Thursday, March 15, 2007

Fast food, Festivals, Friends and Fastidious Felines

Fast food means toasters, duners, or pizza in Bulgaria. My preference has cycled through all three choices while I have lived in the BG. Toasters are patty or cutlet - filled buns crushed and toasted in a sandwich grill. They come with fried onions, lettuce, yoghurt sauce and salad and are the healthier choice. Pizza is a little bit different than the American style by-the-slice variety. Although it is still sold by the slice, Bulgarians are conservative with their pizza sauce, but top their slices (which often include pickles and corn) with a thick layer of mayonnaise and/or ketchup. Duners are the third option, (in Stara Zagora, the most delicious in my opinion) and are the most varied in quality. There are good Duner stands and bad ones; the secret, it seems, is in the sauce. A good garlic sauce and well-crisped meat makes a good duner.

Laundry is a chore over here. That Bulgarians wear the same clothes for multiple days is not surprising considering the work it takes to hand-wash clothes. I have about 9 pairs of underwear, which means that I have to do at least 1 load of laundry a week to keep abreast of the daily demand. When sheets, shirts, jeans and jackets also need washing, the laundry becomes a desperate struggle. Laundermats are not popular, and machines are expensive for Bulgarians. Thus, when a friend kindly offers his/her machine to use, I am grateful. My current problem is drying the clothes. I used to live on the on a nice, breezy hillside with a large, airy balcony. My new apartment is in the stagnant downtown next to the industrial district. If I leave my windows closed, drying laundry takes ages and mold quickly introduces itself across my walls. If I open my windows, soot settles on the whites. Quite a catch-22.

In happier news, I went to Kukeri in Shiroka Luka a couple of weeks ago. Kukeri, some readers might remember, is a fesival of noise to chase bad spirits away in order to properly usher in the fertility of spring. I stayed with a friend about 10 km away in Stoikite and hiked down the mountain to the festival in the morning. What a beautiful country Bulgaria is in the middle of the Rhodolpe Mountains! It was a crisp, sunny morning with the babbling river rushing swiftly next to the road and songbirds calling. I met the Minister of Smolyan District and the Mayor of Shiroka Luka before the festival and enjoyed the festivities with many friends from all over Bulgaria. Although there are other Kukeri festivals in Bulgaria, the festival in Shiroka Luka is famous for its folk music, creative and authentic costumes and of course locally made Rakiya. If I return to Bulgaria later in life to attend a cultural festival again, I will come for Kukeri.

While a friend is in Sofia, I am caring for her cat. Bulgarian domestic cats are wilder than most in America. While American cats are scared if they are feral, Bulgarian cats can be vicious. Of course, I am generalizing. Costa is often a sweet cat, but he will turn on you and attack without warning. He also makes noises that I have not heard from any domesticated cat. I fed him this morning and he rubbed up against me, purring. when I petted him, he was receptive and happy, but then suddenly attacked my hand with an unexpected ferocity and hissed. Scary. From such a little creature, too...