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Bulgarian Lifestyle

In order to understand Bulgaria, one must discover the daily life, the way of living based on fundamental values of the society: the importance of the family, strong friendships, warm hospitality, the major role of customs and traditional holidays. From another side, other elements come complement the way of living and its functioning. In fact, the festive social life, the big events breaking out of the everyday living, permits the country to construct the relational and community character of its personality. Finally, the importance of food illustrates the Bulgarian proverb: “A hungry bear doesn’t dance.” Though it may seem simple, cuisine is a true gastronomy of the land marrying profusion, quality and taste, accompanied by the ‘divine’ drink – wine.


Bulgarian flavours
The Bulgarian cuisine reflects the geography and history of the country. Situated between the East and West, it’s a mix of Thracian, Slavic, Greek, Oriental and traditional local tastes. It respects the seasonality and the agricultural riches of the country: lots of vegetables, soups and all kinds of salads. For meat, extremely present in the Bulgarian diet, pork is the most consumed followed by chicken and lamb. In terms of beef, it is very rarely used in the specialties. Freshwater fish is also used to embellish certain meals. An important place is accorded to spices and aromatic herbs such as the famous tchoubritsa. Two families of cheeses can also be distinguished (sirene– a type of Bulgarian feta and kachkaval – a yellow cheese, a type of emmental) which are important parts of the composition of a large number of salads. Finally, you can taste the famous kiselo mliako (Bulgarian yogurt). It’s unduplicated taste and freshness, its uniqueness is due to the bacteria Lactobacillius bulgaricus which is only found in Bulgaria. Don’t be surprised to find pots of 500g since that is the classic format. Finally, for breakfast the unbeatable banitsa (puff pastry with sirene) is essential. Accompany it with inimitable boza (type of cereal) or simply a glass of aïrian (yogurt diluted with lightly salted water).

  • Appetisers – En général les entrées se composent de salades, charcuteries et soupes. Les salades les plus consommées sont la chopska (tomates, concombres, oignons et siréné rapé ; en rajoutant du jambon, des œufs durs et des poivrons, elle devient ovtcharska – salade des bergers), mechena (tomates et concombres), pétchéni tchouchki (poivrons grillés), snejanka (concombres, ail, yaourt égoutté et aneth), kiopohou (caviar d’aubergines et de poivrons), rouska (salade russe composée de mayonnaise, pommes de terre, jambon, petits poids, carottes). Les salades s’accompagnent en général de rakia (eau de vie) et plus rarement de mastika (sorte de pastis). Les soupes font partie intégrante des entrées bulgares. Elles sont servies généralement dans des plats en terre cuite décorés. Vous apprécierez particulièrement le tarator (soupe froide à base de yaourt dilué, de concombre, d’ail et d’aneth), pilechka (soupe au poulet), bob tchorba (soupe aux haricots) ou plus surprenant la chkembe tchorba (soupe aux tripes). Tout comme les salades, il conviendra d’assaisonner vous-même votre soupe avec les aromates à disposition (piment, huile, vinaigre, poivre et sel) Les bulgares sont friands de charcuterie, avec un large choix de saucisses et saucissons aromatisées. On peut citer la loukanka et la pastarma.
  • Main courses – Two main categories can be distinguished: grilled meats and simmered casseroles. “Grandmother’s specialities” make up the charm of the Bulgarian cuisine. Slowly simmered in terra cotta pots, these dishes vary as a function of the region. We find kavarma (oven-cooked meat and vegetables), guvetch (a type of goulash), moussaka (with potatoes and not aubergines like in Greece), sarmi (a type of dolma, composed of meat and rice and wrapped in grape or cabbage leaves).
  • The desserts – The desserts, not very numerous, have an Oriental influence like baklava (puff pastry sheets with walnuts and honey), kadaïf (a type of vermicelli cake with syrup and walnuts) or of course halva (semolina flour cake and pistachios). Otherwise numerous cakes are proposed, cremes caramel, ice cream is very popular (sladoled), crepes, fruits and of course Bulgarian yogurt.
  • Drinks – Bulgarians appreciate coffee, especially in the mornings, as well as home-made infusions. You will find a large variety of mineral water, sparkling or not, coming from the numerous natural sources of the country. The most consumed are those of Devin, Hissaria and Gorna Bania. Oenology is the science that dates back thousands of years in Bulgaria. The grape growing and wine producing traditions have a strong base. Aside from the French grape varieties which form a major part of the exports (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay…), the local varieties give character to the Bulgarian wine (Mavroud, Pamid, Gamza, Misket …). The wines are of good quality but you must make your own make up mind about your preferences by testing the wines from different regions. Bulgaria equally produces beer of high quality and at a good price. The most popular marks are the blond beers Kamenitza and Zagorka. Mastika is an anis flavoured aperitif which can be drunk diluted with water. Finally, the favourite alcohol of the Bulgarians remains rakia (eau de vie). It is surprising to see that it is often drunk with appetizers, most notably the famous shopska salad. There exist two principal types of rakia, one with a plum base (slivova), which is more flavourful, and that obtained from grapes (grozdova), which is drier. In the first category, the most reputable is the “Slivenska Perla” of Sliven and for the second the “Alambik” of the town of Pomorié. Raise your glass with your Bulgarian friends while looking them in the eyes and with them Nazdrave (cheers).


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Customs
Festivals are very important in the eyes of the Bulgarians. They are not only a part of their cultural heritage, but equally determine their way of living which is modelled on a calendar rich in events. Certain rituals are inspired by popular belief; others are defined by the Orthodox religion. In that order, you must know that the Bulgarians attach a strong importance to the patrimonial festivals and thus all the days are an occasion to get together. A source of joy and an occasion to meet, the Bulgarian festivals have survived the turbulence of time. They are fully inscribed in the framework of traditional life, and constitute the reflection of a unique and seductive art of living. To give you an idea pf the busy daily life of the Bulgarians, consult the calendar of Bulgarian festivities.


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Leisure
La Bulgarie, bien que de petite taille, produit de nombreux sportifs de haut niveau, héritage de la période communiste durant laquelle le sport a été fortement développé. Aujourd’hui encore les Bulgares y consacrent beaucoup de temps. Ils y voient un moyen d’affûter leur esprit de compétition et de tisser des liens sociaux. Leurs aînés se sont illustrés dans certains sports collectifs (tels que le football et le volley-ball) et dans certaines disciplines individuelles (telles que l’haltérophilie, la lutte, le saut en hauteur, …). Après l’effort, le réconfort. Les gens se retrouvent tous les jours entre amis. Que ce soit chez les voisins ou en ville, au resto ou en discothèque, au musée ou au ciné, la convivialité est toujours au programme. L’amitié est, par conséquent, la pierre angulaire de la société bulgare. Enfin, à côté des choses tangibles, ne négligez pas l’immatériel. C’est l’art de vivre à la bulgare qui donnera de la consistance et de l’authenticité à votre voyage. Laissez vous surprendre, prenez le temps de découvrir l’âme du peuple, afin de vous forger votre propre opinion sur ce pays.


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