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All Posts by Darina

About the Author

My name is Darina and I'm a Bulgarian. I'm one of the creators of www.learn-bulgarian.net, 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.

Jul 25

Bulgarian Holidays: Name Days

By Darina | Culture

The celebration of name days is an important Bulgarian tradition. Unlike most of the old customs, this one has been preserved throughout the generations and is kept even today.

Where Did Name Days Come From?

The keeping of name days comes from the Orthodox Christian religion and its saints. The Orthodox calendar is abundant with days devoted to one saint or another. In the past, when the Christianity was establishing itself as a main religion in Bulgaria, the people started naming their children after the saints from this calendar. They believed that the child named after a certain saint will be looked after and blessed by him. With time people started associating the holiday much more with the name than with the saint. For example, the day of St. George (Свети Георги) became George’s day (гергьовден, gergiovden).

How To Celebrate A Name Day?

The way the name day was celebrated changed throughout the years too. In the traditional way it is not needed to be invited in order to attend the celebration. The person whose name was celebrated was prepared for all the guests that might drop by with alcoholic drinks, sweets and starters or a full meal. It is believed that giving food and drinks to your friends and family on your name day will bring you health and blessings. Nowadays, even though the tradition is still kept, in most cases and especially if the name-bearer (именник) is a younger person, it is considered impolite to go uninvited. Young people also tend to celebrate their name days in a bar, disco or a house party.

The name day is almost celebrated like a birthday. It is however, not required to bring a gift or flowers, unless you want to. And if you cannot go to a name day celebration, it is still good to greet the imennik (the name-bearer) by phone, sms or mail. The appropriate greetings for this occasion are Честит имен ден (Chestit imen den, Happy Name Day), Да се слави името ти (Da se slavi imeto ti, Honoured be your name), За много години (Za mnogo godini, For many years to come). The first of these greetings is most commonly used.

Popular Name Days

There are many name days, but a few are especially popular. For example, such days are Vassilevden, Gergiovden, Tsvetnitsa (Flower names’ day), Atanasovden, Trifon Zarezan, Todorovden, Petrovden, Dimitrovden, etc. Note that not only people called Ivan celebrate on Ivanovden, for example, but everyone whose name is close to that, such as Yoana, Yvon, etc. So, when do you think your name day will be? You can click here and find out.

Jun 24

Bulgarian Holidays: Eniovden

By Darina | Bulgarian Folklore , Culture

eniovden-sun-rising

Eniovden (Еньовден) is an old Bulgarian holiday, celebrated annually on June 24. It is believed that its roots lie in the Thracian tradition. However, the traditions and rituals of the Christian holiday St. John’s Day, which is on the same date, often mingle with Eniovden.

Since the the holiday is on midsummer a lot of the traditions and rituals are related to the cult of the sun, typical for the Thracians. But Eniovden is also a Bulgarian name day. Everyone bearing a name such as Enio, Jana, Janka, Janko, Janitsa, Janik, Janislav, John, Joan, Diane, Dylian, etc., as well as the ones named after herbs, celebrate their name on this day.

According to Bulgarian folklore, the beginning of winter starts on Eniovden. It was believed that when the sun rises that day it trembles and dances and whoever sees it is going to be healthy during the coming year. At sunrise, people turn facing the sun, watching their shadows over their shoulders. If the shadow is whole, the person will be healthy, if it is halved – he will be sick that year.

It is not allowed to work on the fields or wash clothes on the day of the holiday. The people believed that St. Enio will kill with lightnings the person who disregards his holiday. And if someone washes clothes on this day a family member will become ill.

Festive Costume for Eniova Bulia

Festive Costume for Eniova Bulia

It was also believed that before the sun starts the long way towards winter, it stops to rest. It rises very early to say “goodbye” to the world it will not see for so long and bathes in the waters on Earth, making them healing. When it drains itself, the water that falls off becomes dew. This dew has a special magical power and therefore, for good health, everyone baths at Eniovden’s morning and then rubs in the dew.

