://classics.mit.edu/Homer/iliad.9.ix.html">The Iliad (Book IX)</a></cite>
</figcaption>
</figure>
In <cite>The Odyssey</cite> Homer even describes the hero Odysseus using "sweet black wine" from the Thracian city of [Maroneia](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maroneia) to escape being torn limb from limb and eaten by the one-eyed Cyclops named Polyphemus. Now, at least 3,000 years later, the [Katarzyna Estate](http://katarzyna.bg) winery continues the Thracian tradition by making its wine just a stone's throw from the Maritsa river in Svilengrad, Southeast Bulgaria.
Touring the Katarzyna Estate
----------------------------
I recently visited Katarzyna for a tour and was very impressed by the facilities and the neatly manicured estate grounds. The vineyards sit in the temperate plains near the Rhodope Mountains and, if the weather is right, the view is fantastic.
\[gallery link="file" columns="2" size="medium" ids="2162,2168"\]
The tour guide was friendly and talked with us about the winery's fermentation vats, oak barrels, bottling capacity, etcI submit this without comment because it was mostly all over my head. ;)
{{< figure src="IMG_20160518_095048.jpg" caption="Fermentation vats at Katarzyna Estate" >}}
One _unusual_ bit of information from the tour is that the land on which the winery was founded in 2003 was supposedly part of a post-World War II buffer zone between Bulgaria and Greece. As the land apparently hadn't been used for agriculture in over fifty years, it should theoretically be more nutrient rich. I won't pretend to understand the dynamics of the Axis and Allied powers in this region during World War II, but this certainly makes a good story for why the wine is so good!
Drinking Odysseus' Wine
-----------------------
The tour guide said that 75% of the wine produced at Katarzyna is destined for the local markethey, it was good enough for Homer and Odysseus, and Bulgarians know what they like. If you're looking for Katarzyna wines in your local shop and you can afford it, I suggest you avoid the "Mezzek" line, as it is apparently their entry-level product. For what it's worth, after my tour I picked up a few bottles of their "Contemplations" rosé, "Smaraida" white, and "Encore" red. Now, just in case someone from the winery is reading this, I think it would be cool if Katarzyna started a line of dark, sweet red wine and called it "Odyssey". Know your heritage!

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@ -0,0 +1,19 @@
---
title: 'Rambling Man With a Torch in Sofia'
date: Mon, 04 Jan 2016 12:44:05 +0000
draft: false
categories: ['Bulgaria']
tags: ['Sofia']
slug: 'rambling-man-with-torch-sofia'
description: "A rambling man at the ATM threatens to burn me withor sell mea torch (I'm still not sure)."
---
"_STOP!_" he shouts, right as I'm about to take my money from the ATM in downtown Sofia. Alarmed, I turn around to find some bearded man standing right behind me, holding whatat first glancelooks like a gun. "_Holy shit,_" I think, "_am I about to get jacked?_"
{{< figure src="Butane_torch.jpg" caption="Butane torch (by Hustvedt, [CC BY-SA 3.0](https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), via [Wikimedia Commons](https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AButane_torch.jpg))" >}}
<!--more-->
"_Oh wait, WTF, that's not a gun,_" I say to myself, as I remove my card from the machine. The "weapon" appears to be a large, hand-held lighter, or maybe a butane torch. "_Is this guy going to burn me or something?!_" I think, waiting the longest three seconds of my life for the ATM to spit out my money. Me staring, him rambling, I hear the word _leva_ (the name of the Bulgarian currency)maybe he's trying to sell it to me? Worst. Salesman. Ever. I grab my money, stuff it into my pocket, and walk away quickly.
I'm still not sure if I was in danger of getting burned (for example) or if he just wanted to sell the damn thing to me. It will probably be a while before I go back to that ATM again, though!

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@ -0,0 +1,22 @@
---
title: 'The "Sofia Communist Tour" Is Great'
date: Wed, 27 Jan 2016 13:43:20 +0000
draft: false
categories: ['Bulgaria']
tags: ['Communism', 'Sofia']
slug: 'sofia-communist-tour-great'
description: "A tour through Bulgaria's Communist period (in an iconic blue Trabant)."
---
What better vessel could there be than an iconic, former-East-German [Trabant](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trabant) for navigating a narrative of Bulgaria's communist era? A few clever young Bulgarians have bought a little blue "Trabi" and are giving free tours of Sofia with the aim of doing just that.
