Riding through the mountains of Bulgaria

Blog entry created by: Teresa

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On Thursday evening, we found ourselves on top of a mountain in Bulgaria.  The kids and I had finished our first day of horseback riding, part of a three day riding and camping adventure that Bella requested as a special activity on the trip.  Then we lay on a field in the sunshine, listening to only the wind and the sound of the other people on the trip, chatting, relaxing, making camp, and caring for the horses.

Watch this video before you read the rest of the post if you want to guess what we heard while on our trip

No internet – learning to relax and enjoy the moment

I realized on this trip that I often have a hard time doing nothing, and I get so wrapped up in trying to raise money for the charities, that I forget that one of the most important aspect of the trip is to enjoy the experience – learning new things and spending time with my children.

Even at lunch today, I had to learn to relax and enjoy the bright sunshine, the view of incredibly blue sky and green pine trees.  Bulgarians do not rush meals.  They have a little soup (cold cucumber and yogurt soup), maybe some a salad, (or in this case, just fresh tomatoes as that was all the restaurant had today for “salad”), a bit of meat and bread, some drinks.  It can take a couple of hours for lunch and my thoughts drift to what I could be doing with that time – writing to people, editing pictures, making a new post for the blog – but I can’t do any of those things, so I learn to relax and try to be present in the moment and enjoy.

Where could music be coming from way up in the mountains?

As we were lying in the sun in the field with the horses roaming free around us, an amazing thing happened…we started to hear music just up the hill from us. It was a symphony of bells that reminded me of Venice, but with many more tones.  When we went to investigate, you’ll never guess what we found – unless you watched the video above – a herd of sheep.  It never occurred to me that a herd of sheep makes music, but it does. There were even sheep dogs and a shepherd taking care of the sheep.

The scenery was beautiful!

We could see down the mountain to a lake with many different mountains beyond it…a lake we would ride to and camp near the next night.  The mountains looked like a cross between the Rockies and the Appellations. Our guide says that the mountains of Bulgaria are unique and many of them look very different from each other.

We gathered wood, made a terrific campfire, cooked meat, toasted bread and ate it with Bulgarian cheese, salads made from the fresh vegetables and wine and pickles made by Damian – one of the wonderfully friendly Bulgarian people who accompanied us on the trip and made us feel so welcome.

Our group also included a guitar player who knew both American and Bulgarian classics.

We started to laugh and dance to one that sounded very Russian to us.  Damian showed us the right way to dance to it and that started us dancing in front of the fire to many songs.  We only stopped when a string broke on the guitar.  After we went to bed, the others sang songs late into the night. We laughed as a group of Bulgarians sang all the words to John Denver’s “Country Rounds”.  Who knew that the world is so multicultural? I, for one, did not.

For the people who say we are crazy and don’t know what we are doing – chalk one up for you!

Anyone who books a three-day horse tour through the mountains of Bulgaria when most of the family has rarely or never ridden may be a little crazy.  It’s not easy to ride all day long, even if you are experienced.  Some of us are bruised and sore.  We were all very tired by the end of the three-day trip…except for Bella who seems to belong with horses on a ranch.  She loves horses and seemed comfortable and in her element the whole time.

Having said that, I couldn’t be happier that we took the chance and experienced something different.

This riding trip couldn’t have been less touristy.  We were with a group of Bulgarians who like to ride and camp – doing things the way they usually do things, rather than the way they think tourists would like to do things.  Jennifer said that seeing Pompeii and this riding trip were two of the best experiences of her life.

We rode all day the second day – and a little extra because they were taking a new route and we were sort of lost a good part of the day – asking people in very small towns along the way for directions over the mountain.

The little towns/villages we saw and the people we met were very interesting – an experience in and of itself.

The towns were made up of little houses, beautiful vegetable and fruit gardens, horses, cows, roosters, chickens, etc.  When we passed a field with horses, they wanted to join ours and ours wanted to be in the field with them.  Our guides had to scare them away (sounding just like cowboys in movies with “hya hya” and waving their arms in the air, but this was real life).  We also passed huge pigs, cows and other animals that were running free.

For dinner the second night, they said we were having fish.

My kids have a big aversion to eating fish, but what could I say that would not have been impolite? Bella has been known to hide under the table to avoid even tasting a bit of fish, so I mentioned that she didn’t eat fish, but that was all I could muster.  The other kids gave me a hard time for not speaking up for all of them…especially when we saw many whole trout with their eyes seeing to look up at us from the grill and one lone piece of chicken for Bella.

