Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | November 18, 2012

Fall 2012: A Bulgarian blur

Bulgarian dancing (after drinking, of couse).

Bulgarian dancing (after drinking, of course).

I’ve had several blog-worthy experiences this fall, yet haven’t written as often as last year. Why?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot and haven’t completely sorted it out. Part of it, I guess, is the workload. Last year I was teaching one class, so I wasn’t as busy. And everything — EVERYTHING — was new. I’m teaching three classes this fall and our lives are a little more ordinary. Well, ordinary in an extraordinary sort of way.

We went caving with friends in Romania, we visited the Black Sea cities of Varna, Burgas and Sozopol. In Varna, we stayed at what had to be one of Bulgaria’s finest hotels (Graffit Hotel).

We had friends from Paris visit over our fall break . We went climbing in Bansko in search of a lake (which we eventually found), visited Rila Monestary again (and savored one of our favorite guilty pleasures, the “Happy Donuts.”) We also took our pals to a traditional Bulgarian “tavern,” drank rakia and danced with all the locals. Then it was off to Sofia for shopping, more eating, more drinking, more dancing and — whoosh — they were gone.

After we returned to Blagoevgrad and were getting ready to grind it out until the end of the semester (lots of grading, lots of prep work, lots of planning for next semester) we bumped into a group of (mostly) Italian opera singers. They stumbled in off the street to a restaurant where Melody and I were eating. It was immediately apparent these were not Bulgarians. They were loud, artsy, lively, animated — and speaking, mostly, Italian with a little English mixed in. We were so surprised to see them and delighted when they sat down next to us.

We struck up a conversation with them. Turns out they were in Blago to rehearse for a 16-show tour in Belgium and the Netherlands. They came here because the space was cheap, the accommodations were cheap — and the orchestra, made up of Bulgarians from Sofia, Varna, Plovdiv and elsewhere — were also less expensive than a comparable Western or Northern European orchestra.

Before the night was out, we had befriended the maestro — the very lively Dirk Vermeulen — and our plans for “work” went awry. We went out for dinner on several nights with either Dirk or the rest of the gang. Ate late, drank much and laughed a bunch. It was the kind of diversion that could have only happened here. I mean, would we notice a group like this in Minnesota? Perhaps. Would we have butted into their evening meal? Not likely. But here? Oh, absolutely.

By the time they left (Friday morning), we had enjoyed their visit, seen their opera (Così fan tutte) and enjoyed with deep appreciation the pleasure of their company.

So, you see, I just haven’t had much to write about this fall. Maybe the winter will provide more fodder.

Marie Deschamps, husband Stephane Chiche and brother Benjamin Deschamps savoring fresh banitsa.

Melody Gilbert and Marie Deschamps, happy after Happy Donut stop near the Rila Monestary.

Stephane Chiche, goofing around near Bansko.


  1. As a second child, I can’t help but think that your second year in Bulgaria is like a second child. It’s starting to feel normal and you look at everything as being pretty familiar and homey. Because it feels comfortable to you, you figure it doesn’t warrant reporting on the ol’ blog… Just a thought.

    Miss you two a lot, as always, and am planning a visit once I get settled in Ames. See you soon!

  2. Oh yeahhh!!! Mexana and banitsa…. Life can’t get much sweeter! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: