Today, we had a wonderful cultural adventure―with typical Bulgarian food in a traditional Bulgarian restaurant, a live Bulgarian folk singer, folk dancers in “costume,” and we even witnessed “walking on fire.” Martin and Svet took us outside the city of Sofia to a restaurant that is decorated in Bulgarian folk style and serves traditionally prepared Bulgarian dishes. We began the meal with Shoppska salad and Snejanka “snow white” salad. The Shoppska salad has diced cucumbers, tomatoes, red bell peppers, and is topped with grated feta cheese. The snow white salad is Bulgarian yogurt with diced pickles and dill. For the main course we had pork cooked in a variety of ways, grilled vegetables, and our customary french fries topped with feta cheese. Then we topped it all off by devouring vanilla ice cream filled with chopped dates for dessert!
During dinner we were treated to a live performance by several folk singers who meandered through the restaurant entertaining the diners. Among the singers was Christina Boteva, who is a professional singer in Bulgaria and had a wonderful vocal range. We also observed a group of traditionally dressed dancers performing Bulgarian folk dances in the empty spaces between tables. Part of their repertoire includes donning ancient masks, not unlike some of our Native American masks, and involving diners in their dance. These men, known as “Kukeri,” come from a special region of Bulgaria.
The highlight of the evening was watching two locals walking on hot coals! Once the coals were really hot and glowing, the man raked them all into a circle and began walking over them. He was then joined on the hot coals by a young woman, who literally “flew” over the hot coals in a long white gown. It was explained to us that this is an ancient ritual which originated as an attempt by the populous to drive out the demons of winter and invite the spirits of spring. The barefooted dancers are known as “Nestinari.”
It was a fabulous day, and certainly enhanced our knowledge and understanding of the Bulgarian culture!
All for today!
Konnie and Sonya