Thursday, May 29, 2008

Welcome Webbies!

Dawn patrol, the day of Graduation 2008

Brett just posted our link to all you fabulous Webb faculty. So, welcome to the blog! We will miss you so much and hope that you will stay in touch - just click on "comments" at the bottom of any story to leave your thoughts or hellos. See you in Sofia! We've got a couch for you...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Elenko and Rada

What happens when you add up Elenko and Rada, Sofia, and fabulous color photos? You get the SoSofia guide, created by a Bulgarian brother and sister as an insider's guide to their home city. I LOVE it. I've already added it to the "Bulgaria Links" on the right sidebar, but the address is: In my first brief perusal I discovered a Sofia juice bar, a secret soccer stadium, and a description of the constant art showcases on "Lover's Bridge." What's not to like?

And for all you tennis lovers...

Bulgarian Magdalena Maleeva won the Bulgarian national title at thirteen, then won over four million dollars in prize money while playing the WTA Tour. She occupied the chair opposite Monica Seles the day Seles was stabbed by a deranged Graf fan. She beat Lindsey Davenport. And Venus Williams. So what does she do these days? Well, besides working with a Bulgarian Environmental Organization, giving birth to a baby daughter, and putting out her own line of organic foods (I like her already), she has also opened up a tennis club in Sofia with her family. A tennis club that offers indoor carpeted courts for winter, clay courts for summer, and Thai massage for after the game!

"The most modern sports club in Sofia is already at the disposal of everyone with the desire to play sports, rejuvenate, or just relax in a pleasant and serene environment. You are welcome to join us as well"

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Alright Chris, I Found you a Golf Course!

So, our friend Chris suggested that a great golf course might help lure him out to Southeastern Europe to visit us in Sofia. Chris, this post is for you.

"There are many ways to go to the Paradise. The easiest of all is to turn your car off the highway of Sofia-Plovdiv to Ihtiman and follow the notices for Air Sofia Golf and Hotel. Then you will see that the Paradise is possible on earth too. "

The Rotunda of St. George (Свети Георги)

The year 400 AD. That was one thousand six hundred eight years ago. That is 1,608 times as many years as Oscar and Felix have been alive. That is the amount of time it would take to get 268 PHDs. That is 845,164,800 minutes, or 105, 645, 600 batches of chocolate chip cookies.

It was in the fourth century that early Christians built the church of Sveti Georgi, and throughout the centuries since then it has been painted with at least three separate layers of frescoes, painted out during the Ottoman period when the church was converted into a Mosque, but recently uncovered. It is the oldest building in Sofia, now a museum surrounded on several sides by the Sheraton Motel. Talk about the juxtaposition of the old and the new!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Bulgarian National Parks

Bulgaria maintains three (very large) national Parks: Rila, Central Balkan, and Pirin. Together they comprise more than one third of all Bulgaria. From all that I've read and heard, it's clear that Bulgarians value the outdoor world highly; all ages of citizens make time for weekend hikes and the Hiking Club at the American College of Sofia thrives (hurray for Brett! And me!). Check out the new link on the "Bulgaria Links" sidebar called "Bulgarian National Parks" to see beautiful photos and read about the hiking trails in these preserves.

Thursday, May 22, 2008!!!

Did you know that the Bulgarian national opera is debuting "Lakme" this week? That the new Indiana Jones movie is playing in Sofia? That Pure Six is performing at the Bibliotekata Cool House Piano Bar, and Metallica is coming to the Vasil Levski National Stadium? Did you know that Sofia has a climbing wall called "Do you dare?" I didn't, until I discovered I just added a new link to this website under the heading "Sofia Cultural Events" on the side bar "Bulgaria Links." It has EVERYTHING anyone could ask for in a giant database of opera, theater, movies, music, paragliding schools and bowling clubs (though I'm not sure why the bowling venues are listed under the category "Extreme"...).

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Hike to 7 Lakes and a Mask Festival

TWO NEW GUIDES! That's what I discovered yesterday at Border's - a fantastic Eyewitness Guide to Bulgaria filled with color photos and a stark black and white Frommer's Guide to Eastern Europe filled with good ideas. Frommer's had a number of "Top 5"s in Eastern Europe, and they listed Bulgaria as having the best festival, the best hike, and the 2nd best quaint medieval towns. The hike and the festival interested me particularly, so here is a quick run down.

