All Posts by Darina

About the Author

My name is Darina and I'm a Bulgarian. I'm one of the creators of, which was launched a few years ago. Since then and to this day I am working on creating interactive, modern-day resources to help you learn Bulgarian.

May 09

Bulgarian Currency

By Darina | Culture , History


The official currency in Bulgaria is the Bulgarian lev (лев, plural: лева). It is usually abbreviated “лв.”. The name comes from an archaic form of the word “lion”. One lev equals 100 stotinki (стотинкa, plural: стотинки). The code of the currency according to the international standard is BGN.

History of the Bulgarian lev

The lev was accepted as a Bulgarian currency in 1880 after the country’s liberation from the reign of the Ottoman empire. At the beginning it was not accepted well by Bulgarians. The reason was that During the Ottoman reign and the revolution that followed the generally known currency was gold coins and Russian rublas. The people were distrusting paper money.

The first World War brought inflation in a lot of European countries and Bulgaria was not an exception. The country produced more money in order to pay for the army’s needs and as a result, by the end of the war the Bulgarian lev’s value was 14 times less than before the war.

The Bulgarian bank pegged the lev to the US dollar in order to cope with the inflation. However, when the Big Depression hit the inflation of the lev continued. After 9th of September’s coup in 1944 when the communist party took over, the inflation became uncontrollable and the national bank was forced to issue banknotes which were not backed by gold or silver.

After the second World War, due to a few more money reforms and denomination of the currency, the lev was finally stabilised. The end of the Communist regime in 1989, however, brought several periods of drastic inflation which devalued the lev considerably. This lead to pegging the lev to the Deutsche Mark, with 1000 lev equaling to 1 DM. On 5th of July 1999, the lev was again redenominated at 1000:1 ,making 1 lev equal to 1 DM. With the change of the Deutsche Mark to Euro, the course was left untouched making 1 Euro equal to 1.95 leva.

The Faces on the Banknotes

1 lev Saint John of Rila (Ivan Rilski) is displayed on the one lev banknote. He was the first Bulgarian hermit, pronounced as a saint while still alive. In his honour the beautiful Rila Monastery was build. Note that this banknote was replaced by a coin.

2 leva The 2 leva note is graced by Paisius of Hilendar (Paisii Hilendarski). He is the author of Istoriya Slavyanobulgarskaya, one of the first Bulgarian history books which kindled the Bulgarian national revival.

5 leva Ivan Milev is maybe the least known of all banknote faces. He was a painter and scenographer, representative of Bulgarian modernism.

10 bulgarian levs 20  bulgarian levs

10 leva Petar Beron is a Bulgarian educator known for creating the first Bulgarian primer. The “Fish primer” had a picture of a dolphin on its cover, from where the name erroneously came.

20 leva Stefan Stambolov is a Bulgarian politician who served as Prime Minister. He had nationalistic views and launched a foreign policy which aimed independence for Bulgaria from the interests of any great power.

50 bulgarian levs 100 bulgarian levs

50 leva Pencho Slaveykov was a famous Bulgarian poet.

100 leva Aleko Konstantinov was a famous Bulgarian writer. His most notable character, Bay Ganyo is a collective character of everything that was ridiculous in the Bulgarian culture at the time.

The Lev and the Euro

Bulgaria’s current political goal to join the Euro Union includes adopting the Euro currency by 2015. This, of course, means the Bulgarian lev’s existence will end then too.

The motif for the new Bulgarian euro coins will be the Madara Rider. The Rider is a large rock carving on the Madara Plateau, dated about 710 AD. It is believed to be created by the Thracians and is part of the Unesco World Heritage list.

Nov 28

Bulgarian Macaroni Dessert

By Darina | Cuisine

bulgarian-macaroni-dessert-featuredHere is a little something for a lazy winter afternoon. The following dessers is very easy to make and is delicious. I think it is very interesting, because it is made of pasta. It is, I believe, contemporary Bulgarian cuisine. I haven’t research its roots but I think they did not have it 100 years ago.

In Bulgaria, we used to call all kinds of pasta “macaroni” (макарони), but recently the word “pasta” (паста) is more and more used due to the western influence. However, note that if you speak to an older person in Bulgaria and use the word “pasta” (паста), they might think you mean a layered cake. So, here it is:

The best sort of pasta for this dessert is penne. However it works with any kind. It only gets awkward if the pasta is too big or too long. On the pictures, I’ve used tagliatelle.

bulgarian-macaroni-dessertIngredients (Bulgarian in italics*):