I will eat most fish, but even I wasn’t sure what I was going to do when a whole grilled fish was put on my plate – with the person who proudly caught all of the fish that day sitting right next to us waiting for our report on how delicious they were.

It turned out that Blamen, one of our guides, separated the flesh from the bones for us and – what do you know – it tasted great and the kids all ate it! …another first in the mountains of Bulgaria.  Now who would have thought we would be around a campfire in Bulgaria, enjoying whole grilled fish together?

One more first – drinking fresh horse milk in the morning.

Two of the horses recently had foals, so our guides milked them to make them more comfortable while they were away from their foals.  I had never even heard of horse milk.  It tasted like regular milk, but not as strong.  They joked one morning that there was sugar for the coffee, and if you wanted milk, you could head to the field where the horses were roaming and get some.

Most of the horses roamed free from the evening until the morning.

Mine wouldn’t cooperate one morning and they had to chase him through the fields and hills to get him.  He came back to the campsite neighing and bucking – hmm, just before I was about to get on him for the day.  It is great to see horses so happy and treated so well. Mine was full of spirit.

The people in Bulgaria are so wonderful to be with!

They are kind, friendly, helpful and full of good cheer.  We find this everywhere we go, but it was especially nice to get to know so many friendly new people as we enjoyed the experience of a lifetime in the mountains.  The owner of the stable, Nickolay, and his wife even invited us out to dinner when we return from the orphanages before we head to Istanbul. We loved Bulgaria and the people who call it home from the moment we arrived.

We are now at the Maria Theresia orphanage to volunteer and for the installation of the new computer lab that you made possible with your generous donations!  The children at the orphanage are very excited!

As I mentioned in my last post, if we reach our goal of $5,000 for Bulgaria, we will be able to provide a computer lab for another orphanage, with software provided by Microsoft and ongoing support by the Blagotvoritel Foundation, with whom we are partnering.

We decided to personally guarantee the funds so that the computers can be purchased right away.

We will visit the other orphanage before we leave Bulgaria.  $2,500 seems so little to change the lives of so many deserving children, especially now that we have gotten to see one of the orphanages first hand.

Please help if you can by going to our give page and making a donation towards the computer lab. Your $10 or $25 contribution will make a big difference.

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Posted on: September 27, 2010 | Categories: Bulgaria, Fun Facts - Cultures and Countries, recreation, Sports

 

8 comments

  • Hi Teresa – I was thinking of you and wondering how you all are doing. I’d say the answer is fabulous! What an amazing journey you guys are taking and what a life memory for the kids! Take care and safe travels.

  • Teresa Teresa says:

    Hi Barbara. It is great to hear from you! The kids are really warming up to travel and though we were nervous about whether we could really do something useful at the orphanage, it is working out well. We are doing special lessons for the English classes at two different schools. We will have a picnic with American foods and play a game that helps them converse and memorize English words, and we are setting up events at the orphanage as well. We also bought them sports equipment and toys because they didn’t have very much at all. Today we had a lot of fun just showing the kids pictures of other countries from our trip – they were interested to see places in Europe that they can travel to someday. Hope you and your family are doing well. We are looking forward to Laos!

  • kathleen keller says:

    This sounds like a great family time for everybody. Great pictures. and great ideas. I am so glad you are taking some personal time also. Bulgaria,s children will always remember you, your family and all the support of generous people to make this possible.

  • Susan Manglass says:

    Great article! Ask my Mom about the time she ordered fish and they brought the whole darn thing out on her plate (she covered the head with her napkin!). This sounds like it was a really spectacular part of your trip so far. We miss you all and take care!

  • Teresa Teresa says:

    Susan, I think they wanted to just run the other way when they brought out the fish – but with the fisherman sitting right there they stuck it out. Can’t believe they ended up liking it. I miss you all. Hope all is well there.

  • Teresa Teresa says:

    Thanks, Kathleen. The kids are really surprising me with how they embrace each activity. They were not always like that at home :-) They are even learning to play and communicate with the kids at the orphanage in spite of the language barrier.

  • kathleen keller says:

    Hello Teresa,
    The Bulgarian school video was great.
    Learning to interact in another language is not easy but a little easier for kids. I know that this experience will carry through into the workplace later and they will have a much better understanding of cultural differences.

  • Teresa Teresa says:

    Always great to hear from you Kathleen. Take a look at the one we made of the orphanage when you get a chance. It shows the new computer lab and the sports equipment we bought for them. Love, Teresa


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