Our last days in Bulgaria, much like the rest, were restful and filled with food fit for gods; banitsa, meats, cheeses and salads up to your ears. My aunt and uncle’s home is beautifully exquisite, and so the experience was further enriched; a small wooden balcony overlooked the living room, high and lined with wooden beams, decorated with an ornate wooden star. White marble tiled the floor, cool on your toes on hot Bulgarian summer days. Rows and rows of gifts from near and afar line oak shelves and glass cabinets, above a fireplace and a beautiful wooden structure providing a sort of separate between the living area and the dining/kitchen area.
A tiny outdoors open conservatory of sorts is only a few footsteps away for dining in bright daylight or by the white clean moon, crickets chirping in the vast garden, speckled with flowers and shrubs and fruits and vegetables. Over at the back of the dream house can be found a fairly large allotment space, partially covered in a white plastic tarp to plumpen up rosy red tomatoes, which were picked fresh for our lunches and evening meals. Bushes of yellow and pink raspberries lined the back fence of the garden, just about ready to pick and devour.
Waking up to banitsa for breakfast.
The Balkan Mountain view from the mini terraces.
Venturing out into the centre of Kalofer, the roads were cobbled and quiet. Children on bikes and scooters rode frantically down pavements whilst parents and elders sipped coffee outside on plastic furnishings. A giant staircase outdoors led up to a momentous statue of Hristo Botev, a Bulgarian poet and national revolutionary. Botev is widely considered by Bulgarians to be a symbolic historical figure and national hero, and thus the statue seems a fair tribute. And only a short walk away one can visit his original home and school he attended.
Hristo Botev’s school.
My dad and a canon.
My dad trying to break the canon.
Hristo Botev’s house.
The last evening in the motherland was spent, once more, drinking until day-break beckoned, eating until our stomachs winced and dancing until our eyes drooped with fatigue. Conveniently it was my Aunts birthday and so a plentiful amount of cake was consumed, alongside a surplus amount of Ouzo and Rakia. So much so a traditional Greek dance broke out, whereby one must balance a glass of ouzo on one’s head whilst dancing to traditional Eastern European tunes. At 2am in the morning this was quite a sight.
Traditional Bulgarian folk music.
Surrounded by friends and family, most of which we had not seen or even kept in touch with for over a decade, I felt so lucky to have this culture and joy in my life. In the UK it’s often only my dad and I, and we occasionally gather with my older sister, her partner and two children, but never have I grown up surrounded by swathes of friends and family. I’ve never thought of myself to enjoy family gatherings as such, but over the past two weeks I’ve learned that people may come and go but family, including long lost friends, are forever, and to miss cherishing that would be the biggest shame. Especially fantastically crazy and completely loveable Bulgarian ones like mine.