  • 1/2 package (500 g) pasta   макарони
  • 50 g butter   масло
  • 500 ml milk   мляко
  • 4 eggs   яйца
  • 1 package vanilla   ванилия
  • 5-6 Tbsp sugar (or more if you prefer it sweeter)   захар
  1. macaroni-dessert-piecePreheat oven to 180 C
  2. Boil the pasta, according to the instructions on the packet. Drain.
  3. While the pasta is hot, add the butter and let it melt from the heat.
  4. Add a few tablespoons of sugar and mix.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix together the milk, eggs, vanilla and the rest of the sugar.
  6. Pour the pasta in a baking tin or casserole and add the egg and milk mixture. Make sure all pasta is covered.
  7. Bake until all the liquid is solid and the top is golden.
* Can’t read Bulgarian? Join QuickStart Bulgarian now!
Aug 30

Studying Bulgarian with a Story: Little Red Riding Hood

By Darina | Learning

Studying words, phrases and basic grammar is a great way to start learning Bulgarian. However, if you are already more advanced in the language, you can increase your vocabulary and get more used to the way Bulgarian sounds by listening and reading stories.

It took me a while to discover stories that are freely available in both English and Bulgarian, and have Bulgarian audio versions. But my research showed that most famous fairy tales have an Audio version in Bulgarian. Also, the translation to Bulgarian is quite close to the English texts, which makes it the perfect study tool.

So let’s start with the first tale. The brother Grimm’s Little Red Riding Hood.

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Червената шапчица

Имало някога едно малко сладко момиченце. Всеки го обиквал от пръв поглед, но най-много го обичала баба му, която всеки път се чудела какво да даде на детето. Веднъж му подарила шапчица от червено кадифе, която му стояла тъй хубаво, че то не искало да носи друга и затова хората почнали да го наричат Червената шапчица.

Един ден майка му рекла:

— Червена шапчице, ето ти малко козунак и едно шише вино. Занеси ги на баба си, защото тя е болна и немощна и трябва да се подкрепи. Тръгни, докато слънцето не е почнало да прежуря, върви мирно и тихо и не се отбивай от пътя, защото може да паднеш, да строшиш шишето и да оставиш баба си без вино. А щом влезеш в стаята й, недей забравя да поздравиш с „Добро утро“ и не любопитствувай да видиш какво става край тебе.

— Ще направя всичко така, както ми поръча, мамо — рекла Червената шапчица и подала ръчичка на майка си за сбогом.

Бабата живеела чак в гората, на половин час път от селото. И когато Червената шапчица навлязла в гората, срещнал я вълкът. Но Червената шапчица не знаела, че той е свиреп звяр, и затова никак не се изплашила.

— Добър ден, Червена шапчице — рекъл той.

— Добър ден, Кумчо Вълчо.

— Къде си се запътила рано-рано, Червена шапчице?

— У баба.

— Какво носиш в престилката?

— Козунак и вино. Козунака месихме вчера за болната ми и немощна баба — да похапне и да се подкрепи.

— Къде живее баба ти, Червена шапчице?

— Още четвърт час път навътре в гората: къщата й е под трите високи дъба, а малко по-надолу е лещакът, сигурно го знаеш — рекла Червената шапчица.

„Малкото и крехко момиченце е добра хапка, сигурно е по-вкусно от старицата — рекъл си на ума вълкът, — но трябва да подхвана хитро работата, та да излапам и двете.“

Повървял малко редом с Червената шапчица, а после рекъл:

— Червена шапчице, я виж какви хубави цветя има наоколо! Защо не поглеждаш какво става край тебе? Струва ми се дори, че не чуваш как сладко пеят птичките. Вървиш право напред, като че си тръгнала на училище, а тука, в гората, е толкова весело!

Дигнала очи Червената шапчица, видяла как слънчевите лъчи се провират игриво Между листата на дърветата и как земята е осеяна с хубави цветя и си рекла: „Ще зарадвам баба, ако й занеса китка свежи цветя; още е толкова рано, че пак ще стигна навреме“.

Отбила се от пътя и влязла в гората да подири цветя; но щом откъснела някое, зървала по-надалеко друго още по-хубаво, спускала се към него и така навлизала все по-навътре и по-навътре в гората.

А вълкът отишъл право към къщата на бабата и похлопал на вратата.

Кой е там?

— Аз съм, бабо, Червената шапчица, нося ти козунак и вино. Отвори!

— Натисни ръчката! — викнала бабата. — Съвсем без сили съм, не мога да стана от леглото.

Натиснал вълкът ръчката, вратата се отворила и той, без дума да продума, отишъл право към леглото на бабата и я нагълтал цяла. После облякъл нейни дрехи, сложил нейна домашна шапчица на главата си, мушнал се в леглото и дръпнал завесата пред него.

А Червената шапчица все тичала за цветя и когато набрала толкова много, че не могла да носи повече, сетила се за баба си и отново се запътила към нея. Позачудила се, че вратата е отворена, а като влязла в стаята, всичко вътре й се сторило някак странно, та си помислила: „Друг път ми е толкова приятно у баба, а днес, кой знае защо, ми става страшно!“

— Добро утро! — викнала тя, но никой не й отговорил.

