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Entries about easter celebrations

Bulgarian Orthodox Easter Sunday

Veliko Tarnovo


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The first excursion we went on today was to the fruit and veg market; I needed to buy some vegetables for dinner and I knew Emma was curious to see it anyway. She kept an eye out for quinces to take back to Mum, but there weren't any. Lots of salad vegetables, courgettes and peppers available. Only about half the stalls or less were occupied, but it was enough to give them a good idea of what it's like normally.

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We had to stop off at a bakery on the way home for a Bulgarian Easter essential - Kozunak, which is basically a huge fat sugary bun a bit like an oversized, puffy, round and not so tightly wound Chelsea bun. We bought an absolutely huge one to share later.

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When we got home Emma and Mark hung out some laundry they'd put in earlier, while I got lunch ready. We had mozzarella, roasted red peppers from a jar, pesto, snezhanka (essentially a more solid version of tarator, make with strained yoghurt), a long string of preserved sausages, bread, and cheese triangles. We ate out on the terrace since the weather was gorgeous.

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Next, we headed out to craftmen's street. Emma had a hankering for a cowbell, so she bought a small one from the same shop I'd bought her St George and the Dragon icon from on our birthday. Mark bought a couple of colourful finely woven table runners - one for him and Emma and the other for his family - and a pair of dangly leaf-like copper earrings for Emma from the coppersmith's workshop.

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After we'd made our purchases, we stopped off at Stratilat Café for pudding. Emma and I had Bulgarian rice pudding (which, by the way, isn't served hot like it usually is in the UK, but cold - it's beautifully creamy and sweet), and Mark had a decadent looking slice of banana and chocolate pie. Emma also had a strawberry milkshake and I had a frappé.

After a brief stop-off at the flat to dump their purchases and take in some laundry, we wandered down to Tsarevets Fortress.

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I'd been there three times before, so while Emma and Mark went up to the Patriarchate Tower first, I walked round to Baldwin's Tower, the part I hadn't seen before.

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When I met back up with the others, lower down the hill from the Patriarchate Tower, they raved about the views they'd got of the whole town and beyond, not just from the top of the tower but at every turn on the way up as well. After that we continued to the overhanging Executioner's Rock, where photos had to be taken of us standing, and climbed along the outside walls before finally making our rather sun-burnt way back into town.

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Emma and I went home while Mark made a detour back to the craftmen's street to buy a couple of very colourful painted glass bottles that had taken their fancy earlier.

'F' came round for dinner in the evening. The others chatted and drank hot drinks while I made a chicken and vegetable sauce, then while that finished cooking, I went down to the plaza with Emma and Mark for the sound and light show at Tsarevets. This happens on a regular basis, but usually the soundtrack is reserved for paying guests only (excepting the bells). Today though, since it was Easter Day, the mayor had paid for it to be available for everyone. Great timing for Emma and Mark! I've seen the show plenty of times, but not with the soundtrack until today. It lasted about 20 minutes and was extremely dramatic. It tells the history of Veliko Tarnovo, which evidently involved a lot of bloodshed and gunfire, judging by the wails on the soundtrack and the large amounts of red light and sudden flashes.

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After going back for dinner, we went round to 'F's to attack the Easter Bun and some wonderful chocolate brownies that she had made. We stayed there for a long time just eating and chatting, before reluctantly going back so that Emma and Mark could pack for their trip to Varna in the morning.

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Posted by 3Traveller 23:41 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged market sisters bulgaria veliko_tarnovo explorations fortifications tsarevets_fortress bulgarian_cuisine easter_celebrations Comments (0)

Bulgarian Easter Eve traditions

Veliko Tarnovo


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At about 23:45, after we'd returned from Ruse and rested a while, Emma and I walked round the corner to the cathedral. I'd heard about an Easter tradition Bulgarians have, so we wanted to have a look for ourselves!

Inside the cathedral there was no service going on, but it was filling up with people. A guy was selling candles inside the church. I looked in my wallet and saw I only had about 30 stotinki, enough for one of the smaller candles. I bought one but Emma couldn't because she didn't have any cash on her at all.

Soon the church was so crowded with people we could barely move. The church lacked pews, so we stood along with the others; as the clock ticked towards midnight I noticed an atmosphere of heightened excitement and expectation in the air. I wished I could take a photo, but didn't dare. Then, two minutes before midnight, the lights in the giant hanging candelabra turned off. The murmur quietened. At midnight two priests emerged from a door in the iconostasis with lighted candles and the people near to them crowded forward. Once people had lit their candles, they squeezed their way outside, where there were many other people waiting. I waited for the church to empty a bit and then as the priest moved toward the exit behind me, I lit my candle from his as he went past me. It almost immediately went out, however, so I had to re-light it from the candle of a lady ahead of me in the queue for the exit.

Meanwhile, Emma had left the church through another exit and gone round to the front, in order to see me coming out with my candle. She took a picture of me as I emerged. There was a tiny wooden stage outside the exit; the priests stood there, reaching down for people to light their candles, whilst those of us who'd been inside the church emerged and went straight down the steps on each side. Although I'd cupped my candle flame with my hands to prevent the wind blowing it out, after about a minute the wind succeeded. I re-lit it from the priest's candle, but then it went out again soon after.

Emma and I then went to the back of the crowd and just watched for a while. The priests chanted and swung incense whilst bells clanged.

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Eventually we wandered over to the side of the church which looks out over the same side of the hill as my flat does. Just as we got to the railing, fireworks started exploding over Tsarevets Fortress!

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Once the fireworks had finished, we turned round so we were facing the church again and watched people processing round it, anticlockwise, with their lit candles. We walked back round to where the crowd was and watched the crowd and the priests again for a bit. The bells started clanging a very particular tune over and over again. I hear the same bells clang this tune quite often - several times a week - but this time it lasted longer.

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Then we walked down the road to the plaza in front of Tsarevets, just to see what was going on there. There had been a service going on at the church tower there, and now hundreds of people were processing across the bridge with their candles. It was a grand and beautiful sight. There was a table set up and a woman standing next to it, handing out small plastic bags to the people as they emerged onto the plaza. She gave me and Emma ones too - they had a dyed boiled egg and a large slice of Easter bun inside. As she gave me the bag, she said 'Hristos vozkrese!' (Christ is risen!'). I couldn't remember what the official response was to that (apparently it's 'Vo eesteena vozkrese' - 'Truly he has risen'), so I just said 'blagodariya' (thank you) instead. Boiled and dyed/ painted eggs are cracked together after midnight, a bit like conkers; whoever's egg doesn't crack, gets good luck.

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We walked back to the flat after that, really happy about our experience. When we looked out of my windows, in the distance we could still see lights moving down the hill of Tsarevets and across the bridge.

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Posted by 3Traveller 15:08 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged cathedral sisters bulgarian bulgaria veliko_tarnovo fortifications orthodox_church tsarevets_fortress traditional_customs easter_celebrations Comments (0)

Bulgarian Orthodox Good Friday

Arbanasi and Veliko Tarnovo


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Today was a gorgeous spring day with hardly a cloud in the sky, so a perfect day to go to Arbanasi. Our plan was to get a taxi there to arrive shortly after 10 am, look round various interesting places there, have lunch at a restaurant I recommended, then walk back leisurely through a gorge - a different one to the one I walked last week.

The first place we visited was the wonderful viewpoint of Veliko Tarnovo in the hills in the distance;

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Then on to the Church of the Nativity. I was here only last week, so I didn't go in with Emma and Mark. When she came out, Emma went into raptures about it - apparently the impression the low-hanging ceilings and tiny openings into different rooms gave to her was that of entering an exotic, mysterious and very beautiful cave. I quite agree with her on that one! Credit to Emma for the following two photos;

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We wandered for a bit after that, until we found the Sveta Bogoroditsa Monastery. This was a group of lovely whitewashed stone buildings with a little cemetery to one side; this was partly filled with graves of nuns, each one adorned with a little photo of their inhabitant.

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We looked inside the church - again, very plain on the outside - we didn't go inside the main part because there was a service going on (for Good Friday, I assumed), but there was a smaller room by the entrance which had some atmospheric paintings and icons on the walls and some stands for lit candles. On some shelves and a small table there were tulips and daffodils laid out, along with some colourful painted eggs.

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It was still a bit early for lunch at that point, so on our way back up towards the restaurant we stopped off at a house museum, the Konstantsalieva House. On the way there we walked through a small park with three goats tethered!

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The house was built in the 17th century for a rich merchant family, one of many in late medieval/ early modern Arbanasi apparently. The ground floor was built in stone and the first floor was built in wood.

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Each room apart from the kitchen and privy had a large raised platform on one side covered in carpet, furs and cushions, which presumably is where the family would lounge to take tea, eat and rest. I don't remember seeing any tables! All of the rooms had a wooden ceiling; one was particularly well carved. The whole place was very interesting - it was similar in design, decoration and furnishings to the lovely house museum I saw in Tryavna in January.

