The countryside in Bulgaria is lovely and unspoiled. Our cultural trip around central Bulgaria took us to stay in typical a country house. It was in the remote rural village of Gorsko Slivovo, close to one of the oldest towns in Bulgaria.
This areas first inhabitants were one of the Thracian tribes dating back to the 3rd Centry BC. After my tour of the amazing archeological sites of Bulgaria, I have a fascination with the Thracians now – see Ancient Artifacts and awesome ancestors.
The town has a truly picturesque setting among miles and miles of fields of sunflowers. You wouldn’t find any more gorgeous a landscape in Tuscany or the South of France.
We stayed at the lovely home of organic farmers Mariella and Mikhail. Despite the minor fact that we only had one indoor bathroom between eight people, we had an idyllic stay.
Bulgaria – back to the land
The rooms are rustic and cool and the garden hung with grape vines. You can just pick yourself a sugar sweet grape on the way to the outside ‘sun shower.’ The sun shower 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.’
The produce of the beautiful market garden which surrounds the house provided the ingredients for our delicious country meals. Mariella’s herb garden supplied the delicious herbal tea which was served along with strong thick Bulgarian coffee.
A delicious Bulgarian white wine is served with our evening meal. We also sample some of the rather more potent Rakia, which is the local Plum brandy. It is incredibly strong and traditionally served with the first course. It certainly breaks the ice among one’s dining companions.
Our welcome meal
Our welcome meal is a special home made bread which has a kind of brioche texture. It is divided up so that tearing and sharing is compulsory. This bread is 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.
Our actual evening meal follows about an hour later! Stuffed peppers, potato cakes fresh tomatoes and onions are on offer. BBQ farmed rabbit and pork add the protein to the meal.
It was all quite delicious. We were served outdoors on a long wooden table. A fresh cotton table cloth was laid out for every meal.
On the second evening we visit the local civic centre for another welcome meal. More bread, honey and Baklava were served up this time in an old library of rather dog eared books. We meet the Mayor and then we are all instructed in traditional Bulgarian dancing by the ladies of the village. Sadly, we could not match their nimble expertise.
All the towns and villages seem to have a concrete sixties looking ‘administrative’ buildings in the town square. They usually have some dour statue of mother Russia in front of it as a legacy from the communist days. The communists controlled everything from behind that most unattractive of furnishings – the Iron Curtain.
Bulgarian honey tasting
On our second evening the ‘Honey Lady’ turned up for a honey tasting visit. Here real name is Radoslava but we just called her the Honey lady. Radoslava has worked with honey for 36 years (sticky that) and has 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 and it was fantastic. Her newer variety made from the nectar of acacia and chestnut flowers was equally delicious.
Radoslava proceeded to explain at length the whole honey making process. She explained the workings of the hive and told us how bees survived in winter as ball of bees! Velis, our guide, quickly and expertly translated.
The honey lady had also brought some Propolis, the wax the bees make in the hive which has amazing antibiotic and antiseptic properties. We all buy some honey which Radoslava helpfully decants into plastic Bulgarian Coke bottles to make it easier for us to carry home.
We also buy 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..
Check out more Bulgarian travels here