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Entries about christmas

Christmas Day

Veliko Tarnovo


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I wasn't quite sure how today would go, considering that it was Christmas morning last year when Dad lapsed into unconsciousness and never woke up. I thought of Dad even more than usual today, but having Dave with me helped massively whenever thoughts turned back to the horrible events on that fateful day a year ago.

The weather was very sunny and relatively warm, so in the morning we went on a long walk round Tsarevets Fortress, Gurko Street and the main street, taking photos with Dave's camera as we went.

On the way to the fortress;

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Tsarevets Fortress:

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Gurko Street;

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The rest of our walk;

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We also walked past my workplace, where I discovered a Christmas card to myself from Dave's parents in the postbox by the door. :-)

Unfortunately Dave dropped his camera's lens cap at the fortress, losing it for ever just after he'd taken some pictures of me standing on the Execution Rock. This rock overhangs the side of the hill; centuries ago traitors were thrown off it to their deaths. He dropped the lens cap to the side of the rock, but although I thought it may have landed on a ledge of earth a couple of metres below, I decided not to try and find a way down there in case I slipped to my death. Although it was very sunny, there was still mud around. At least it wasn't his camera that was lost!

We ate our Christmas dinner very late, because we didn't get back from our walk until between 1 and 2pm, which is when we started cooking. We had homemade tarator to start; for the main we had herb-sprinkled chicken breasts cooked in foil, roast potatoes, stuffing, carrots, leeks fried with mozzarella cheese (an experiment I shall definitely repeat) and lots and lots of lovely handmade bread sauce.

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We were so full after this we had to have a lie down for a couple of hours; it wasn't until we got up that we realised the thought of pudding had not even crossed our minds! We were still too full to eat anything - we didn't have anything else until about 10pm - so until then we opened presents and relaxed. I had some presents for Dave waiting in the UK, plus the plan was for him to choose his main present from me tomorrow in Veliko Tarnovo before we left for Sofia, so the only thing I had for him to open was a box of Bulgarian baklava and kadaif. Amongst other things, from him I got a really interesting-looking book called 'This Way Southward' by A. F. Tschiffely, published in 1940. It's an account of a journey through Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. He also got me a lovely calendar using photos we took in Ecuador last June.

Speaking of books, Emma and Kate each got me a really good book as well. Emma got me 'What Caesar Did for My Salad: The Secret Meanings of our Favourite Dishes' by Albert Jack and Kate got me 'King Harald's Saga'. I will keep all of these with me in Bulgaria to read after Christmas, rather than take them back to the UK on Saturday!

Before we had tea we played a game of Mapominoes, a game Mum gave us. As the name indicates, it's very similar to dominoes, but each card is a European country and you can only put one country next to others if it shares a border with them. You also get Transit cards which you can say is a particular country or sea. A very good idea for a game!

Tea was quite brief because we still weren't as hungry as we could have been. We didn't have the Christmas pudding at all in the end, because we knew it would be filling.

All day I kept a Christmas candle burning for Dad. Mum had given it to Dave to take with him to Bulgaria.

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Posted by 3Traveller 08:13 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged christmas sisters dad dave bulgaria mum veliko_tarnovo fortifications tsarevets_fortress bulgarian_cuisine gurko_street Comments (0)

Christmas Eve

Veliko Tarnovo


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On Christmas Eve morning Dave and I walked to the fruit & vegetable market and the supermarket below it. The stalls had a heavy emphasis on what is in season - they were filled with squashes, swedes, beets, onions, potatoes, cabbages, nuts and apples - but they also had some presumably imported oranges, mandarins and other fruits. I looked for brussel sprouts without any luck. There were also some stalls filled with loose dried fruits, such as apricots and figs, as well as more nuts, jars of preserved peppers and tomatoes, bagged dried herbs, dried peppers, jars of honey and last of all, slabs of raw, white animal fat. Near the entrance to the market some women were selling bare branches of a certain type of tree, that I think I mentioned I saw sold in Sofia, along with branches of fir.

