Here the weather is unusually warm and sunny for this time of the year. No snow in sight. The nights and our appartement still manage to be freezing though. It is odd how the environment so quickly brings back my old habits. In England I dont hesitate to throw out food or leave heating, lights and gas on although it is many times more expensive, and here I am back immediately to saving every last jaul possible. In Sofia I was suddenly ready to risk a fight with the inspectors shocked that the ticket for the public transport has been doubled (doubled in a year!!!) to 80 stotinkas (40 eurocents) and the tickets I kept since last Christmas are not acceptable anymore.
Since you were interested about bulgarian "yes" and "no" - indeed all, friends and shopkeepers repeat every question to me on average three times. I mumble "no" while waving my head for "yes", or mumble "yes" while nodding "no". Shopkeepers look strange at me, I wonder what they are thinking.
This time I arrived home unusually quickly - within just one day. The downside is - no Tchehia, no Serbia - and I'll have to drink the Becherovka from last year, only about 200 gramm left, ai-ai! : ( However I still managed to have lots of train-chat written down, I am sorry, heh! One of the pensioners in the Sofia-Plovdiv train was quite talkative, a former military from the border armies, very patriotic. I was careful not to mention I am one of those young who deserted the country.
A boy entered our compartment with a box of chocolates and a very formerly greenish suit. He had 18th birthday apparently. People took a chocolate with some internal hesitation as the boy was quite dark ie either a gypsy or not washed for a very long time. I would think most of us did not refuse the chocolate simply afraid it might be insulting if they did. And just as we were thinking everything ended alright he said that he graduated the schools for orphans and asked us to give 50 stotinki for those. It was difficult to watch the two of my company having to say "no, I wont give you help" completely heartless. But they knew that mumbling excuses would be even worse and left their pain to themselves. One of them, about 40-year-old short man during the entire trip was sitting quietly in the corner looking in the ground, but I saw him in Sofia making his way alone toward the train. His limbs were swaying violently around at every movement. The other was the former military man, probably above 65, who once opened his diplomatic-style suitcase before retreating to the toilet. The suitcase contained rolls of toilet paper and other things I wisely didnt want to look at. But he was talking alot so I will leave it to him:
Ah, I am sick of it, son! Last evening I boarded the train at eight oclock! All night until I get to the hospital the docent to see me. I think he is also tired of me by now - he wanted to assign me to operation, but I dont want. "Come on lets operate?" I say "No, doctor, I dont want, do something else, please." So he prescribed me some pills for 24 levs and said I'll be alright. It's 8 pills - for one week. But I think he got tired of me with my caprices and doesnt care anymore he-he. He did three operations by now, on first one I lived for 3 years, on second 1 year, now just 1 month. But I cant provide blood for an operation anymore! An operation needs about too banks of blood. I sucked the life completely off my son-in-law, I cant ask him for it once more! If you go to the Donation centre, there the gypsies are sitting by the dozen in the waiting room to offer blood, but they want 150-160 levs per bank! How is one going to have so much!? But the docent assures me that I am a survivor, if one lives for 5 years with it he will make it. If you add the time since it developed, it makes 7 years for me so I will survive. Er, mine is cancer of the large intestine.
In this area, between Maritza [the main river of Thrace] and the sea were living only bulgarians. But later when the Turks come, all the armies marching to war pass through our ends. You know that they reach all the way to Vienna. Marching from Istanbul and the Anadol to Europe they were all passing exactly through that area. A lot of armies were crossing at that time, the wars lasted for 200 years. They wanted the villagers to feed them. They were seizing the cattle and making troubles to the houses and taking women and stuff. So the bulgarians one by one fled from the land and the villages emptied - many went north toward Dobrudja because they were good in cultivating the plains, or some toward the Rhodope mountains. After that, turks settled in this area. But the turkish peasants didnt want to give up food and horses to the passing armies, didnt let them in their houses. This was trouble for the military campaigns now and got the sultan worried! So he issued a decree that bulgarian peasants be brought to those places in order to be food source for the troops. Thus I know exactly when our village was established: it was in the year 1640 when the sultan's ferman was issued!