Отишла тогава до леглото и дръпнала завесата. Бабата лежала в леглото, но била нахлупила шапчицата ниско над лицето си и имала много чудноват вид.

— Ой, бабо, колко са ти големи ушите!

— Да те чувам по-лесно.

— Ой, бабо, колко са ти големи очите!

— Да те виждам по-лесно.

— Ой, бабо, колко са ти големи ръцете!

— Да те сграбча по-лесно.

— Ой, бабо, колко е голяма устата ти!

— Да те изям по-лесно.

Още не издумал всичко, скочил вълкът изведнъж от леглото и нагълтал клетата Червена шапчица цяла-целеничка.

Уталожил вълкът глада си, мушнал се пак в леглото, заспал и захъркал тъй силно, че се чувало чак навън. Точно по това време край къщата минал един ловец и си рекъл: „Старицата хърка много силно, трябва да видя да не й се е случило нещо лошо“. Влязъл в стаята, спрял се до леглото и видял в него вълка.

— Тук ли трябваше да те намеря, стари злосторнико? — викнал той. — Отдавна те диря.

Дигнал пушката и се прицелил, но му минало през ума, че вълкът може да е нагълтал бабата и едва ли ще му се удаде да я спаси. Не гръмнал, ами взел една ножица и почнал да разпаря търбуха на вълка. Като го поразпорил малко, пред очите му светнала Червената шапчица; рязнал още малко и ето че момиченцето изскочило и рекло:

— Ой, колко бях се изплашила! В корема на вълка беше ужасно тъмно.

После излязла жива и бабата, но едва-едва дишала. Червената шапчица донесла няколко едри камъни и напълнили с тях търбуха на вълка. Събудил се той след малко, рекъл да скочи от леглото и да побегне, но камъните били толкова тежки, че той се строполил на земята, пребил се и умрял.

Зарадвали се тримата много. Ловецът одрал кожата на вълка и си отишъл у дома, бабата изяла козунака и изпила виното, които й била донесла Червената шапчица, и се подкрепила, а Червената шапчица си рекла: „Докато съм жива друг път няма вече да се отбивам от пътеката и да навлизам в гората, щом мама не ми позволява“.

Някои разправят, че веднъж Червената шапчица пак тръгнала да носи нещо печено на старата си баба, заговорил я друг вълк и искал да я отбие от пътя. Но Червената шапчица не го послушала, продължила все напред и казала на баба си, че я срещнал вълк и й рекъл „добър ден“, но в очите му святкала злоба.

— Ако не бяхме на главния път, сигурно щеше да ме изяде.

— Ела да заключим вратата, та да не може да влезе — рекла бабата.

След малко вълкът похлопал и викнал:

— Бабо, отвори! Аз съм, Червената шапчица, нося ти нещо печенко.

Ала двете се спотайвали вътре и не отворили вратата. Повъртял се сивокожият звяр около къщата, повъртял се, па накрая скочил на покрива: решил да почака, докато привечер Червената шапчица тръгне за дома си, та да се примъкне подире й и да я изяде в тъмното. Ала бабата разбрала какво си е наумил.

Пред къщата имало голямо каменно корито и бабата рекла на момиченцето:

— Червена шапчице, вчера варих наденици. Вземи ведрото и излей водата от тях в коритото!

Носила Червената шапчица вода, носила, докато напълнила голямото, много голямо корито чак догоре. Миризмата от надениците блъснала вълка в носа, той почнал да души и да гледа надолу, и накрая вратът му се източил и станал толкова дълъг, че вълкът не можел вече да се задържи и почнал да се пързаля. Плъзнал се от покрива, паднал право в голямото каменно корито и се удавил.

И после Червената шапчица тръгнала весело назад към къщи и никой не й сторил нищо лошо.

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Little Red Riding Hood

Once upon a time there was a dear little girl who was loved by everyone who looked at her, but most of all by her grandmother, and there was nothing that she would not have given to the child. Once she gave her a little riding hood of red velvet, which suited her so well that she would never wear anything else; so she was always called ‘Little Red Riding Hood.’

One day her mother said to her: ‘Come, Little Red Riding Hood, here is a piece of cake and a bottle of wine; take them to your grandmother, she is ill and weak, and they will do her good. Set out before it gets hot, and when you are going, walk nicely and quietly and do not run off the path, or you may fall and break the bottle, and then your grandmother will get nothing; and when you go into her room, don’t forget to say, “Good morning”, and don’t peep into every corner before you do it.’

‘I will take great care,’ said Little Red Riding Hood to her mother, and gave her hand on it.

The grandmother lived out in the wood, half a league from the village, and just as Little Red Riding Hood entered the wood, a wolf met her. Red Riding Hood did not know what a wicked creature he was, and was not at all afraid of him.

‘Good day, Little Red Riding Hood,’ said he.

‘Thank you kindly, wolf.’

‘Whither away so early, Little Red Riding Hood?’

‘To my grandmother’s.’

‘What have you got in your apron?’