{{< figure src="DSC_0013.jpg" caption="The East German Trabant is an iconic reminder of Communism in Eastern Europe" >}}
<!--more-->
Weaving a Narrative
-------------------
The "[Sofia Communist Tour](http://sofiacommunisttour.com/)" weaves a historical background of the Balkans, World War II, and the dissolution of the USSR into a narrative and tells it while driving and walking to various Sofia landmarks. The tour is fun and informative, and the guide loves to laugh and share personal stories about growing up in Bulgaria during this period.
I would recommend it to both Bulgarians and foreigners alike!

@ -0,0 +1,26 @@
---
title: 'Sofia''s Marvelous Alexander Nevsky Cathedral'
date: Wed, 20 Apr 2016 14:21:40 +0000
draft: false
categories: ['Bulgaria']
tags: ['Cathedral', 'Sofia']
featured: true
description: 'Sofia''s most famous landmark is marvelous and photogenic.'
---
When I first started visiting Bulgaria I was in awe of the beautiful buildings in Sofia. Here you can see the typical vintage of Europe mixed with a bit of the color and flair of the Orient, a combination rarely seen in Western Europe. For the first few months after I moved to Sofia I maintained the position that it was _cliché_ to say that the [Alexander Nevsky cathedral](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Nevsky_Cathedral,_Sofia) was your favorite building in the cityafter all, it is undoubtedly the most famous landmark. But, ladies and gentlemen, this cathedral is absolutely marvelous to behold.
{{< figure src="DSC_0004.jpg" caption="Sofia's Alexander Nevsky cathedral on a sunny afternoon" >}}
<!--more-->
Over the last few months I must have walked by this church nearly a hundred times (and taken at least as many pictures). Surprisingly, I still haven't been inside it and actually don't even know much about it. From a hasty reading of [the Wikipedia page](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Nevsky_Cathedral,_Sofia) it seems that construction started in 1882 and that the cathedral was created in honor to the Russian soldiers who died during the RussoTurkish War of 18771878, as a result of which Bulgaria was liberated from Ottoman rule. I won't pretend to know anything else about it just yet.
Easy Photography Practice
-------------------------
Earlier this year I used the cathedral as a subject while practicing my photography skills. The picture above was taken on a sunny afternoon in late December, and the one below was taken a week or so later, after the first snow of the winter season in early January. I think the results are fantastic, but that probably has more to do with the photogenic subject than my skills as a photographer.
{{< figure src="DSC_0010.jpg" caption="Sofia's Alexander Nevsky cathedral in the snow" >}}
So, if you're ever in Sofia make sure to stop by the Alexander Nevsky cathedral to see those beautiful green and gold domes with your own eyes. And, while you're in the area, you should also make a point to see the [Russian church](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Church,_Sofia) just a stone's throw from Nevskyit's my second favorite and has always competed for my adoration.

@ -0,0 +1,24 @@
---
title: 'Tanks Rolling Down the Streets of Sofia'
date: Thu, 05 May 2016 14:10:12 +0000
draft: false
slug: 'tanks-rolling-streets-sofia'
categories: ['Bulgaria']
tags: ['Armed Forces Day', 'Saint George', 'Sofia', 'Tanks']
description: "My evening commute is disturbed by tanks rolling down the street."
---
Last night my trolley ride home from downtown Sofia was interrupted by a police roadblock and some rather unusual traffic on Aleksandar Dondukov Boulevard.
{{< video src="tanks-in-sofia" >}}
<!--more-->
Welcome to Bulgaria, where military tanks roll down the streets of the country's capital in preparation for the annual [Armed Forces Day](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armed_Forces_Day) parade. I've seen a dozen or so airshows, but this takes the cake! Nevertheless, this was pretty surreal to see.
Bulgarian Holy War
------------------
Bulgaria's Armed Forces Day coincides with [Saint George's Day](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_George%27s_Day)you know, the [guy who is depicted as killing a dragon](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_George_and_the_Dragon) in folklore and monuments all over Europeon May 6th, as Saint George _is the patron saint of the Bulgarian Armed Forces_. This gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "Holy War."
**Update (May 6, 2016):** Discussions with at least three Bulgarians about the strangeness of having a patron saint for the army have been extremely unproductive so far.