Bulgaria's Award Winning Hike: Rila 7 Lakes

Beginning from the Rila Monastery, hikers spend a long day walking to a hut where they can spend the night. From the hut it is easy to set off the next day and explore this beautiful chain of alpine lakes. Read all about it at:

Bulgaria's Award Winning Festival: The International Mummery Festival

Held annually in Pernik (just a short jaunt from Sofia), the festival drew 5,000 participants and 25,000 revelers last January. Radio Bulgaria covered the goings-on; here is a short excerpt from the article: "The festival jury of ethnologists was to single out and award the most authentic costumes, masks and rituals. In fact the festival seeks to preserve the diversity of the old local traditions. In the past the dancing pageant of mummers, old men and Xmas carol singers preceded the season of hard work in the fields. The ritual meaning of those rites was to drive evil forces away, while today carnival dancing is chiefly for entertainment. However, traditions are still alive, uniting local communities. Masked performers put on fur coats and belts with strings of copper bells. Among the festival’s guests was Italian anthropologist Prof. Cesare Poppi who studies the carnival traditions of various peoples looking for the common roots of European culture. " You can read more and see more pictures at:

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bulgarian Wallpaper, Yes we Can...

As Obama sped towards the Democratic nomination this week, I sped towards a Bulgarian computer wallpaper sight. With bird's eye views of Bulgarian mountain ranges, close ups of lilacs and snowdrops, the usual nod to the Rila monastery, and more, I enjoyed choosing a new background for my desktop. You might too, check out the site at:

Click on any photo to enlarge (there are more pages of pictures at the bottom, if you click on the different resolution categories), then right click and choose "set as background"

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Veliko Turnovo (Велико Търново)

Veliko Turnovo this, Veliko Turnovo that. It seems like all I ever hear about these days is Veliko Turnovo. All the books, websites, blogs and ancient Bulgarian diaries I discovered buried in my back yard say the same thing - this former capital of the glittering Bulgarian empire is THE place for a weekend away from Sofia. Click on the links below to see a video of the city's famous (yes, famous... just because you've never heard of it doesn't mean it isn't famous) sound and light show, and a video story of the city from the tourist board.

"Sunny Summer Clouds"

Today's entry comes from a Duluthian like me, a poet who read his work on a Prairie Home companion with Garrison Keillor. I'll relate this to the blog theme with the simple fact that I'm sure there are beautiful clouds in Bulgaria...

AMBITION by Louis Jenkins

One of the good things about getting older is that no one asks anymore "What are you going to be when you grow up?" Or later on, "What do you do?" Questions for which I never had a good answer. Nowadays everyone assumes I'm retired, and that I have no ambition whatsoever. It isn't true. It is true that it's too late for me to become an Olympic champion swimmer or a lumberjack, but my ambitions are on higher things. I want to be a cloud. I' m taking some classes and have a really good instructor. I don't want to be a threatening storm cloud, just one of those sunny summer clouds. Not that I won't have a dark side, of course. I'd like to be one of those big fat cumulus clouds that pass silently overhead on a beautiful day. A day so fine, in fact, that you might not even notice me, as I sailed over your town on my way somewhere else, but you'd feel good about it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Travel Photography

Brett at Arches A Travel Photo I Like

Yesterday I listened to a podcast from about travel photography, and I thought I would share some of what I learned…

1. Tell a story in photos: take a picture of the big picture from the edge of what you can see. Then go in close and take pictures of details that intrigue you. When you put all the pictures together, the subject will become far more interesting than it could with one centered photo.

2. Look for a detail to highlight: the photographer interviewed in the podcast had recently chosen to photograph the color red in a small town in Italy – red shoes, red boat, red lipstick, red leaf, etc. When she put all the pictures together, there was a common theme to draw viewers in.

3. Manipulate the light: It is best to shoot at dawn or dusk when the sun is lowest, because then you won’t get shadows on faces and details won’t be destroyed by bright sunlight. However, there are some tricks for the sunny hours. You can use the flash for a person within ten feet of you to eliminate the shadows on their faces. Placing your subject in open shade will also eliminate shadows.

4. Thirds: imagine your viewfinder has a tic tac toe board laid across it. Try to place objects of interest at the crosshatches of the board instead of the direct center. This will allow you to include more of the scenery and make the picture seem less contrived.

5. Action: choose the action setting on your digital camera (a running man or “pets/children”) and follow the action through your lens with the shutter button halfway down. When you get what you want, click it all the way. If you don’t hold the button halfway down, when you click there will be a delay as the camera focuses.

6. Natural: Always ask to take a person’s picture. Then try to get them to go back to what they were doing. Whether it’s your friends or a stranger on the street, candid pictures that show an actual activity or pursuit instead of the “say cheese” smile are often more interesting to look at. Of course it depends on what you want…

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

Some of you might think I am deviating from the usual Bulgaria-driven purpose of this blog in order to further increase the fame of our cats, Oscar and Felix. You'd be wrong. This video is a metaphor. Think of Bounce Mouse as any difficulties we might have in moving to Bulgaria and getting settled. Then think of Oscar as our courageous and ferocious desire to overcome all difficulties and have a fabulous experience. Turn on the volume on your computer and Enjoy.