‘Cake and wine; yesterday was baking-day, so poor sick grandmother is to have something good, to make her stronger.’

‘Where does your grandmother live, Little Red Riding Hood?’

‘A good quarter of a league farther on in the wood; her house stands under the three large oak-trees, the nut-trees are just below; you surely must know it,’ replied Little Red Riding Hood.

The wolf thought to himself: ‘What a tender young creature! what a nice plump mouthful – she will be better to eat than the old woman. I must act craftily, so as to catch both.’

So he walked for a short time by the side of Little Red Riding Hood, and then he said: ‘See, Little Red Riding Hood, how pretty the flowers are about here – why do you not look round? I believe, too, that you do not hear how sweetly the little birds are singing; you walk gravely along as if you were going to school, while everything else out here in the wood is merry.’

Little Red Riding Hood raised her eyes, and when she saw the sunbeams dancing here and there through the trees, and pretty flowers growing everywhere, she thought: ‘Suppose I take grandmother a fresh nosegay; that would please her too. It is so early in the day that I shall still get there in good time.’

So she ran from the path into the wood to look for flowers. And whenever she had picked one, she fancied that she saw a still prettier one farther on, and ran after it, and so got deeper and deeper into the wood.

Meanwhile the wolf ran straight to the grandmother’s house and knocked at the door.

‘Who is there?’

‘Little Red Riding Hood,’ replied the wolf. ‘She is bringing cake and wine; open the door.’

‘Lift the latch,’ called out the grandmother, ‘I am too weak, and cannot get up.’

The wolf lifted the latch, the door sprang open, and without saying a word he went straight to the grandmother’s bed, and devoured her. Then he put on her clothes, dressed himself in her cap, laid himself in bed and drew the curtains.

Little Red Riding Hood, however, had been running about picking flowers, and when she had gathered so many that she could carry no more, she remembered her grandmother, and set out on the way to her.

She was surprised to find the cottage-door standing open, and when she went into the room, she had such a strange feeling that she said to herself: ‘Oh dear! how uneasy I feel today, and at other times I like being with grandmother so much.’ She called out: ‘Good morning,’ but received no answer; so she went to the bed and drew back the curtains. There lay her grandmother with her cap pulled far over her face, and looking very strange.

‘Oh! grandmother,’ she said, ‘what big ears you have!’

‘All the better to hear you with, my child,’ was the reply.

‘But, grandmother, what big eyes you have!’ she said.

‘All the better to see you with, my dear.’

‘But, grandmother, what large hands you have!’

‘All the better to hug you with.’

‘Oh! but, grandmother, what a terrible big mouth you have!’

‘All the better to eat you with!’

And scarcely had the wolf said this, than with one bound he was out of bed and swallowed up Red Riding Hood.

When the wolf had appeased his appetite, he lay down again in the bed, fell asleep and began to snore very loud.

The huntsman was just passing the house, and thought to himself: ‘How the old woman is snoring! I must just see if she wants anything.’ So he went into the room, and when he came to the bed, he saw that the wolf was lying in it.

‘Do I find you here, you old sinner!’ said he. ‘I have long sought you!’ But just as he was going to fire at him, it occurred to him that the wolf might have devoured the grandmother, and that she might still be saved, so he did not fire, but took a pair of scissors, and began to cut open the stomach of the sleeping wolf.

When he had made two snips, he saw the little red riding hood shining, and then he made two snips more, and the little girl sprang out, crying: ‘Ah, how frightened I have been! How dark it was inside the wolf.’

After that the aged grandmother came out alive also, but scarcely able to breathe. Red Riding Hood, however, quickly fetched great stones with which they filled the wolf’s belly, and when he awoke, he wanted to run away, but the stones were so heavy that he collapsed at once, and fell dead.

Then all three were delighted. The huntsman drew off the wolf’s skin and went home with it; the grandmother ate the cake and drank the wine which Red Riding Hood had brought, and revived. But Red Riding Hood thought to herself: ‘As long as I live, I will never leave the path by myself to run into the wood, when my mother has forbidden me to do so.’

It is also related that once, when Red Riding Hood was again taking cakes to the old grandmother, another wolf spoke to her, and tried to entice her from the path. Red Riding Hood, however, was on her guard, and went straight forward on her way, and told her grandmother that she had met the wolf, and that he had said ‘good morning’ to her, but with such a wicked look in his eyes, that if they had not been on the public road she was certain he would have eaten her up.

‘Well,’ said the grandmother, ‘we will shut the door, so that he can not come in.’

Soon afterwards the wolf knocked, and cried: ‘Open the door, grandmother, I am Little Red Riding Hood, and am bringing you some cakes.’

But they did not speak, or open the door, so the grey-beard stole twice or thrice round the house, and at last jumped on the roof, intending to wait until Red Riding Hood went home in the evening, and then to steal after her and devour her in the darkness. But the grandmother saw what was in his thoughts.