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@ -0,0 +1,23 @@
---
title: 'The Radiant and Peaceful Shipka Memorial Church'
date: Mon, 12 Feb 2018 15:17:13 +0000
draft: false
categories: ['Bulgaria']
tags: ['Church', 'Memorial']
featured: true
description: 'The most beautiful church in Bulgaria that you’ve probably never heard of.'
---
The [Shipka Memorial Church](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shipka_Memorial_Church) is the most beautiful church in Bulgaria that you've probably never heard of (or at least never visited). It's easy to miss compared to the [Alexander Nevsky Cathedral](https://englishbulgaria.net/2016/04/sofias-marvelous-alexander-nevsky-cathedral/) that is conspicuously located in the heart of downtown Sofia. Nestled discreetly in a small grove of trees at the foothills of the Central Balkan mountains, I had driven by it three or four times before I even realized it was there. One time, on the way from the Shipka Pass to the nearby town of Kazanlak, I saw one of the church's shiny golden domes peeking out of the trees in my rear-view mirror.
{{< figure src="DSC_0179.JPG" caption="View of the church's façade and onion domes from the northern part of the garden" >}}
<!--more-->
When I finally visited the church, it was autumn and the leaves on the trees had just started changing colors, complimenting the radiant reds, yellows, and greens of its façade perfectly. There was a nice breezenot too warm, not too coldthat rustled the leaves and created a calming visual and audio effect. Other than an Orthodox priest with a long gray beard and black robe, the neatly manicured courtyard was empty. It was _so peaceful_.
{{< figure src="DSC_0178.JPG" caption="View of the western façade and main entrance of the church" alt="Large Russian Orthodox church with soft pink highlights and golden onion domes situated in a lush garden with grass and leafy trees with their fall colors" >}}
The Memorial Temple of the Birth of Christ, as it is officially named, was built around the end of the nineteenth century in memory of the soldiers who died in the [Russo–Turkish War](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russo-Turkish_War_(1877%E2%80%931878)) that resulted in Bulgaria's liberation from the Ottoman Empire in 1878.
I'm looking forward to visiting this church during other seasons as well. The thought of seeing it covered in snow is particularly exciting!

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@ -0,0 +1,24 @@
---
title: 'Vakali Rocks a Packed NDK Auditorium'
date: Thu, 24 Mar 2016 12:28:53 +0000
draft: false
categories: ['Bulgaria']
tags: ['NDK', 'Sofia', 'Vakali']
slug: 'vakali-rocks-packed-ndk-auditorium'
description: 'How do you write a review of Vakali, a performance dance group that wears Viking costumes, uses bones to play their drums, and has pyrotechnics?'
---
How do you write a review of a performance dance group that wears Viking costumes, uses bones to play their drums, and has pyrotechnics so badass that I could feel them twenty rows back in the audience? I was clapping so hard during [Vakali's](https://www.facebook.com/VAKALI.group/ "Vikali group on Facebook") performance at the [National Palace of Culture (NDK)](http://www.ndk.bg/) in Sofia last week that my hands _still hurt_?
{{< figure src="group-vakali.jpg" caption="Vakali group (from their Facebook page)" >}}
<!--more-->
There's a lot more to Vakali than drums and fire machismo, however. For example, the lads are surprisingly proficient at tap dancing! And, while drums are definitely the main act, an accompanying troupe of female interpretive dancers has a few numbers that incorporate music with traditional Balkan instruments like the [_Kaval_](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaval) and the [_Tambura_](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tambura_%28instrument%29). If I recall correctly, at one point there was even a solo act with a [Tambourine](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tambourine).
Here's a video with some highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJ46Y3Oaq60
Something For Everyone
----------------------
There's something for _almost_ everyone in the performance. In my youth I spent a fair amount of time moshing and crowd surfing at metal and hardcore concerts, but the wisdom of agingeven to the ripe old age of thirty onehas made me content to just smile and clap along from the safety of my seat. Vakali are great entertainers and I would highly recommend that you go see them if the opportunity ever comes up.

@ -0,0 +1,17 @@
---
title: 'Village of Gela, Birthplace of Orpheus'
date: Mon, 07 Mar 2016 08:56:17 +0000
draft: false
categories: ['Bulgaria']
tags: ['Mountains', 'Orpheus', 'Thrace']
slug: 'village-gela-birthplace-orpheus'
description: 'Gela, the supposed birthplace of Thracian musician and poet Orpheus, has a breathtaking view of the Rhodope Mountains.'
