Saturday, August 16, 2008

Traditions old and...well...kind of embarrassing.

Betsy and I are taking full advantage of the delayed European school year by traveling around the region.  We were fortunate enough to buy a car from a departing faculty member, and have been using the opportunity to get a taste (quite literally) of the local culture.  Our first day of travel scrolled by dozens of fields of sunflowers, many just past their prime, drooping their heads because we missed them.  Farmers (or sometimes whole families) rode their donkey carts on the side of the road, and we took the liberty of stocking up at one of the many fresh fruit stands to which they no doubt delivered their goods.  We passed through old villages, homes adorned with trellises and plump bunches of grapes that were hard to resist.  Finally we stopped at Veliko Turnovo, the home of the tzar when Bulgaria had such a thing.  The next day we crossed the mountains on a winding road that took an hour and a half to navigate, drove by several EU-funded vineyards, and ended up at the Black Sea coast, an idyllic location that has the clearest non-chlorinated water I've ever swum in.  We also learned, incidentally, that all men in Bulgaria wear speedos.  And I mean ALL men.  It doesn't matter.  And all women in Bulgaria wear bikinis.  In two days of sunbathing, we haven't seen one single-piece swimsuit.  The exception is that several women wear what we've come to call the "unikini" -- topless beaches are alive and well here.  Amid all this, we just relax, trying to hone our Bulgarian.  The numerous times each day we can't convey what we want to has been plenty of impetus.  And then there are the times when we actually find words -- then we feel like Jason Lezak surprising the world.    

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