In front of the house was a great stone trough, so she said to the child: ‘Take the pail, Red Riding Hood; I made some sausages yesterday, so carry the water in which I boiled them to the trough.’

Red Riding Hood carried until the great trough was quite full. Then the smell of the sausages reached the wolf, and he sniffed and peeped down, and at last stretched out his neck so far that he could no longer keep his footing and began to slip, and slipped down from the roof straight into the great trough, and was drowned. But Red Riding Hood went joyously home, and no one ever did anything to harm her again.


Attribution: The audio version of the fairy tale is provided by

Mar 01

1st of March, Martenitsa and Baba Martha

By Darina | Culture

In Bulgaria, the first day of March is a national holiday. On this day Bulgarians share martenitsi as a symbol of sympathy and friendship, wishes of health and luck. The martenitsi are small ornaments made of thread which are always in red and white colors. The shape of the martenitsi can be different. It is often in the form of two people – a boy and a girl called Pizho and Penda. But the most comfortable shape is that of a red and white bracelet.



The holiday originates from pagan times when the Bulgarian tribes were worshiping Mars – the god of spring and war. In this sense, the symbolics of the two colors is the following: red is the color of blood which should not be spilled by wars and white is the face color of the women who are worried for their man when they go to war. The martenitsi are given as an amulet for mild spring weather that is kinder to the warriors.


However, there is also a more romantic explanation of the origin of this holiday.

The Legend of Khan Isperih

A long, long time ago khan Isperih left the Tibet mountains which were his home and started searching for a fruitful land for his people, the Bulgars. He passed trough a lot of places until finally, he reached the Slavic lands where he felt welcome. Slavic women in white clothes were serving him drinks and fruits of this blessed land. However the khan felt sad. He was missing his mother and his sister Khalina. He sat at the big river bank and great teardrops fell from his manly cheeks. His eyes rose upwards towards the gods in prayer. Then a miracle happened. A fast-winged swallow landed on his shoulder. Isperih shared his pain with the swallow and it flew to the lands where the Bulgars were. The swallow told Khalina with a human voice that her brother has a new kingdom and he is missing her.

Khalina was happy to hear from her brother and decided to send him a message. She made a small bouquet and tied it with a white wool thread with nods which were a greeting by the old Bulgars’ tradition. She sent the bouquet by the swallow. The bird flew as fast as a lightning and soon landed on Isperih’s shoulder. But from the long way the bird’s wing was slightly hurt and blood painted the white wool thread. The khan happily took the bouquet and read his sister’s greeting. He put the bouquet on his chest and the martenitsa started to shine. Then Isperih told his people each of them to tie a bouquet with white and red thread and on this day to wear it on his chest – for health and divine blessing. This happened on 1st of March and is still celebrated.

Baba Martha


There are other legends connected with the holiday. Baba Martha is a personification of the month March. The word “Baba” means “grandmother”. Baba Martha is a women and therefor her moods change often. When her mood is good, the sun shines and the spring weather is lovely. When Martha’s mood changes to bad, the cold winter comes back. Bulgarians often greet each other on 1st of march with the phrase “Chestita Baba Martha” or “Happy Baba Martha”.

There is an interesting tradition connected with Martha. Women choose one day in the month. They say, that whatever is the weather on the chosen day, such will be your character trough the whole year. So, ladies, be careful what you choose!

Chestita Baba Martha to all!

Oct 12

Winter in Bulgaria

By Darina | Travel

If you like to ski and snowboard, here are some great destinations in Bulgaria in which you can spend your winter holidays.


Photo by aneye4apicture via Flickr

Photo by aneye4apicture via Flickr

Borovets (a.k.a. Chamkoria) is a first class resort situated in the north flank of Rila mount. At the end of 19th century it was established as a hunting residence for the Bulgarian king. Since then, it has grown into the biggest winter sports resort in Bulgaria. Borovets has even hosted World Cup Alpine Skiing twice.

The town of Borovets has very good ski facilities. The ski runs are supplied with number of chair lifts and drag lifts. The resort has a snow making system, covering an area of above 20 hectares. The runs are sound-tracked and lit up by modern lighting systems, allowing night skiing. Variety of many different inclines and types of snow offer the best opportunities for ski enthusiasts of all levels, from the absolute beginner to the extreme high performer.

Altitude: 1350 m.
Distance from Sofia: 73 km.
Map:  Borovets, Route from Sofia
Season: all the time (winter for ski, summer for hiking)


Pamporovo is located in the heart of Rodopi mountain, at 1650 meters above sea level. The climate is very mild during the winter (annual average temperature 5.5 C). The resort has the biggest number of sunny days per year in comparison with all other mountain resorts in Bulgaria. The tourist season starts at December and continues until the end of April. Pamporovo is mainly winter resort, because it has been adapted mostly for ski sports.