---
As you drive into the village of Gela in southern Bulgaria a sign informs you that this is the birthplace of [Orpheus](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orpheus), the legendary Thracian musician and poet. I'm not sure if it's true, but who _wouldn't_ be able to "charm all living things and even stones" with their music if they were born in a village with such a view? These are the [Rhodope Mountains](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhodope_Mountains) in the golden afternoon sunlight of early spring.
{{< figure src="IMG_20160305_163845.jpg" caption="View of the Rhodope Mountains from Gela, Bulgaria" >}}
<!--more-->
Gela is just a stone's throw from the cultural village of Shiroka Laka and about twenty minutes from the ski resort town of Pamporovo.

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@ -0,0 +1,19 @@
---
title: 'Vratsa Is a Picturesque Thracian City'
date: Mon, 16 May 2016 07:56:02 +0000
draft: false
categories: ['Bulgaria']
tags: ['Stara Planina', 'Thrace', 'Vratsa']
---
The picturesque little city of Vratsa (Враца) sits at the foothills of the [Balkan Mountains](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balkan_Mountains) in Northwest Bulgaria. On a recent road trip I was amazed when I saw the city sitting under the craggy cliffs of the "old mountain" (_Стара Планина_/Stara Planina in Bulgarian). What with the water and all it's kind of like a poor man's [Cape Town](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Town)!
{{< figure src="DSC_0002.jpg" caption="The city of Vratsa below the Balkan mountain" >}}
<!--more-->
I've never actually _been_ to Vratsa, but after reading Wikipedia for a few hours I am fascinated by the history of the region.
The area would have been inhabited by loosely organized Thracian tribes during the first millennium before Christ. From around 550 [BCE] Thrace was subjugated by the [Persian Empire](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achaemenid_Empire) until Persia's defeat in the [Greco–Persian Wars](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greco-Persian_Wars) in 449 BCE. After that, there was likely a more organized [Thracian kingdom](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odrysian_kingdom) for a few centuries until Rome finally turned Thrace into a province in the first century CE. Over the next millennium the Byzantines, Bulgarians, and Ottomans would all take turns dominating this region of the Balkan peninsula.
I'm excited to put more of the puzzle pieces together as I explore the country.

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<h2 class="blog-post-title"><a href="/2016/01/rambling-man-with-torch-sofia/">Rambling Man With a Torch in Sofia</a></h2>
<p class="blog-post-meta"><time datetime="2016-01-04T12:44:05Z">Mon Jan 04, 2016</time>
in
<a href="/categories/bulgaria/" rel="category tag">Bulgaria</a>
<a href="/tags/sofia/" rel="tag">Sofia</a>
</p>
<p>&ldquo;<em>STOP!</em>&rdquo; he shouts, right as I&rsquo;m about to take my money from the ATM in downtown Sofia. Alarmed, I turn around to find some bearded man standing right behind me, holding whatat first glancelooks like a gun. &ldquo;<em>Holy shit,</em>&rdquo; I think, &ldquo;<em>am I about to get jacked?</em>&rdquo;</p>
<figure>
<img
sizes="(min-width: 35em) 1200px, 100vw"
srcset='
/2016/01/rambling-man-with-torch-sofia/Butane_torch_hu8d1818e9b64ce30e95e31bde0ff5dd03_672344_480x0_resize_q75_box.jpg 480w,
/2016/01/rambling-man-with-torch-sofia/Butane_torch_hu8d1818e9b64ce30e95e31bde0ff5dd03_672344_800x0_resize_q75_box.jpg 800w,
/2016/01/rambling-man-with-torch-sofia/Butane_torch_hu8d1818e9b64ce30e95e31bde0ff5dd03_672344_1200x0_resize_q75_box.jpg 1200w,
/2016/01/rambling-man-with-torch-sofia/Butane_torch_hu8d1818e9b64ce30e95e31bde0ff5dd03_672344_1500x0_resize_q75_box.jpg 1500w,
