Kardzhali, once a centre of industry, 60 years later now overgrown and unmaintained, it’s serene and slow; its residents never run – a leisurely stroll is mandatory. As is meeting friends or long lost acquaintances on it’s uprooted pavements whom will always have an hour or two to spare to sit in front of a bakery or cafe for a snack, drink and a chat. Tall trees, planted when my dad was only a young boy rise high along the sidewalks, regimented and beautiful, their leaves brushing tall apartment blocks and providing an green filtered shelter from the searing Summer sun.
My grandma, now 83 years old, lives in the same apartment as when my dad was a boy, just across the road from his primary and secondary school and within minutes of walking distances from cousins, aunts and old friends who may as well be called relatives. An overwhelmingly familiar and homely scent of the apartment brought rushing memories of fun and festivities, when the family from far and wide would gather and party until the birds started to sing and when we’d cook, be cooked for and eat until we could no longer move.
We were adamantly sat down and fed stuffed peppers and a tomato salad, Bulgarian specialities – the sweet yellow peppers are filled with a herbed minced meat and rice mixture, extremely tender and beautifully, subtly flavoured. The tomato salad is mixed with cucumber, spring onion, olive oil and a little vinegar; the acidity of the tomato often has enough of a tang to balance its own sweetness – if it’s a good enough tomato that is. The dish is complete with a dollop of freshly set yoghurt and a little bread to mop up all the succulent juices left on your plate; a summer’s meal to die for.