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Update from Bulgaria!

Posted on 07/13/2010 @ 10:54 AM

Bulgaria

Greetings from Bulgaria,

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One can try but it is impossible to understand where time goes. As the cliché goes, it feels as if we arrived yesterday but in reality, half of the trip has vanished into the past, and all that remains is one long weekend. The teens of Ambassadors to Bulgaria 2010 have fully embraced their time here and continue to completely immerse themselves in each and every activity we take part in, whether it be the tour of a village, a discussion of values, religion, cultures, or simply and most importantly continuing to build friendships with their peers.

The past few days have been jam-packed with history, culture, and fun and have been thoroughly enjoyed by all those involved.

Wednesday night, we ventured out into Sunny Beach for the last time. We first arrived at a traditional Bulgarian restaurant just steps away from the rocky banks of the Black Sea. Here we had the opportunity to eat and learn, try new things, and celebrate a birthday! Following dinner, the teens broke up into small groups to explore the town mostly populated by visiting tourists and native shopkeepers. In a small square in the center of town sat a "Shaman", a spiritual Bulgarian figure who wore an oversized mask resembling an owl with horns. We learned that this mystic allegedly had the ability to chase away bad spirits and replace them with luck. Some teens were lucky enough to sit with him briefly and have their auras cleansed while the rest had an opportunity to interview locals, try some food and drinks exclusively available in Bulgaria, as well as do a bit of shopping.

Early Thursday morning we departed Sunny Beach on a journey through the center of Bulgaria. The route we travelled brought us through a countryside of rolling mountains covered in dense green forests whose peaks seem to disappear into the clouds. Our bus climbed a mountain pass into the Balkan Mountain arriving briefly at one of the most famous monuments in all of Bulgaria. It was here that in 1877, 7000 Bulgarians held off 40,000 soldiers of the Ottoman Emprie from atop the mountain. During the battle, the Bulgarians ran completely dry of ammunition and resorted to throwing rocks, guns, and even bodies of fallen comrades down the mountain to stop the advancing forces. In the end, the Ottoman soldiers retreated and the Bulgarians were left victorious. The monument itself was constructed in memorium of this battle for liberation. It consists of a tower located atop 999 stairs.

Our next stop was Etura, a craft village origionally constructed in the late 18th century. The town's most vital resource, water, provided by a small river that flows through a canal parallel to the buildings within is used in every facet of daily life. The village is known for it's hand crafted jewlery, wooden carvings, pottery, and bread. Local craftsmen demonstrated each art in their respective shops. Teens were able to observe and admire as well as explore freely and purchase what works of art they found most impressive.

We made our way to a hotel in a very secluded area of Veliko Turnova where teens had lunch and a few minutes to relax.

That afternoon, we reconvened for a discussion about anti-Semitism. It was made very clear while touring around that anti-Semitism was fairly prevalent in Bulgaria as seeing swastikas and other images of anti-Jewish sentiments occurred fairly often. Bulgarians and Americans exchanged personal stories and possible methods of combating such awful and hateful practices.

After such a serious and emotional discourse, the teens needed a relaxing night full of fun and that is just what they received. We had dinner at a FANTASTIC Bulgarian restaurant in the old capitol of Bulgaria, Veliko Turnova. Salad, pasta, and cake washed away the disheartened feelings felt a short time before as they remembered how great it was to be in a group of people so accepting of one another.

After dinner we were treated to a light show that can only be found two places in the world, Brazil and Bulgaria. Seated on an outdoor balcony, we were able to observe a fortress illuminated by a rainbow of colors and lasers that that stretched endlessly into the black night sky synced to a soundtrack of what can only be described as a mixture of medieval battle music and an orchestra that would honor the entrance of royalty. A brief discussion was had discussing that this particular fortress, tsaravets was the last to fall from Bulgarian rule when Bulgaria was conquered in 1376. It is said that evteemee, protector of the fortress encountered an axman whos duty it was to slay him and instead, his potential makers hands turned to stone resulting in life-long imprisonment in place of death.

Tonight we venture back to Sofia to celebrate Shabbat in one of only two working synagogues in the Bulgaria amongst the local Jewish community followed by a night tour of Sofia. Tomorrow we will be meeting with orphans for a day of fun and games.

All is well and we look forward to a strong end of an already amazing adventure.

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