It is considered that the herbs have the most healing power on Eniovden, especially if gathered at sunrise. The herbs stored for winter have to be  exactly “77 and a half”, for each disease and for the nameless illness.

During the day of the holiday the maidens from the village gather together and prepare the Eniova Bulia (Enio’s Bride). They take a 5 year old girl and dress her with white gown and red jacket, a red veil and a crown of eniovche (galium plant) with a silver coin. Then they take the girl and parade it trough the village, fields and water springs, while singing holiday songs. This ritual’s purpose is to ask St. Enio for health for the people and fertility for the land.

At sunset people gather “silent water” for healing and divination. In complete silence, so they don’t destroy its magic power, they take the water from a clear, sweet spring. The water is then used to foretell about health, marriage and fertility.

Jun 24

More Tips for Learning Bulgarian

By Darina | Language , Learning

Bulgarian leaningIn the previous article we gave you some tips about learning Bulgarian. But there are more things you can do to make the learning experience easier and more entertaining.

Visualize what You Learn

It helps if you visualize the words that you are learning. Don’t just translate them to English, but try to imagine the object or action that the word represents. If you want to learn the word for “pear”, imagine the fruit and connect it with the word in Bulgarian – круша. This video lesson can help you learn a few fruits by visualizing them.

Learn Phrases

Learn phrases rather than verbs. It is easier to remember because there is a story behind. You can even invent funny or silly sentences to help you remember the more challenging words. It’s easier to remember the phrase “Един билет, моля” (One ticket please), than the word билет on its own.

Learn Grammar Literally

Imagining the grammar literally will help you learn it faster. Don’t try to translate grammar. For example, the Bulgarian phrase for “I miss you” is Липсваш ми which literally translates to “You are missing to me”.

Chat

Find a Bulgarian you can talk with. If you already have Bulgarian friends ask them to speak with you in their language from time to time. If you don’t have any Bulgarians to talk to go to a chat room or Facebook and meet some. Bulgarians are quite curious about foreigners and would gladly help you exercise. When you learn a new word try to use it immediately in the next sentence, if possible, in order to commit it to mind. We remember by repetition so you need to repeat the new words until you get familiar with them.

Immerse Yourself in the Language

Exercise by reading news in Bulgarian (you can do it herehere and here), watching TV shows (here), reading stories (such as Little Red Riding Hood), listening to radio (here) or watching Bulgarian movies (here). Do a Bulgarian day. Cook yourself a moussaka, read the news and watch this Bulgarian comedy. Don’t worry if you don’t understand all. The immersion in the language will help you, you will realize later that you recognise words that you’ve heard in this movie or that radio program and that will make them easier to remember.

What’s the Word For…

This basic sentence will help you learn a lot of new Bulgarian words. So, if you want to know how an object is called in Bulgarian, point at it and ask the nearest Bulgarian “Коя е думата за това?” (Koia e dumata za tova?|What is the word for this?).

Learn Bulgarian Idioms

Start learning idioms. If you translate them literally some of them sound funny and are easy to remember. For example, the idiom изплюй камъчето, literally translates to “spit out the pebble”, but is used as the English “spill the beans”. This will help you get a feeling for the language.

Jun 17

How to Learn Bulgarian

By Darina | Language , Learning

Learning Bulgarian

Learning a new language is always a challenge. A lot of new words have to be remembered and new sentence structure and grammatical rules have to be mastered. It can, however, be a fun process.

Listed below are a few tips that will show you how to learn Bulgarian easily by emerging yourself in the language.

Create a Routine

Do a little every day. It doesn’t have to be for long, but if you don’t refresh your knowledge daily, you will forget what you know easily. In order to create a routine easily, add the Bulgarian learning activity to an already existing routine. Learn a few new words with your morning coffee or watch a short video lesson before your TV time at evening. Make it happen.

