Thursday, February 24, 2011

Not out of the woods yet

More snow in February!

So the slightly warmer weather the last few weeks made me believe that winter had finally subsided here in Pleven. I was mistaken, as I found out last week when it started snowing again. Aesthetically, it's really pretty. Practically, I hate it. I have to wear my big clunky snow boots (which I thought would hold up for a long time but I will likely have to throw out after this winter). I have to walk more slowly than I normally would because the roads can be icy. And I just feel plain lazy all the time. Keeping busy is tough when it's so tempting to sleep in longer.
Trifon Zarezan
But this season in Bulgaria has its quirks and little surprises: the first being a day dedicated to drinking wine  and the second, the tradition of Baba Marta. Trifon Zarezan is a holiday celebrated on February 14th, on Valentine's Day, for the new grape harvest and ritual pruning of the vines. My students have informed me that it's mostly an excuse for people to get drunk. I do admire the tradition. Bulgaria has some fabulous wines (I haven't even tried all the varieties yet). I prefer dry reds, so for me two of the best ones are Mavrud and the regional variety from Melnik. I've also heard that Pleven's institute of viniculture, the oldest one in the Balkans, has a retail outlet somewhere in town. I haven't found it yet, but believe me, I will. :)

Baba Marta is a celebration of springtime where people wear little badges or bracelets called martenitsi for good luck and health. They always feature two colors: red, which symbolizes health, and white, which symbolizes luck. There is a legend about a carrier pigeon sent over the Danube with a white string attached to its leg that was shot by an arrow, thus the red blood, on which the tradition is based. During the month of March (or Mart, in Bulgarian) these symbols are worn until one sees a stork. After that you are supposed to tie the martenitsi to a tree so that it will blossom. When this happens it marks the beginning of spring. This practice is celebrated all over Bulgaria and everyone exchanges martenitsi with family and friends. It's definitely more exciting than watching a groundhog look at it's shadow, don't you think?    

1 comment:

  1. Hi, i am one of youre students its realy cool. I like your blog :)