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After stocking up on Christmas food, we dumped the stuff at the flat and had a rest before going out again for lunch and some shopping in the old town. I had my old favourite, tarator (a cold soup made from yoghurt, cucumber, dill, garlic, vegetable oil and chopped nuts) as a starter. I've forgotten what else we had apart from the pudding, which I will always remember due to its unusualness. The dish I had was 'Frumenty'! I'd only ever heard about that as a dish people used to have at Christmas in the UK in Medieval times, so I was intrigued to see it here. I'd always assumed it was served hot, but here it was cold; it was a lot like rice pudding but with giant grains of (presumably boiled) wheat or some other kind of corn, instead of rice. It also had a fruit which looked and tasted a lot like tiny, sweet green gooseberries.

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Strictly speaking, on the menu it was called 'Diet Frumenty'. It was listed on the same dessert page as 'Diet Cake', which I thought was quite funny. Maybe Diet Cake is made with sweetener instead of sugar, or something like that...

We had a look in a couple of craftsman's and tourist souvenir shops after that, but didn't buy anything. We knew we'd be back either the next day or on Boxing Day. It was a lovely sunny day, like yesterday, so it was very pleasant just walking around. As the sun got lower and lower, the light looked more and more golden.

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We didn't do much in the evening apart from have pizza for dinner (with added mozzarella), play cards and have some clementines before getting an early night.

Posted by 3Traveller 07:35 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged market christmas dave bulgaria veliko_tarnovo bulgarian_cuisine Comments (0)

Arrival in Veliko Tarnovo for Christmas

Sofia and Veliko Tarnovo


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Breakfast at Hostel Mostel was excellent, one of the best hostel breakfasts I've ever had; Bulgarian yoghurt, Bulgarian feta cheese ('cirene'), boiled eggs, olives, salad items, scrambled eggs, sliced apple, sliced kiwi fruit, waffles, jam, chocolate spread, cereal, milk, juice, tea and coffee. After filling ourselves up we had a game of pool on the free pool table, packed up our stuff and asked reception staff to order a taxi to the main bus station for us.

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The time was now about 9.45 am. As soon as we arrived I bought tickets to Veliko Tarnovo, though not as easily as I'd expected. The company I wanted to use, ETAP, had no spaces left on any bus until 2pm, so I checked another company option instead, seeing from their timetable that their next bus to VT was at 11.30 am. They professed to have no tickets whatsoever for any bus to VT, however, so I had to go back to the ETAP desk and buy the 2pm tickets after all.

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So a long wait was ahead of us. Oh well, we'd been in similar situations before on our various travels and knew there was absolutely no point getting stressed out or annoyed about it; a laid-back approach is by far the best to take. So we took ourselves, Dave's big case and my rucksack upstairs to the seating area, made ourselves as comfortable as we could and played a mammoth 10-round game of 10-card rummy, a process which took up nearly an hour. (Dave won.)

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At 12.30 we wandered over to a food counter and had a very leisurely lunch of pizza and (in my case) créme caramel. Then we went down to wait by the bus until the doors opened and we could get on.

The journey was uneventful, though we did see a beautiful sunset. It was completely dark when we arrived in VT. We stopped for a few photos on the way to my flat so we didn't get in until just past 6pm.

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Dave started unpacking and sampled one of the bottles of Bulgarian beer I'd bought for him a few days ago. We also went next door to buy some 1kg tubs of honey from my landlady.

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After about an hour we went out for dinner at Han Hadji Nikoli. We shared an antipasti plate, Dave had a Bulgarian pork grill and I had stuffed chicken breasts, with buttered broccoli as a side. Great quality, as always.

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It had been a long day, so we went straight back to the flat after dinner, finished unpacking and headed for bed.