Learn the Correct Pronunciation

Most languages have general rules for the correct words stress. Bulgarian is not one of them. It is easier, therefore, to memorize each word with the correct word stress from the beginning. On this website, all Bulgarian words have the correct stress indicated with a bold letter. For example: Ябълка – the letter я is the sound which should be prolonged when you pronounce the word.

Practise Unfamiliar Sounds

Every language has their typical sounds. In Bulgarian, the sounds that are different from any sound in English are the ones corresponding to the letters ж, р, ц, ч, ъ. You can hear them in our alphabet video.

Flash Cards

It is a well known technique. You can make them yourself, using small cards with the Bulgarian word on one side and the English one on the other. Flip them during the day and examine yourself. There are also a lot of free flash card apps for smartphones, which provide you with hassle free learning. You can learn while waiting on the bus stop and utilize otherwise wasted time. You can also employ your visual memory by adding post it notes on common objects at home which you are currently trying to remember. Stick a note at your hair brush saying “четка”, and after a few days you will learn the word without much effort on your part.

Talk to Yourself in Bulgarian

As an addition to flash cards, a good exercise would be to speak in your head the words corresponding to the objects you see. Go trough your day and when you see a lamp, a car or a store, say the words in Bulgarian in your mind. To expand this even further, try to think whole sentences. Write your shopping list in Bulgarian or if you are a diary person, try to add a short entry in Bulgarian every day. This might not be a controlled environment but you will still be practicing and that’s more important.

Allow Yourself to Make Mistakes

Learning a new language always involves some awkward situations. You will say stupid things, you will misunderstand people. This is part of the process. Embrace it. Enjoy it. After a few years when you become fluent in Bulgarian you will have a good arsenal of funny lost-in-translation stories to share with your friends. It is not a big deal to make mistakes but it is important to get over the fear of it, because it hinders you to exercise and practising is the best way to learn a language.

Jun 10

Bulgarian Folklore: Samodiva

By Darina | Bulgarian Folklore , Culture

Girl in fairy forestIn Bulgarian folklore Samodiva (самодива, plural: самодиви) is an ethereal female wood nymph. She is unearthly beautiful and eternally young. Her hair is blond and long, her waist is thin and petite, her eyes can bewitch and dazzle or even kill. Any man who lays eyes on her instantly falls in love. A woman who sees a samodiva can go as far as killing herself because she cannot take so much beauty.

Samodivas’ attire consists of long white gowns and shirts and a rainbow-coloured or green belt. They have a white mantel, also called a shadow, in which their power lies. They like to ride deer, using twisted snakes for reins and often carry with them bows and arrows. If a huntsman accidentally kills a samodiva’s deer, she will make him blind or give him a disease which will inevitably lead to his death.

The wood nymphs live in dark forests, in big old trees, caves or forgotten huts which are near water sources, wells or rivers. Samodivas can be spotted from spring to autumn. In winter they live in the mythical village Zmeykovo, which is located at the edge of the world and is a home to many mythical creatures. When they are on earth they are active at night and disappear immediately when the sun comes out, because they fear it.

SamodiviAt twilight, the samodivas go to fresh water sources, strip naked, wash themselves and their clothes which they lay out to dry in the moonlight. They keep a watchful eye on their drying clothes, because if a man steals their mantle, where their power lies, they turn into normal women and have to obey the man. If this happens, they can marry and bear children, but they can never be good mothers or housewives and will always crave their freedom.

After washing themselves and their clothes, the samodivas gather around and start singing and dancing. It is known that the samodiva’s songs are the most beautiful and their dances are the most graceful. If a late traveller sees the samodivas’ dance, he is enticed to join them and dances with them from midnight to dawn. When the sun’s rays appear, the nymphs disappear in haste and leave the traveller to die from exhaustion. The samodivas love music and often kidnap shepherds, so that they can play kaval (кавал, shepherd’s pipe) for them while they dance.

