Balkan overview |  9/7 Bucharest, Romania  |  9/8 Constanta  |  9/9 Danube  |  9/10 Rousse and Arbanassy, Bulgaria  |  9/11 Danube  |  9/12 Veliko Gradiste and Belgrade  |  9/13 Novi Sad  |  9/14 Vukovar, Osijek  |  9/15 Budapest  |  9/16 Budapest  |  9/17 Bratislava, Slovakia  |  9/18 Prague  |  9/19 Prague  |  9/20 Terezin 
The Bulgarian chant you are listening to (if you have your sound on) is The Lord's Prayer, sung by the Orthodox-VT Quartet of the monastery in Veliko Tornovo.
9/10/2008 Wednesday Rousse, Bulgaria

We took a quick tour of the city of Rousse, Bulgaria, on the Danube (or Danau). Our local guide is Shelka, and our driver is David. Tjere are about 155,000 people in Rousse. The first railroad in the entire Ottoman empire was between Rousse and Varma. The industries of Rousse are wine, painting, textiles, and river shipping.

From Rousse we drove through the Valley of the Roses, where roses are grown for rose oil. It takes 15,000 roses to make an ounce of rose oil! The Valley of the Roses is also known as the Valley of Thracian Kings, which is a UNESCO historic site. Bulgaria ranks 3rd (after Italy and Greece) for its archeological finds. Varna has a site that dates from the 4th century BC.

Bulgaria is the poorest country in the EU. Bulgaria is the oldest country in Europe in terms of keeping its name.
There were indigenous Slavic tribes. The Bulghurs are from southern European border states. The Thracians came in on horseback. They managed to keep the Turks from going into western Europe. In 1865 they adopted Christianity from Greece, and the priests decided that the services should be in the local Slavic language. Two Greek brothers, Saint Cyril and Saint Methodii, created the Cyrillic alphabet.

In the late 14th century Bulgaria fell under the Ottoman Turks, ushering in the era the Bulgarians call The Dark Period. The Ottoman Empire kept an army composed of non-Turks, the Janissaries. The empire required that all families in captured lands give a young son who would be taken from the family and trained to be a Janissary. This “blood tax” meant that the boys would grow up with their allegiance to the Empire, and would even fight against their own people. With the help of the Russians, Bulgaria was liberated from the Ottoman Turks around 1878.

Bulgarian Flag
BulgariaPie Bulgarians Pomaks
Click at left to hear a Bulgarian folksong, There Is A Willow, sung by the The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices Choir
blagodaría thank you
mersi thank you
da yes
nyet no
molya please
dobro utro good morning
dobro dan good afternoon
dobro vecher good evening
dozvidanya good bye
izvenetye meh excuse me
zdrasti hello
kazvam seh my name is
kolko stuva how much
vkusnoeh its delicious
imati li do you have?
kolko stuva how much?
kak si? how are you?
dobre fine
nazdrave cheers
voda water
bira beer
oshte bira molya another beer please
along the Danube, Bulgaria:


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Rousse, Bulgaria
Rousse, Bulgaria
There are two monasteries in the village of Arbanassi, 3 km from Veliko Turnovo - St.Nikola and Holy Virgin.

Between the 16th century and its tragic devastation two centuries later the village - one of the wealthiest in pre-liberation Bulgaria, boasted a rich and unusual house architecture, the work of skilled masters from different parts of the country.

St. Nikola Monastery was part of the widespread religious construction under the Assen dynasty, the founders of the Second Bulgarian State. Its artistic and historical value lies above all in the surviving murals in the St. Elija Chapel, probably dating from 1716: a monumental figure of Christ the Great Archangel, 12 scenes from the Holy Akathistos, and 6 scenes from the life of Christ.

Though situated in the same village, the Holy Virgin Monastery suffered a different, though no less tragic fate. It is not known how it survived the attacks in 1393. What has remained of them warrants the assumption that they, too were painted by traveling artists - highly paid at the time, but quite affordable by the wealthy inhabitants of the village of Arbanassi. At the Holy Virgin Monastery too, the Tryavna School has left valuable icons behind.

We visited the St. Nikola Monastery near Veliko Turnovo. Veliko Turnovo was the capital of the 2nd Bulgarian state.The Monastery was built in the 1600s while the Turks were in power, and the Turks did not allow them to have an external dome, so they hid their dome as an internal dome within the apse. The walls have gorgeous frescoes. We were surprized to hear a chant done by a 4-monk choir, and we managed to buy a CD later from one of the monks.

At a nearby store, which was inside a 17th century merchant's house, I also bought a CD of the Bulgarian Women's Choir, and one of a traditional Bulgarian instrument that looks like a bagpipe.

