July 29, 2009

A Glimpse into the Heart of Bulgaria

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Based on experiences limited to the port city of Varna, it might be easy to typecast Bulgaria as a just another former soviet territory struggling with its' self identity and trying to make sense of a free market economy. After a trip to the rural countryside however, a far richer story emerges. It's a story of people deeply connected to their historical roots, their local community, and what today we might call sustainable living.

As part of an SAS trip to a small village on the Doubroudza plain, considered the breadbasket of Bulgaria because of the many grain varieties grown in the area, we awakened to a glimpse into the heart of this country and the depth of spirit found in its' people. Beginning with our welcome by the town mayor, we knew this wasn't going to be another touristic mob scene. People on the street stopped to greet us, shake our hand, look into our eyes, and welcome us to their special place. We didn't understand their words, but their actions clearly communicated that we were welcome here.

After a visit to the 'community center,' where villagers share books, art, theater, dance and stories, we visited the mayor's office, the local church (where we were moved by hymns sung by the priest), and finally the mayor's home. There we were treated to a 14-course feast of local foods (many of which were grown in their organic garden), prepared in a wood oven, and cooked by the local village women. These same women also shared their circle dances, native crafts, twinkling smiles, lively music, and silly jokes. Each of on this trip came away saying "now this is what Semester at Sea is all about" -- a glimpse into the lives of everyday people where we saw not only the uniqueness of their culture and earth-based living, but also a reflection of our own visions of a slower, more 'simple' life focused on the importance of family, friends, rich conversation, healthy food, and a pace of life that allows us to savor it all.

Here is a short photo montage to give you a taste of this visit. Just click on the 'Glimpse into the Heart' link under the photo below.

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Glimpse into the Heart

Posted by rohwedde at July 29, 2009 4:07 AM