Some say that samodivas are children of lamia (dragon-like creature). Others say they are wicked women who died and are stuck in between heaven and hell or that they are maidens who died before they knew a man. Even though they are heathen creatures, they observe the Christian holidays, especially Easter. They punish everyone who does not keep the holidays with blindness or death.

Samodivas are not always harmful. Sometimes they appear like normal working women and help with the harvest. They would especially help women with children. If a man does something good for a samodiva, she becomes his patron or a sworn sister. Sometimes, a samodiva can fall in love with a human and bear him children, who grow up to be great heroes.

Samodivas are forest creatures and therefore knowledgeable about herbs and cures. However, they never share their secrets willingly. The only way to obtain their knowledge is to eavesdrop on one of their gatherings.

The earliest records of the belief that samodivas exist are from the 13th century. It is considered that the belief is based on Thracian legend. Until this day there are a lot of Bulgarian folklore tales and poems devoted to these elusive beauties.

Jun 04

Bulgarian Horrible Histories: The Skull Goblet

By Darina | Bulgarian Horrible Histories , History

This is the first article from a blog-post series which will help you learn more about Bulgarian history in an entertaining way. By focusing on the bizarre, you will learn more about general Bulgarian history and culture.

Imagine how Eastern Europe looked like in 809. The Byzantine empire was a major power in the continent, spreading over vast territories around the Mediterranean and beyond. The Bulgarians had already managed to conquer and keep some of the Byzantine territory in the Balkan region, unite the local tribes and establish the Bulgarian country a century ago. The Bulgarian ruler at that time, Khan Krum, was slowly adding territory to Bulgaria by helping nearby tribes revolt agains the Byzantine empire and then adding them to his kingdom. He managed to take over the Byzantine fortress Serdika (nowadays Sofia). Nicephorus I Genik, the emperor of the Byzantine Empire, however, did not like Khan Krum’s success.

In 811, The Byzantine Emperor gathered an army, crossed the Balkan passes and headed towards the capital Pliska. He ignored Khan Krum’s offer of peace and besieged and pillaged Pliska, killing men, women and children. According to the chronicle of this time, the emperor “ordered to bring their small children, got them tied down on earth and made thresh grain stones to smash them”. He then started returning to his home victorious.

Khan Krum

Khan Krum and his army

The victory was not to last. While Nicephorus pillaged the capital, Krum set traps and spread his army (which included women) around the Balkan mountain passages. At the Varbitsa Pass, the Byzantines fell into the trap, their army was surrounded. According to the historical sources, when the emperor realised his ordeal, he said: “Even if we have had wings we could not have escaped from peril.” He was right. The Bulgarians attacked first and chased their enemies until they had full victory. Only a few Byzantines survived the defeat.

Emperor Nicephorus died on a dunghill on the day of the battle. That night, at the victor’s feast, Khan Krum drank from a goblet made from the skull of the defeated emperor. According to  an old Bulgarian tradition, the Khan made a trophy by cleaning the skull and lining the outer part of it with silver and jewels.  This incident is the best-documented instance of this grotesque tradition.

May 31

Bulgarian Food: Dishes You Must Try

By Darina | Cuisine , Culture , Travel

If you happen to visit Bulgaria and want to dive into the experience, you simply must try some of the country’s most iconic dishes. If you don’t know what those are, let me show you.

Bulgarian cuisine is generally quite similar to other Balkan cuisines. The close proximity of the people in the region and its history made the tradition in food preparation similar. However, each of the Balkan countries has their own specialties, and in that Bulgaria is not lacking.

Banitsa

Banitsa

A classic breakfast combination is banitsa and boza аница и боза) or banitsa and ayran аница и айраян). Banitsa is a traditionally made filo pastry pie. In the most popular version it is filled with white pickled cheese or a combination of cheese, eggs and yogurt. In other variations the banitsa can contain leeks, onions, cabbage, minced meat, pumpkin and sugar or apples with cinnamon. It can be easily be purchased from any street bakery, during the whole day.

