Celebrating Proud Bulgarian Heritage

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Where I stayed
Shipka to Zlatograd to Shiroka Laka
What I did
Celebrated Bulgarian Independance Day in Shipka/Boozludja, - Zlatograd for a nights stay -to Shiroka Laka for Kukeri Festival

Flag of Bulgaria  , Plovdiv,
Thursday, March 3, 2011

woke at 4 am to finish baking my newly cultured sour dough bread for an early and cold morning start of a weekend adventure. Racing to the other side of town before dawn to catch the earliest train to a town called Gabrovo to catch a free bus 1/2 way to the top of Shipka Mountain to the site of the Bulgarian Independence from the Ottoman Yolk. Here the Russians fought along side Bulgarians and over through the Turkish once and for all. The 3rd of March is a extremely proud and important day for many Bulgarians and many wake up and start celebrating before dawn... on our 5am train we were met buy the most rowdy crew and buy their matching screen printed T-shirts we were able to assume that they might not be a tough a crowd as one might expect from a group of black clad, tight panted, GI boot wearing men with uniformly shaved heads. As we came to a stop one noted that I was an English woman and preceded to ask his friend how to say, "Here you are English woman, this if for you from the Bulgarian Train Company." and ripped off the arm of the chair and presented it to me.... 6am- we all could tell this was going to be an adventure!

Groggy an in a daze we waited around to catch a bus to the top of the mountain to the site of the independance and were the notoriouse battle and mounument now stand. Sadly the bus only took us halfway now in a deliriouse state we giggle an sang our way up the snowy sleet like trail, clinging on to one another for warmth and support. All walks of life passed us, men in suits, people with health problems, some young children, elderly, the Bulgarian Nationalists- groups agains Macedonia- groups against Turkish in Bulgaria- the Army.... After this frosty, energy packed event I decided to hike down the back side of the mountain to the Russian Church erected in honor of all the Russian solidures burried here- tracing the steps the soldiers took so long ago... It was a tough trek in the blizzard through all of the frozen rose bushes... but i could only think how much easier we had it because every one had enough Home made wine and Rakia to keep them warm and everyone in passing wishing each other "Chestit Praznik" or Happy Holiday and our quick lunch stop where one random man in our group stopped us all laid some news paper down on the snow and laied out homemade bread- sausage- turchia( pickled vegetables) cheese and so on....
From there we made a trek up to the old communist meeting place also high on top of a peak... resembling a nothing other then a UFO... and well to me also feeling like I was visiting a UFO. Amazingly moving place.. can't quite find the words....

From there we made a journy almost in to Greece to take part in a Spring time festival of Pagan origin. Kukeri is a celebration to  ward of evil spirits of winter and to welcome fertility in humans and nature for the spring time. Shiroka Laka was a pre in a quty and quaint little valley village in the Rohdopi mountains. Here we found the un official "mayor" of the town who seemd to have a connection wth everyone had room for us to stay and as he flew his little statue of our flag outside our door and quoted non other then JFK we were welcomed to be at home in his sweet old Bulgarian style village house....
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