Rousse, Bulgaria
The Nativity Church, Arbanassi, Bulgaria:
The Nativity Church, Arbanassi, Bulgaria:
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local girls painting scenes of the Nativity Church in Arbanassi, Bulgaria:
The Nativity Church, Arbanassi, Bulgaria:
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The Nativity Church, Arbanassi, Bulgaria:
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Christ's Nativity Church, Arbanassi, Bulgaria: frescoes
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entrance to the store at the Nativity Church, Arbanassi, Bulgaria:
Arbanassi, Bulgaria: Nevena Robertova pets the local cat
Arthur Luehrmann at the Nativity Church
knitters and crocheters selling their wares outside the church
Lunch was at a local restaurant, where we had a wonderful fresh vegetable salad plus our box lunches from the ship.

After lunch we went to the Tsarevets Fortress.

lunch in Veliko Turnovo, Ivanovo, Romania: Arthur Luehrmann & Janet Maestre
Clarence McClymond
Marcos Maestre
Tsarevets is a mediaeval stronghold located on a hill with the same name in Veliko Tarnovo in northern Bulgaria. It served as the Second Bulgarian Empire's primary fortress and strongest bulwark from 1185 to 1393, housing the royal and the patriarchal palaces, and is a popular tourist attraction.

The earliest evidence of human presence on the hill dates from the 2nd millennium BC. It was settled in the 4th century and a Byzantine fortress was constructed near the end of the 5th century, on the grounds of which the construction of the Bulgarian stronghold was begun in 12th century. After the Vlach-Bulgarian Rebellion and the establishment of the Second Bulgarian Empire with its capital in Veliko Tarnovo, the fortress became the most important one in Bulgaria, often compared with Rome and Constantinople in magnificence. In 1393, the stronghold was besieged by Ottoman forces for three months before finally being conquered and burnt down on 17 July, which marked the fall of the Bulgarian Empire.

The restoration of the complex began in 1930, when the first of the three gates of the main entrance to the fortress was reconstructed. The King's palace was the smaller building to the left, and the Archbishop's building was the higher one on the right.

Tsarevets Hill, Veliko Turnovo, Ivanovo, Bulgaria:
Tsarevets Hill, Veliko Turnovo, Ivanovo, Bulgaria:
Tsarevets Hill, Veliko Turnovo, Ivanovo, Bulgaria:
Tsarevets Hill, Veliko Turnovo, Ivanovo, Bulgaria:
Tsarevets Hill, Veliko Turnovo, Ivanovo, Bulgaria:
Tsarevets Hill, Veliko Turnovo, Ivanovo, Bulgaria:
Tsarevets Hill, Veliko Turnovo, Ivanovo, Bulgaria:
Then on to Craftsmen's Street, where we bought 2 wooden pig saltshakers, one flag, one pitcher, stamps, and postcards, and we watched someone put thin threads of batter on a rotating griddle to form thin straws that I believe are a sweet. The crafts of the area are weaving, embroidery (we saw a woman selling her beautiful embroidery at the side of the road), and tile making.
Craftsmen's Street door
Veliko Turnovo, Ivanovo, Bulgaria:
the two old men, Arthur Luehrmann & Marcos Maestre, rest while their wives are shopping
sweet batter cooked into threads
Kaddaif (sweet batter cooked into threads)
Veliko Turnovo, Ivanovo, Bulgaria: Arthur Luehrmann
Veliko Turnovo, Ivanovo, Bulgaria:
Veliko Turnovo, Ivanovo, Bulgaria:
Arthur Luehrmann
The word Politics comes from Poly (many) and ticks (blood-sucking creatures).

Current day Bulgaria has a government consisting of old communist party people and Bulgaria's ex-monarch. There is a Turkish minority of about 12%. The life of the average Bulgarian is pretty harsh, but not as bad as it was in the 1990s, when there was 38% unemployment and 200% inflation. Now the average salary is about $400 per month. Children start school at 6 or 7 years old, and is obligatory until the child reaches 16. Roma (gypsies) make up about 5% of the population. The life expectancy in Bulgaria is 72 years for women and 68 years for men.

As she left us, our local tour guide, Shelka, gave us some Martinitza - which are red tassels to wear in March until you see the first returning stork. They bring health and fertility.

One of our tour group is Philip Barr, a wonderful jazz composer and pianist. That afternoon he entertained us with some jazz on the piano.

Click here for a sample.

If you would like to buy one of Phil's CDs, send him an email by clicking here.

Philip Lincoln Barr, one of our boatmates and a fine pianist
That evening, we gathered in the lounge to watch folksingers and dancers.
on the SS River Adagio at Rousse, Bulgaria: Eva _
Our pregnant main guide, Nevena Robertova, introduces Bulgarian folk dancers
On the River Adagio near Rousse, Bulgaria: Bulgarian folk dancers
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On the River Adagio near Rousse, Bulgaria: Bulgarian folk dancers and singers
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Click on the forward buttons on the following movies. Make sure your sound is turned up.
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