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Bulgarian Culture

After 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.

Bulgarians 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.


Public 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.

On the 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 Carlovo.

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