The cheesy banitsa fits very well the sweet thick boza drink. Boza is made of rye or wheat and goes into slight fermentation process. If the boza has slight alcoholic taste, it is not fresh and you should not drink it. The alternative to boza – ayran, is basically a deluded with water Bulgarian yogurt. Salt and even pepper can be added to the drink.

Other breakfast options are tutmanik утманик) and milinka илинка). Both are breakfast breads with cheese and eggs but each has a typical taste and different preparation method. Mekitsa (мекица) is a bulgarian sort of donut, usually consumed for breakfast too. It can be eaten both with sweet and savoury additions such as white cheese, confectioner’s sugar or jam.

Shopska salad опска салата) is probably one of Bulgaria’s most iconic dishes. It is also a favourite among foreigners. The salad is made of tomato, cucumber and onion. What makes it special, however, is the topping of Bulgarian white pickled cheese ирене). The symphony of the ingredients and the simple oil and vinegar dressing makes this salad outstanding. You can order Shopska salad in any restaurant (it is that popular) and you best try it as a starter, with Rakiya.

Rakiya (ракия) is Bulgaria’s traditional alcohol beverage. It is usually made of grapes, but it can also be produced from plums, apricots, peaches, apples, pears or cherries. The alcohol content is 40-60%. A lot of Bulgarians produce their own homemade rakiya. But don’t limit your alcohol consumption to rakiya. Try some Bulgarian wine too. The country has a long tradition in wine making. If you are more of a beer person, get a Zagorka, Shumensko or Kamenitsa.

The humble bean soup (боб чорба) is a Bulgarian staple. It is an excellent vegetarian dish, but it can also be spiced up with some sausages. The shkembe chorba (шкамбе чорба) soup is a classic dish for those after-a-party days. It is considered to be a hangover remedy. Shkembe chorba is made of lamb, beef or pork tripe, with added milk, paprika and butter. It is served with minced garlic in vinegar. Not a good dish if you have a business meeting or a date later that day.

Bulgarian bean soup

Bulgarian bean soup

For a main dish, Bulgarian moussaka (мусака) is a must-try. It is a casserole with potatoes and minced meat and a pouring of egg and yogurt based sauce. It is served with a spoonful of Bulgarian plain yogurt исело мляко).

Stuffed peppers (пълнени чушки) are a good alternative. They can be both vegetarian, stuffed with rice and sometimes walnuts, or stuffed with minced meat and rice. There is a variant, in which peppers are stuffed with white cheese, covered with egg and flour and fried, called pepper biurek ушки бюрек).

Wine kebab инен кебап) is a popular dish you can easily find in Bulgarian restaurants. It is made of pork lamb or beef chunks, cooked in wine sauce and served with plain white rice.

For a dessert, try some baklava (баклава) or Garash cake араш торта). Baklava, originally Turkish dessert, is prepared in Bulgaria using walnuts and thin filo pastry, soaked in sugar sirup. The Garash cake is basically a thin layered chocolate cake, but it has a typical taste due to the crushed walnuts used in the cake’s layers.

Those are only some of the typical Bulgarian dishes but I hope you can get a general idea of the typical dishes. So, from what was said so far, do you think you would like the Bulgarian cuisine?

 

May 29

Fruits: Bulgarian Video Lesson

By Darina | Language , Learning

If you want to learn some more Bulgarian words, we suggest you try our new video. Instead of words, this time we use pictures of the fruits to teach you their names in Bulgarian. As usual, each word is repeated in a slower pace. Here is the video:

The point of this exercise is to help you visualise the physical object while learning the word for it in Bulgarian. This way you should be able to learn the words intuitively.

So please tell me at the end: how do you like learning with pictures?

May 09

Bulgarian Currency

By Darina | Culture , History

bulgarian-money

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
Directions:
  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!