five centuries of Ottoman rule, Bulgarian culture reappeared
in the 19th century as writers and artistsstrove to reawaken
national consciousness. Zahari Zograf (1810-53) painted
magnificent frescos inspired by medieval Bulgarian art in
monasteries. The carvings of highly contemplative monks
appear in monastery museums throughout Bulgaria: saints
the size of grains of rice are a particular highlight.
Bulgaria's poets show a tendency to meet with violent and
early death, lending a poignancy to the high idealism of
writers such as Hristo Botev (rebel folk poet of the late
19th century), Dimcho Debelyanov (lyric poet killed in WWI)
and Geo Milev (poet of the post-WWI social upheavals, kidnapped
and murdered by police). The grand old man of Bulgarian
literature, Ivan Vazov, is one of the few who made it over
the age of 30. His novel Under the Yoke describes the 1876
uprising against the Turks. Orthodox religious chants convey
the mysticism of regional fables and legends, whereas the
spontaneous folk songs and dances of the villages meld classical
origins with a strong Turkish influence. International interest
in Bulgarian vocal music was ignited by groups such as Le
Mystere des Voix Bulgaires (The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices),
who have taken Bulgaria's polyphonic female choir singing
to a world audience.
fill up on meals of meat, potatoes and beans, crisped up
with salads, and tossed back with dangerous liquor: beware
of water glasses filled with rakia and mastika!! Breakfast
is a bread-based snack on the run - look out for hole-in-the-wall
kiosks selling delicious 'banitsi' - cheese pastries, often
washed down with boza, a gluggy millet. Lunch is the main
meal of the day.
holidays, which are not workdays, include New Year (1 &
2 Jan), 1878 Liberation Day (3 March), Cyrillic Alphabet
Day (24 May) and Christmas (25 Dec).
Trifon Zarezan on 14 February is the ancient festival of
the wine growers. Vines are pruned and sprinkled with wine
to bring about an abundant harvest.
1st of March Bulgarians give one another Martenitsi - white
& red tasseled threads which are worn for health and
happiness at the coming of spring.
On the first Sunday in June the Festival of Roses is celebrated
with folk songs and dances in the towns of Kazanluk and