My first experience in Bulgaria

The angel in the train, wonderful smell of roses, and cheerful smiles of children

Hello, I am Klaudia, 23 years old, I came from Austria and I am going to volunteer in Bulgaria for 10 months. I first visited Bulgaria when I was 8 years old and I still can remember a dish that I ate and never found in any other country. The dishes I am talking about is little fried fishes and this dish you can usually find by the sea. This memory was enough for me to decide that I wanted to come here again and volunteer 15 years later. This is actually my third volunteering project. The first project I did was in a village in Poland where we worked mainly in the garden and with children, my second project was in Italy, like the first project I was there for around 6 weeks, I worked there on an Olive farm where we took care of the olive trees. Both of the projects kind of required physical work so I am really happy to experience more creative work here in Kazanlak.

The first real experience with Bulgarian people that I had was on the train from Sofia to Kazanlak. I was really stressed because as you probably know the trains here never heard the word “modern” or technology so there is no system which shows you where you are and I didn´t know when to get off the train. Luckily the universe send me an angel! An old, charmant lady from Kazanlak, bless her heart! She didn´t know English and I didn´t know Bulgarian but we still managed to communicate and I know that she was coming back from Spain to Kazanlak, she has two nice looking grand-children that she wanted me to meet and maybe date, she has a cat at home, we shared food and she really saved me because my clock was one hour behind so if she wouldn´t tell me to get off the train I would be in the train for one hour more and I would get lost! Sweet lady if you are reading this please meet me for a coffee!

We visited the most important places in Kazanlak but the one I liked the most was the rose museum. The smell was everything I hoped for! I loved the museum especially the old pictures of the Kazanlak people. I was always fascinated by roses, they smell wonderful, there are many types of roses, every one of them is beautiful and one of my favorite mythology stories is the story of how roses became red.

Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love fell in love with Adonis who was passionate about hunting. One day, Adonis went into the forest in search of animals and did forget a piece of advice that the Greek goddess had given him. The advice was that he should be very careful with animals that seemed not to be afraid. However, Adonis ignored this recommendation and when he came upon a wild boar this was sadly the end of his life.

The legend tells that Aphrodite was running after the body of her lover and as she was running, on the ground were thorns and white roses, the thorns kept cutting her bare feet and her blood turned white roses into red roses. This story is so tragic and yet so beautiful that I have to think about it every time I see a red rose.

To end this article with something happier, on the third day of our project we visited a school in Kazanlak. The children welcomed us with big smiles and were really excited about the games we played with them. Just like the children were happy to see us the teachers were also happy to see us. They welcomed us, said really kind things and gave us little gifts. At the end of our visit, the kids could ask us a few questions and to my surprise, they asked us very mature questions like “What did we left at home?”, “Why we want to volunteer?”, “What did we do in other projects?”, and much more.

It was a beautiful first week in Bulgaria and I am hoping to experience more amazing things, meet wonderful people, eat good food and help the local community of Kazanlak.

Klaudia Vargova

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