Our friends and readers have been asking repeatedly, 'So, what is it that you actually do in Bulgaria anyway?'
Aside from the fact that the average person just doesn't have a wealth of knowledge about this lovely country, Bulgaria just doesn't pop up on the radar all that often. At the moment we are in the middle of a month of snow, well-below freezing temperatures, and staying close to our temporary home, as well as building the occasional igloo.
We are here in a village called Ivancha due to a volunteer work exchange position we found interesting - the chance to help be part of a nonprofit arts community in the making, dubbed UFO Studios. Over the next few years, this property is being renovated and restored, eventually with self-contained apartments that artists, writers and musicians can rent for a low price, as well as be part of a thriving arts community. Our host Margaret's dream is to have free and low-cost events for the local community to be a part of, and to have a space where budding creative minds can have time to relax, reflect, connect and work.
In exchange for a few basic jobs around the house, web design, social media help, and some assistance clearing outbuildings and fetching firewood, we receive room and board. This also means we get the chance to stay awhile and explore! Village life is slow-paced and pleasant; I walk to pick up fresh milk from the local dairy farmer every morning. There are as many horse and donkey carts as cars, and when the weather warms up, I will receive my first lesson on driving a donkey cart, one of my lifelong rustic dreams! (I have a weird affinity for donkeys and sheep.)
Like its neighbor to the north, Romania, Bulgaria has a problem with stray animals. They roam the streets, and while most are harmless, it is heartbreaking to see so many abandoned and left to die in these freezing winter temperatures. Margaret has taken in five animals over the last two years, and it has been inspiring to see how rescued animals can thrive when properly cared for. We spend our afternoons walking the dogs on the beautiful snowy hills overlooking Ivancha, and have enjoyed relaxation and some gorgeous sunsets.
I have been trying my hand at cooking new and warming recipes to help us escape the winter cold, including Romanian peasant potatoes and Bulgarian kebapche!
I'm also trying my hand at cooking on the woostove when the fire gets hot enough. (Before you judge my fashion choices, remember that these are my work clothes, and we're in a village!)
I was happy to find that Bulgarian is gramatically very similar to Croatian, which I studied while we rented an apartment there, so my vocabulary is improving, and I can now carry on a short conversation, count to fifteen, and say every day of the week! It's small, but it's a start. Margaret is from Scotland, and has vocabulary written in Cyrillic throughout the house to help everyone learn.
What I am enjoying the most here in Bulgaria is time. I have so much time to contribute to the UFO Studios project, play music, write and reflect on our travels, and photograph all the wonderful village scenes Ivancha has to offer.
I do enjoy my cities, but I adore life in traditional villages.
If you are interested in creative arts or just a traveler in Bulgaria interested in volunteering at UFO Studios, please get in touch with us and we'll connect you with Margaret! We'd love word about this place to spread.
Do you prefer villages, towns or cities on your travels?