Almost all ski-tracks start from the near Snejanka peak. The mountain peak is one of the One hundred national tourist sites of the Bulgarian Tourist Union.

Minolta DSC

Photo by ifot via Flickr

The resort is suitable for ski and snowboard, hiking, spa. Pamporovo provides activities for the children too – ski school and kindergarten.

Altitude: 1650 m.
Distance from Sofia: 260 km.
Map: Pamporovo, Route from Sofia
Season: mostly winter


The picturesque town is located in the north slope of Pirin mountain. As the climat is mountain-like there is abundance of snow from December till April.

Photo by Nacho y Adriana via Flickr

Photo by Nacho y Adriana via Flickr

The archeological traces date back to 100 BC and the period of the Roman Empire. However, what is most interesting for the tourists is the old town and its 18th century traditional Bulgarian style. The town was part of the Ottoman Empire and enjoyed a self-rule autonomy which made it prosperous. It is also famous with the first Protestant church in Bulgaria which was founded in 1868.

Today Bansko is an attractive resort for both summer and winter tourism. A new gondola lift starts from the town itself and rides up to the ski slopes of Todorka peak. The ski-tracks are suitable for all level skiers. Since the 2008-2009 season Bansko has been hosting the ladies’ races from the Alpine Skiing World Cup.

Recently, the town has gained international popularity because of the annual Bansko Jazz Festival.

Altitude: 925 m.
Distance from Sofia: 170 km.
Map: Bansko, Route from Sofia
Season: all the time (winter for ski, summer for hiking and village tourism)

Additional Information

If you don’t travel with a car, here is how you can get to one of the above mentioned resorts:

Once you land in Sofia, you can get a bus from the Central Bus Station. Tickets can be purchased there.

To find the perfect hotel, we advice you to check Tripadvisor.

Have fun!

Feb 25


By Darina | General


We are sorry we could not write lately but we’ve been very busy with the creation of the course. There is still quite some work left but we hope that we will be able to launch it in just a few weeks!

We will update you more on the progress these days. Until then, here is a little teaser:

Dec 22

Christmas in Bulgaria

By Darina | Cuisine , Culture , History

The Christmas time in Bulgaria is the time most full of traditions and rituals. Some of the typical Bulgarian rituals are very ancient and are not practiced nowadays. Also in the last decades some western traditions came into the Bulgarian culture. But generally, the Bulgarian Christmas looks like that:

The Old Tradition

Old BulgariansChristmas or Koleda started a lot earlier for the old Bulgarians. The Christmas fast was 40 days long and ended at 24th of December. Until the beginning of the 20th century this was a very strong tradition and every respectable Bulgarian was fasting the whole 40 days. There could be exception only for the children, pregnant women and old people (who could eat diary products).

On the picture above: how a Christmas celebration looked. Imagine it like that, just with some more dishes on the “table”. Source of the picture is the very interesting website

During the fast, it is not allowed to eat anything that comes from animals: meat, cheese, eggs, milk, butter, etc. An Exception is 6th of December, St. Nikola’s day when by tradition the whole family eats fish.

24th of December is called “Small Christmas” (Malka Koleda) or “Future Day” (Buhdni Vecher). At this day, the Christmas pig is killed, and the man of the family produces a big pear log (Buhdnik) which has to burn until Christmas day. It is believed that the pear log will protect the family from demoniacal creatures, which wander around at that time of the year. The ashes of the log are kept during the whole year.

The food at Small Christmas is meatless. Also, it is important that the number of dishes on the table are seven or nine. There are different symbolics connected with the number of dishes. Generally, seven is chosen because it is the perfect number of God, and nine symbolizes the months of pregnancy. In any case, the following dishes must be on the table:

  • Homemade bread (Pitka or Pita) – It is a bread made without eggs. In the Pitka dough, a coin is put and sometimes cornel-tree stick. If your piece contains the coin you will be rich during the next year, if a cornel-tree – you will be healthy.
  • Bean soup, or any other beanlike vegetables like peas, lentils, etc.
  • Honey – so that next year the life will be sweet.
  • Stuffed peppers or grape leaves with either beans or rise.
  • Nuts – by the quality of walnuts you can see how next year will be, nice or rotten.
  • Fruits – usually oranges, mandarines, bananas.
  • Boiled wheat with walnuts and sugar.
  • Tikvenik (Banitsa with pumpkin) – this is a dessert made with filo pastry, pumpkin, walnuts, sugar, cinnamon. There might be also another kind of banitsa on the table, that is with onions. In one of those banitsas, there might be small pieces of paper with wishes for the new year.
  • Oshav – this is a drink made by boiling dried plums and other dried fruits.

Another thing that has to be prepared for Christmas is some small pretzels. They are needed for the Koledars.