Posted by 3Traveller 06:18 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged night christmas hostel buses dave sofia bulgaria veliko_tarnovo han_hadji_nikoli bulgarian_cuisine Comments (0)

Back to Sofia - Dave arrives for Christmas

Sofia


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Dave arrived today at Sofia Airport, but not until 23.50 so I had quite a few hours to myself in Sofia before then. My bus journey from Veliko Tarnovo was uneventful and I arrived at Hostel Mostel mid-afternoon.

On my walk from the bus station to the hostel I suddenly heard lots of very loud twittering and chirping on my right hand side; I turned round and saw a bushy tree the same height as me, filled with sparrows! I stepped up right next to them and none of them flinched or flew away. It reminded me of when Mum visited in October and said that the sparrows reminded her of how common they used to be in London forty or fifty years ago.

It looked like a really good place - before I was taken to my room I had time to send a quick email on one of the free computers and take note of the free pool table! The private rooms were in a separate building three minutes away from the main hostel; the room was excellent and I
liked the common room and kitchen.

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Shortly afterwards I went out to do some shopping. I admired the clearest view of the mountains yet, walked to the fruit & vegetable market to look for brussel sprouts (unsuccessfully - I've heard they they only appear on sale in Bulgaria for a couple of days per year), visited one or two shops and when my legs got tired I sat down in Sveta Nedelya Cathedral for a bit. There was a service going on; a group of people were standing in the middle, flanked by six poinsettia arrangements. Choral music filled the cathedral, but I couldn't see any choir anywhere so I assumed that was through a sound system. I bought and lit a beeswax candle for Dad.

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On my walk around Sofia I noticed several streetsellers selling branches of fir tree, branches from another type of tree (which I think it traditionally brought inside the house at Christmas in Bulgaria) and other branches which had ribbons, stringed popcorn, (I think) sheep's wool, and other decorations attached. I think this last type of branch are traditionally carried by children as they go carol singing from house to house from midnight on Christmas morning onwards.

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I got a free dinner at eight o'clock - pasta with tomato sauce and salad. As I was eating, I couldn't help but overhear the conversation two guys sitting near me were having. I listened, puzzled, because it sounded similar to Spanish but also different. I was just pondering whether to ask them where they were from, when another girl walked up to them and asked 'de dondé eres?' (Where are you from? in Spanish). They replied 'Chile!'. I nearly laughed - when I was in Ecuador, every time I asked the students which Spanish accents they liked the most and least, they always said that they found Chileans very difficult to understand. Now I can see why! It sounded very different to Ecuadorian Spanish.

I took the bus to the airport terminal late at night, at quarter past eleven. Somehow I ended up getting a free journey, because although I checked with the driver if it was going to the airport or not he never asked me for the fare (like the girl at the hostel reception said he would) and there were no conductors or machines to give money to. On the way there I saw other people get on and then get off again later without having paid anyone anything, but the driver never said anything, so I just got off at the terminal and hoped for the best.

It was amazing to see Dave again, as you can imagine. Thankfully the OK-Supertrans taxi service desk was still open, so we took one of their taxis to the hostel.

Posted by 3Traveller 05:15 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged mountains market airport spanish cathedral christmas hostel buses dad sofia bulgaria mum orthodox_church traditional_customs Comments (0)

Advent parcel!

Veliko Tarnovo


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I got a lovely surprise today when I took a collection slip to the post office and collected a parcel from Kate - an Advent calendar and some sweets and chocolate were inside! This is what I got;

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Advent calendar
Angel Delight - strawberry
Angel Delight - chocolate
Angel Delight - butterscotch
Bag of chocolate coins
Little chocolate Father Christmas
White chocolate polar bear
Maoam Stripes bar
'Merryteaser' Malteaser chocolate reindeer
Chocolate mousse snowman

Thanks Kate!

Posted by 3Traveller 02:48 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged christmas sisters bulgaria veliko_tarnovo Comments (0)

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