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Lunch was at Arbanashki Han, a hotel restaurant in very picturesque settings. The interior was quite picturesque as well! We all loved the colourful woven tablecloths and table runners. Emma and I both had tarator, then we all shared plates of grilled vegetables, grilled cheese, thinly sliced fried potatoes and peppers stuffed with cheese. All of which was extremely well cooked and delicious.

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Our walk back to VT was a long and idyllic one, down into a gorge and along the river. The scenery as expected was simply stunning, and it was interesting to walk past places we'd only seen from afar before.

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About halfway down there was a little lake, with a children's playground, a café and some public toilets. We rested there for a bit before carrying on.

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Further on, at the point where the stream flows into the River Yantra, we looked up and saw Tsarevets Fortress and the Execution Rock - we were behind Tsarevets hill.

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We walked round the riverbank, into the Asenov quarter of Veliko Tarnovo, until we reached the wooden bridge; we crossed there and walked up past the side of Tsarevets to the plaza and then beyond.

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When we got back from Arbanasi we were absolutely shattered, so we had a lie down before going out to dinner at Tempo Pizza. I've been here several times before, because the tarator, pizza, salads and smaller things such as grilled mushrooms with cheese, potato balls and fried cheese are very good. Unfortunately, however, this time the place let us down. Apart from the tarator and the cheesy mushrooms, we strayed from what I knew they were good at, and paid the price for it. Emma's focaccia was a bit too salty and Mark's clam risotto had grit in it.

One novel thing we did see at the restaurant was on the TV; it showed the Timbersports world championship! There were teams from several countries (including the UK), chopping and sawing up logs in various different ways. Certainly not something we had ever considered would exist, let alone be on international TV! It was interesting to watch, though.

Posted by 3Traveller 09:31 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged monastery sisters bulgaria veliko_tarnovo church_of_the_nativity fortifications orthodox_church house_museum tsarevets_fortress bulgarian_cuisine river_yantra arbanasi easter_celebrations Comments (0)

Bulgarian Orthodox Palm Sunday

Veliko Tarnovo and Mindya


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Yesterday I mentioned seeing old ladies cutting willow branches on my walk from Arbanasi to Veliko Tarnovo; this morning I saw lots of people on the streets holding branches and twigs of willow. Today is the Bulgarian Orthodox Palm Sunday; a day when people take willow (in place of palm leaves) to church to be blessed. 'R' and I were walking to the fruit and vegetable market to buy some flowers for later when we saw all the people; once we got there we saw several temporary stalls selling willow branches, blossoming twigs I did not recognise and flowers, mostly daffodils. We bought some willow and daffodils and had a look round the rest of the market. Lots of salad vegetables are in season now, so most of the vegetable stalls were selling cucumbers, spring onions, radishes, tomatoes and lettuce.

Although today is Palm Sunday in Bulgaria, for the UK it's Easter Sunday. To celebrate this, 'R' and I went to Mindya to have lunch with one of our colleagues & her partner. We gave them the willow and daffodils we'd got from the market earlier. Lunch was amazing - all homemade, there were flatbreads eaten hot straight from the pan, hummous, tzaziki, grilled vegetables, fried halloumi and one or two other things I've forgotten. Delicious. After that, 'R' & I were surprised with an Easter egg hunt that had been set up in their garden! :-)

Posted by 3Traveller 07:08 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged market bulgaria veliko_tarnovo mindya traditional_customs palm_sunday easter_celebrations Comments (0)

Glorious spring day

Veliko Tarnovo


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Today I went on a really nice walk down to the River Yantra and the museum church of St Peter & St Paul. It was my day off and was such a lovely spring day, I simply had to get out and about. As I stepped out of my flat I noticed that since only last Sunday the amount of blossom on the almond tree had noticeably increased. The scent of flowers and other plants filled the air as I walked down the road towards the Tsarevets plaza.

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On the plaza I noticed some Easter decorations; a giant basket filled with giant colourful eggs had been placed at the edge. After a quick photo I moved on down the road winding down the hill to the River Yantra. I saw lots more almond trees in blossom, some with martenitsas tied onto branches.

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When I reached the river I carried on past the Church of the Forty Martyrs, the main bridge and the wooden bridge to the Church of St Peter & St Paul. I came here back in December but the church was closed then. To my delight, I saw that today it was open.

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This church was originally built in the 13th century and was extended between the 16th and 18th centuries (and the roof tiles like quite recent too). It's a museum church now, not used for services. It had some very colourful remains of 14th, 16th and 17th century frescoes on its inner walls.

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On my wander around the small grounds, I noticed several bright red beetles with black spots - they weren't ladybirds though!

Posted by 3Traveller 05:46 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged bridges art museum bulgaria veliko_tarnovo orthodox_church river_yantra easter_celebrations Comments (0)

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