'
src="/2016/01/rambling-man-with-torch-sofia/Butane_torch_hu8d1818e9b64ce30e95e31bde0ff5dd03_672344_800x0_resize_q75_box.jpg"
alt="Butane torch (by Hustvedt, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)"/> <figcaption>
<p>Butane torch (by Hustvedt, <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0">CC BY-SA 3.0</a>, via <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AButane_torch.jpg">Wikimedia Commons</a>)</p>
</figcaption>
</figure>
<p>&ldquo;<em>Oh wait, WTF, that&rsquo;s not a gun,</em>&rdquo; I say to myself, as I remove my card from the machine. The &ldquo;weapon&rdquo; appears to be a large, hand-held lighter, or maybe a butane torch. &ldquo;<em>Is this guy going to burn me or something?!</em>&rdquo; I think, waiting the longest three seconds of my life for the ATM to spit out my money. Me staring, him rambling, I hear the word <em>leva</em> (the name of the Bulgarian currency)maybe he&rsquo;s trying to sell it to me? Worst. Salesman. Ever. I grab my money, stuff it into my pocket, and walk away quickly.</p>
<p>I&rsquo;m still not sure if I was in danger of getting burned (for example) or if he just wanted to sell the damn thing to me. It will probably be a while before I go back to that ATM again, though!</p>
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<h2 class="blog-post-title"><a href="/2016/01/sofia-communist-tour-great/">The &ldquo;Sofia Communist Tour&rdquo; Is Great</a></h2>
<p class="blog-post-meta"><time datetime="2016-01-27T13:43:20Z">Wed Jan 27, 2016</time>
in
<a href="/categories/bulgaria/" rel="category tag">Bulgaria</a>
<a href="/tags/communism/" rel="tag">Communism</a>, <a href="/tags/sofia/" rel="tag">Sofia</a>
</p>
<p>What better vessel could there be than an iconic, former-East-German <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trabant">Trabant</a> for navigating a narrative of Bulgaria&rsquo;s communist era? A few clever young Bulgarians have bought a little blue &ldquo;Trabi&rdquo; and are giving free tours of Sofia with the aim of doing just that.</p>
<figure>
<img
sizes="(min-width: 35em) 1200px, 100vw"
srcset='
/2016/01/sofia-communist-tour-great/DSC_0013_hu0b8db3f8b42fc9816735d5e6d1759f12_1623225_480x0_resize_q75_box.jpg 480w,
/2016/01/sofia-communist-tour-great/DSC_0013_hu0b8db3f8b42fc9816735d5e6d1759f12_1623225_800x0_resize_q75_box.jpg 800w,
/2016/01/sofia-communist-tour-great/DSC_0013_hu0b8db3f8b42fc9816735d5e6d1759f12_1623225_1200x0_resize_q75_box.jpg 1200w,
/2016/01/sofia-communist-tour-great/DSC_0013_hu0b8db3f8b42fc9816735d5e6d1759f12_1623225_1500x0_resize_q75_box.jpg 1500w,
'
src="/2016/01/sofia-communist-tour-great/DSC_0013_hu0b8db3f8b42fc9816735d5e6d1759f12_1623225_800x0_resize_q75_box.jpg"
alt="The East German Trabant is an iconic reminder of Communism in Eastern Europe"/> <figcaption>
<p>The East German Trabant is an iconic reminder of Communism in Eastern Europe</p>
</figcaption>
</figure>
<h2 id="weaving-a-narrative">Weaving a Narrative</h2>
<p>The &ldquo;<a href="http://sofiacommunisttour.com/">Sofia Communist Tour</a>&rdquo; weaves a historical background of the Balkans, World War II, and the dissolution of the USSR into a narrative and tells it while driving and walking to various Sofia landmarks. The tour is fun and informative, and the guide loves to laugh and share personal stories about growing up in Bulgaria during this period.</p>
<p>I would recommend it to both Bulgarians and foreigners alike!</p>
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<h2 class="blog-post-title"><a href="/2016/02/beautiful-ligatures-in-macedonian-cyrillic/">Beautiful Ligatures in Macedonian Cyrillic</a></h2>
<p class="blog-post-meta"><time datetime="2016-02-08T09:14:15Z">Mon Feb 08, 2016</time>
in
<a href="/categories/language/" rel="category tag">Language</a>, <a href="/categories/travel/" rel="category tag">Travel</a>
