|Country fare – Bulgarian style|
Have you seen those idyllic pictures in country living magazines and thought to yourself why don’t I get to go there? Well this summer, I did.Our cultural trip around central Bulgaria took us to stay in a country house in the remote rural village of Gorsko Slivovo close to one of the oldest towns in Bulgaria. This areas first inhabitants were also one of the Thracian tribes dating back to the 3rd Centry BC. After my tour of the amazing archeological sites of Bulgaria, I’m big into the Thracians now, see Ancient Artifacts and awesome ancestors.The town has a truly picturesque setting among the miles and miles of fields of sunflowers. You wouldn’t find more a gorgeous landscape in Tuscany or the South of France.
We stayed at the home of Mariella and Mikhail and despite the minor fact that we only had one indoor bathroom between eight people, we had an idyllic stay.
|Mariella in her vineyard|
The rooms were rustic and cool and the garden was hung with grape vines, you could just pick yourself a sugar sweet grape on the way to the outside ‘sun shower’ which was actually a big barrel of rain water warmed by the sun fixed up with a bit of a shower head. The sign on the outdoor toilet, saved from the days of communism, translated as ‘Municipal Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party.’
|Just hanging around|
The produce of the beautiful market garden which surrounded the house was to form the basis of our delicious country meals and the herbs which Mariella grows were brewed into a herbal tea which was served along with strong thick Bulgarian coffee. There was also delicious Bulgarian white wine at the evening meal served together with the rather more potent Rakia, which is the local Plum brandy, incredibly strong and traditionally served with the first course. It certainly breaks the ice.
|Real men drink tea|
Our welcome meal was home made bread which had a kind of brioche texture and was divided so that tearing and sharing was compulsory. This was served with ‘coloured salt’ which is sprinkled on the bread and includes Paprika, Fenugreek and Savoury – a herb you don’t hear much from these days.To go with this there was fine white cheese which is mild and quite crumbly, locally made honey and fresh sour cherry jam.
|You say tomato…|
The evening meal followed about an hour later! Stuffed peppers, potato cakes fresh tomatoes and onions, farmed rabbit and pork from the Bar B Q. It was all quite delicious and served outdoors on the wooden table with a fresh cotton table cloth for every meal. On the second evening we were taken to the local civic centre for another welcome meal (more bread, honey and Baklava this time) in the old library of rather dog eared books. We first met the Mayor and then were all instructed in Bulgarian dancing by the ladies of the village whose nimble expertise we could not surpass.
|We were better stationary|
All the towns and villages seem to have a concrete sixties looking ‘administrative’ buildings in the town square usually with some dour statue of mother Russia in front of it as a legacy from the communist days when they controlled everything from behind that most unattractive of furnishings – the Iron Curtain. On the second evening the ‘Honey Lady’ – Radoslava was her actual name but we just called her the Honey lady – turned up for a honey tasting session. She had been in honey for 36 years (sticky that) and had brought some of her finest 11 year old reserve honey to taste made from thistle flowers and lime blossom. Conditions have to be just right for the bees to make this and it doesn’t happen very often. We tasted it reverently with tiny honey spoons, it was fantastic. Her newer variety made from the nectar of acacia and chestnut flowers was equally delicious.
|Busy – the bee lady|
That woman knows her bees alright. She proceeded to explain at length the whole honey making process, the workings of the hive and how they survived in winter as ball of bees etc etc while Velis, our guide, quickly and expertly translated. She had also brought some Propolis, the wax the bees make in the hive which has amazing antibiotic and antiseptic properties. We all took the opportunity to purchase some of the honey which Radoslava helpfully decanted into plastic Bulgarian Coke bottles to make it easier for us to carry home. We also bought some dried Boleta mushrooms which Mariella had collected from the forest earlier in the year. In Bulgaria you have to shop when you get the chance. This country house experience is an undiscovered gem and a truly delightful place to stay. I would go now before Conde Nast Traveller get there..