- From where did they fetch the bulgarians?
They took villages from Starozagorsko and further. My village settled near Iambol at first. But some years later the plague caught them. They got scared and took themselves and went south, those who survived I mean. So they moved towards Elhovo, but coming south the turkish started to murder them. So they had to put watch around the village. Every time a turkish team, or people on horses were seen to move towards the village, the entire population would take for the woods to hide. But once, they forgot the ponitza! Do you know what that is?
- Erm, no. Is it something like a plate?
Its for the bread. Its like a very large pan, or like a large circular baking tray, made from earth. You would bury it into the fire, it has a large tin lid and you bury it in the burning ashes to bake entirely. The ponitza bakes the bread for the entire village.
- So they couldnt make bread anymore?
The village council assembled and wondered what to do. The ponitza was in the village and the turks were coming soon. They decided to send back to the village the eldest man to take it. It was granpa Jeliu the Iaram, he had 60 years. He went but on the way a turk met him and finished him. There is a little tablet there "Here is the grave of granpa Jeliu the Iaram".
The place calmed down decades later because a tchiflik was established [a large turkish farm with hired or dependent workers] and the bey [lord, master] wanted to attract the bulgarians to come out of the forests and settle in his land to work it. They have done all the work there! Now one guy from Sofia owns the bey's house. There is a well on the meadow in front. It was thought that the gold of the bey is hidden in the well, so he sent men to look for it on the bottom. They didnt find anything but they measured the depth of the well, it is 21m! Can you imagine, 21 meters were dug by my ancestors with their hands! Its because our village is situatied on a hill, so one has to dig deep to get to the underground waters. My house is right on the top of the hill. I was telling to the mandradjiia [the cheese-making place's owner], why was my grandad so crazy to build the house right on top of the hill!? Whereever I go, whatever route I calculate, I am always climbing a mountain! I go often to the mandra to take the surovatka for the pigs. You know, surovatka is the discard in the process when you make cheese.
Eh, Plovdiv, just here it is, two more stops and you're done! And I have another three and a half hours after that to Iambol. And then wait for the bus to Elhovo and another hour. My village is just before Elhovo - about 7km.
- But isnt there a train to Elhovo? There is a line I think.
A train WAS! As I like to say, in 1931 tzar Boris opened the railroad there, now his son closed it down, he-he-he. [common laughter around the compartment, few are the people that still like tzar Simeon II after his term as a prime-minister] When we were young the train was full, we were hanging out onto the vagons, especially in a sunday and in the summer when coming back from holidays or from the army. Now there is not enough passengers anymore, everywhere in the country they closed the smaller lines, too expensive to maintain. But there arent so many people left in the village anymore either.
In 1946 there was a census, we were 1680 people! Now... a retired person, what can he do, all day sleeps, in the evening - well, again sleeps, and when at some time he wakes up, starts to count and recount the village... I can tell you, bulgarians there is no more than 200 persons! The other day I was butchering the pig - and there is no people to help! I was walking around the entire village to look for some people to help with the butchering, there was none. At this time a lot of people are doing their pig and there was none to help.
... Gypsies there are 40 houses. Before they were 4 families, now 40. The bulgarians are leaving away and selling the houses very cheap. And the gypsies are buying them!
[The woman sitting next to me:]
- The gypsies are having more money than the bulgarians!?
Nah, its not that, just the houses are selling practically for no money.
- Dont you get any englishmen buying? I know other villages around there get alot of englishmen now.
Well, one englishman bought the school building recently.
- The school? What could he do with it!?
I have no idea. It was built not quite by the design plans, in 1940.
- People have told me those villages get even repair of the streets, and wonders that the englishmen are used to having in their country, separate garbage collection and stuff. The meyors do alot of work there, but the englishmen push them for it, and give money.
Nah, our village is never the one that yields to a modernisation or anything good, It has never happened before without alot of difficulties and last from everyone around. It wont be this time either, he-he.
Sofiia - Plovdiv,