<a href="/tags/bulgarian/" rel="tag">Bulgarian</a>, <a href="/tags/cyrillic/" rel="tag">Cyrillic</a>, <a href="/tags/macedonia/" rel="tag">Macedonia</a>
</p>
<p>Macedonian is a Slavic language closely related to Bulgarian. My untrained ear can&rsquo;t tell the difference between the two, but my eyes spot differences immediately. In addition to minor variations in spelling and grammar, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macedonian_alphabet">Macedonian&rsquo;s Cyrillic alphabet</a> uses a handful of characters not present in Bulgarian&rsquo;s, for example the beautiful ligatures for &ldquo;ль&rdquo; and &ldquo;нь&rdquo;: љ and њ, respectively.</p>
<figure>
<img
sizes="(min-width: 35em) 1200px, 100vw"
srcset='
'
src="/2016/02/beautiful-ligatures-in-macedonian-cyrillic/macedonian-ligatures_hu0e4397e87b34a5a00372b36345cb0b06_9925_800x0_resize_box_2.png"
alt="Ligatures for upper and lowercase &amp;ldquo;Lje&amp;rdquo; and &amp;ldquo;Nje&amp;rdquo; characters (rendered in PT Sans)"/> <figcaption>
<p>Ligatures for upper and lowercase &ldquo;Lje&rdquo; and &ldquo;Nje&rdquo; characters (rendered in PT Sans)</p>
</figcaption>
</figure>
<p><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typographic_ligature">Ligatures</a> are interesting because they were originally invented to solve a practical typesetting problem during the days of the printing press. When using metal fonts, certain characters had features that collided with other characters, so troublesome letters were combined into a single piece of type. In Latin script this is most obvious in combinations involving the lowercase f, for example &ldquo;fi&rdquo; and &ldquo;fl&rdquo;.</p>
<p>Macedonian Cyrillic&rsquo;s use of ligatures fascinates me because in modern, digital typesetting they are generally only stylistic, but also because they involve the <a href="https://englishbulgaria.net/2016/01/finding-er-maluk/">beautifully subtle and rare <em>er maluk</em></a> (ь) character.</p>
<h2 id="sightings">Sightings</h2>
<p>On a recent trip to Skopje I was fascinated to see these characters in use on signs and billboards. This advertisement for <a href="http://www.lasko.eu/en">Laško</a>, a Slovenian beer brewery, features the ligature for &ldquo;ль&rdquo;:</p>
<figure>
<img
sizes="(min-width: 35em) 1200px, 100vw"
srcset='
/2016/02/beautiful-ligatures-in-macedonian-cyrillic/DSC_0135_hu0b8db3f8b42fc9816735d5e6d1759f12_1350477_480x0_resize_q75_box.jpg 480w,
/2016/02/beautiful-ligatures-in-macedonian-cyrillic/DSC_0135_hu0b8db3f8b42fc9816735d5e6d1759f12_1350477_800x0_resize_q75_box.jpg 800w,
/2016/02/beautiful-ligatures-in-macedonian-cyrillic/DSC_0135_hu0b8db3f8b42fc9816735d5e6d1759f12_1350477_1200x0_resize_q75_box.jpg 1200w,
/2016/02/beautiful-ligatures-in-macedonian-cyrillic/DSC_0135_hu0b8db3f8b42fc9816735d5e6d1759f12_1350477_1500x0_resize_q75_box.jpg 1500w,
'
src="/2016/02/beautiful-ligatures-in-macedonian-cyrillic/DSC_0135_hu0b8db3f8b42fc9816735d5e6d1759f12_1350477_800x0_resize_q75_box.jpg"
alt="Advertisement for Laško beer in Skopje, Macedonia"/> <figcaption>
<p>Advertisement for Laško beer in Skopje, Macedonia</p>
</figcaption>
</figure>
<p>For comparison, here&rsquo;s how the sign&rsquo;s text (&ldquo;with love since 1825&rdquo;) would be written in Macedonian and Bulgarian:</p>
<ul>
<li><strong>Macedonian:</strong> Со љубов од 1825</li>
<li><strong>Bulgarian:</strong> С любов от 1825</li>
</ul>
<p>First, notice the striking similarity between the two. Aside from the minor differences in Со/С (&ldquo;with&rdquo;) and од/от (&ldquo;since/from&rdquo;), the љ character in the Macedonian version has the same function as the лю sequence in the Bulgarian versionboth are responsible for the &ldquo;lyu&rdquo; sound in &ldquo;<em>lyubov</em>&rdquo; (love).</p>
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