The Koledars are young men who go from door to door and sing songs for health and prosperity for the house. They start at midnight, and go around all the houses in the village. When they visit a home, they sing for every of the inhabitants, then for fruitfulness. They take the pretzels, sing some more ritual songs and proceed to the next house. Here’s how they look like:

The day before Christmas in Bulgaria has more traditions and rituals than the actual Christmas day. On 25th of December, the feast pig is being cooked. All the foods that were not allowed during the fast days are now prepared. Banitsa with cheese, poultry, the feast pig, sweets, etc.

The New Times

Nowadays, Bulgarians do not keep all the old traditions. However, the number and variety of dishes for Small Christmas is kept by most.

In older days the exchange of gifts was not a tradition, but it now is. All present are distributed at 25th December’s morning.

The western myth of Santa Claus (Diado Koleda) is widely spread among Bulgarian children. The advent calendars can be found in any shop, however, it is not a tradition to have one.

Diado MrazIt is, perhaps, interesting how the Santa Claus myth started in Bulgaria. During communist time, when Bulgaria did not have much contact with non-socialistic countries, the belief of Diado Mraz or literally “Grandpha Frost” came from Russia. It was an equivalent of Santa Claus, just with a long red coat that reached his ankles instead a short red jacket. Later on, when Bulgaria stopped being a communistic country, the Santa’s name and coat changed a bit.

The Christmas tree tradition came in the Beginning of the 20th century. Nowadays all Bulgarians have a decorated tree at home during the Christmas times, which usually stays until New Year’s eve or beyond.

This is, in short, how the Christmas holidays are celebrated in Bulgaria. There is a lot written about the traditions, but we hope that people in Bulgaria and abroad do not forget the true meaning of the Christmas holiday. The celebration of God’s endless mercy:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16)

Some Bulgarian Holiday Vocabulary

Merry Christmas!
Весела Коледа!
Vesela Koleda!

Happy New Year!
Честита Нова Година!
Chestita Nova Godina!

Merry Holidays!
Весели празници!
Veseli praznitsi!

I wish you all the best for the new year!
Пожелавам ти всичко най-хубаво през новата година!
Pozhelavam ti vsichko naii-hoobavo prez novata godina!

Christmas present
Коледен подарък
Koleden Podaruhk

Christmas tree
Коледно дърво
Koledno duhrvo

The team wishes you a Very Merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year! Cheers!

Dec 09

Baked Pumpkin – a tale by Elin Pelin

By Darina | Culture

pumpkinThe following short story is written by one of the most famous Bulgarian authors – Elin Pelin. His stories are both touching and funny and his style is generally very amusing.

The original text of the story can be found here.

Baked Pumpkin by Elin Pelin

When Goody Goodfellow, filing clerk in the local government, once went to the house of the director to bring some documents for signing he found him eating with his wife and children a pumpkin, baked whole into the oven.

When the director signed the documents he cut a small piece of the pumpkin and politely offered it to his clerk:

- Here you are, mister Goody, so you see what a wonderful pumpkin! It is just a bit over baked, but it is good. You will excuse us. – Oh, thank you, thank you, mister director! Said the clerk with embarrassment – I, uh… don’t like pumpkin. How so? You are from the countryside, how come you don’t like pumpkin!

Goody was feeling unpleasant when he was reminded, voluntarily or not, that he is from the countryside. He reddened because of his shame.

- Yes but, my stomach, you know, mister director, has fallen out of habit from such things – he answered, as he was nodding head and frowning face.

In spite of himself, his eyes flickered over the sugar-coated slice of pumpkin with reddened and temptingly baked core and saliva gathered in his throat. He didn’t dare to swallow from fear that they will understand his weakness.

- Come on, take, don’t be shy! – the director was politely inviting him – I haven’t put pumpkin into my mouth for so many years and still my stomach accepts it! – I cannot, mister director, it is unpleasant for my stomach, I can’t even taste it! – said Goody and thought: Look, what a fool I am, I should have taken!

And so as not to stand before the temptation, he bowed humbly, said “goodbye”, and walked away.

When he found himself on the street, he freely swallowed his saliva and reproached himself again.

- I am a fool and so it is! “If they chase you – run, if they give you – take”* but, ah, where is my head?

And Goody hit his head with a finger disapprovingly. The delicious piece of pumpkin appeared again in front of his eyes – nice, warm, sweet and with slim tempting steam soaring over it.

- Actually, if there is something I love most in the world, it is baked pumpkin – he started speculating, as he was walking on the street with his head bent down. – I eat them like a pig. But only if their bloody name was not so! Pumpkin! Sounds somehow vulgar, damn it! Silly, rustic thing! It will be said: this one eats pumpkin – get him out – a person without culture, a simpleton, to sum it out – a pig. Some day I will go to the countryside, and I will eat only pumpkins! Far away from people!

And his imagination started putting in front of him only pumpkins – sweet, nice and aromatic.

From this day on, Goody Goodfellow became restless and nervous. The ghost of the baked pumpkin started haunting him.

He sits in the office to work but the thought keeps gnawing him. He writes something, writes to be done for. But it seems to him that the quill, which scratches speedily on the book is whispering to him: pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin…

If he argues with someone of his mates in the office, he will immediately call him either “baked pumpkin” or “what are you reddening like a baked pumpkin”” or “look at you, what a drunkard you are – steam is soaring from your head like from a baked pumpkin!”.

At night, when he falls asleep, the tormenting ghost of the pumpkin comes again. In a dream he sees a field, but not just a field! Long, wide, the end of it is out of sight! And those baked pumpkins have rolled on the field and over each of them sweet steam is soaring! Goody walks trough that field, looks at the pumpkins and wants to take, but when he bends down, the pumpkin disappears. He walks again. On a field, but not a field – some sort of office, more or less wide! There somewhere a huge pumpkin appears and starts rolling towards him and grows, grows, becomes as big as house, as church, as mountain, bigger and it starts to roll faster and faster towards him. Goody is scared and runs, and runs, his feet grow shorter and shorter. The monster pumpkin catches him and throws itself on him.

The clerk trembles and wakes up, wet from sweat.

This dream starts tormenting him every night.

One evening the clerks from the governmental office had a feast.

They baked giuvetch** in Muddy the restaurant keeper and gathered to have some fun. They had made the dish spicy in order to drink more wine. There, of course, the clerk was invited too.

Wine, speeches, songs! Love songs, patriotic songs, whatever you wish. Then they drank for the health. They drank for the health of the director, with a condition “not to be told”, of course, for the fair sex in the city, for the glory of Bulgaria, for the king, for the Bulgarian nation, for the flees in the office, etc.

Eventually mister Goody got up, put himself on a chair, cleared his throat and raised his cup with inspiration.

- Gentlemen, honorable gathering, workmates, good friends of mine!

But between those effusions, in his mind unceremoniously appeared that awful baked pumpkin, which was following him all the time and in his head was mixing the files of ideas, gathered in fourteen years of service.

Goody made an effort to go on. He made a strong gesture with a hand and as he stretched it towards the low ceiling, held it up for several minutes officially, with eyes set on his mates in an inspired manner.

- At equal speed, to put it that way… partly… more or less…

But the pumpkin rolled again in the river of his thoughts. Goody felt absolutely weak. He relaxed his hand, turned towards his mates and started speaking with a soft, full of emotion and gentle voice, far away from the orator’s pathos.

- You know what, gentleman, let’s bake a pumpkin some day! Just like that – as mates. It doesn’t cost God knows how much! And we can have some fun again.

For short there was silence. Then all cried “Horay” and Muddy’s restaurant burst with applause.

- Accepted – Accepted! – Right this evening! – cried a voice. – Acepteeeeed!

And within five minutes they made a list, gathered some money, bought a pumpkin and sent it to the bakery. Goody sinked into happy thoughts.

After around an hour when the pumpkin was ready he wished to bring it himself and went.


Just when he was going back with the tray on which the baked pumpkin was carrying aroma around, in the darkness he was met by the director.

- A-a, mister Goody! – he addressed him. – But you baked a pumpkin!… I am glad, I am! As it seems your stomach is already well!

Goody swallowed his tongue and couldn’t say anything.

When he brought in the pumpkin to his mates, they all noticed that he was pale as a dead man.

- What’s wrong with you? – they asked in astonishment. – I don’t feel so well! – answered Goody and then relaxed feebly on a chair in the corner and stayed there dark and numb. Lost in some dark thoughts he even didn’t look at his mates, which were eating the sweet pumpkin with zest and joy. – Goody, take brother – they invited him. – I want not to eat – he answered sad and sorrowful and added whiningly – I don’t feel well, I feel very sick, boys!… It’s the end of the world…—

* A Bulgarian saying ** A traditional dish made of baked vegetables

The original names of the heroes in the story are changed. They are translated according to their meaning:

Goody Goodfellow – Dushko Dobrodushkov; Muddy – Kalcho

Oct 28

Moussaka – a traditional Bulgarian meal

By Darina | Cuisine

Moussaka is the kind of dish which every Bulgarian housewife knows how to make and is also available in every respectable bulgarian restaurant. If you want to try yourself this popular Bulgarian dish, you can by following the recipe below:

Bulgarian Moussaka

What you need:

  • 500gr. chopped meat (pork, beef or mixed)
  • 1 kg potatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 tbs all purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • Salt, pepper, parsley, savory

How to prepare:

  • Cut the potatoes in squares
  • Chop the onion
  • Mix the onions, potatoes and meat into a baking pot
  • Add the spices and the vegetable oil
  • Cover the ingredients with water
  • Bake in 200 degrees until the potatoes are ready
  • Mix the milk, eggs and flour into a bowl
  • Take the ready moussaka out of the oven and pour over it the milk, eggs and flour mixture
  • Put back in oven and bake until it gets nice red/brown

 Note: for a vegetarian variant substitute the meat with courgettes.