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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Day 24, April 14, Vidin, Bulgaria

Last evening we docked at one of the oldest riverside towns in Bulgaria.  It was too dark to see the remains of the fort as we approached the city.  I'll was satisfied that it existed without the need to see it.  Hubby was off on the included excursion while I, along with 5 other folks, stay on board.  I took up residence in the Aquavit sun room.  From there I observed the river traffic while attempting to catch up on posts.  I would be attending a bread making class in a local residents home in the afternoon.

The excursion that most of the folks were on is to some rock formations.  There was the possibility of climbing that sounds less than fun for my knee.  Hubby planned to sit in the promised coffee shop at the base of the cliffs and people watch.

As I laid in repose with a blanket provided by Nina, head of staff, I saw buildings from the communist era.  The communist bloc had come to mean the rectangular high-rises built for the people.  That quiet morning gave time for reflection on the trip experience.  The last of this cruise had been through regions that were struggling since the fall of the USSR.  The breakup of Yugoslavia had left battle scarred buildings and people all along that beautiful area. One city had see around 200 wars through the centuries.

Many of the crew, most in their 30's and 40's came of age in post communist rule.  Some saw communism in a more positive light as there was full employment during those years.  In some areas we visited unemployment currently was as much as 34%.  Most of the crew prefer to remain silent on the subject of politics.  Predrag was not one of the silent ones.  As noted before he supports his parents who were unable to find employment.  Most people have noted it will require the death of the generations who lived under communist rule before real change comes.
But for the moment in that town of about 48,000 there was no cannon fire.  No grenades.  No machine guns.  Only the low roar of river barges and cruise ships. Some tour buses were waiting for the Yanks, Canadians and others from different parts of the world to gawk at this old city.

The morning tours returned and lunch was served. At 3 PM a bus took myself and two others to visit a home in Ruptsi for a cooking class. A gentleman, two women and a young girl welcomed us in the courtyard with traditional brandy, bread and dipping herbs.  From the well manicured garden we stepped into the home.  The home was a new build with funds the couple made while living in the States for about 15 years.  They had migrated to the US following the relaxation of immigration laws from Bulgaria.  While living in the States the women had been active in church.  It was while there they began having cooking classes to teach how to make the Bulgarian dishes.
captured from google maps street view.
After finishing our brandy, sipped not gulped as in Hungary, the ladies demonstrated how to make the bread.  The banitsa bread was made with layers of slightly scrunched up phyllo dough alternately layered with a mixture of yogart, oil, white cheese, eggs and sugar if you wished.  The ingredients had been assembled in a greased 15 inch round pan about 2 inches deep.  The bread was popped into the oven, then it was our turn.  As we worked on making the bread, Aunt Rosa supervised all we did.  It was her grown niece's home but Sunt Rosa was in charge.  This second banista was popped in the oven as the first came out ready to sample. 

While our bread was baking and we were eating the first banista, the gentleman showed us how to make homemade yogurt, the Bulgarian way.  We tourists were a little surprised to learn the milk being used was buffalo milk.  Buffalo as in water buffalo, not bison that we were accustomed to in the States.  The yogurt was certainly a bit different than cow or goat yogurt.  The ladies swore by it for cooking.  The yogurt is strained and used as a facial mask for soft, wrinkle free skin.

We three tourists, as it happened all Texas folks, visited, cooked and drank with these warm people.  Stories were shared as we sat around the table eating Banista and drinking a bit more brandy.  Questions asked and answered.  Aunt Rosa even had hand made items available for purchase.  I being a person that sews could not pass up her beautifully made apron.  Goodbyes were said, hugs given and we boarded the bus.

We returned to the long ship with the bread we made under Aunt Rosa's supervision.  It was very tasty and too much for three or four people.  We cut it in pieces and shared with the rest of the ship during the evening cocktail hour.

The cocktail hour was filled with stories of the visit to the rocks, bread making, Kindergarten and other places we sojourners visited on this first day in Bulgaria.  The time had come for disembarkation information to be given.  That meant only two nights left on board this temporary home.  Nostalgia is mixed with joy during the evening.... Hubby and I were feeling the length of the trip by the last few days.  But still not quite ready to leave our new found friends. Tomorrow would be our visit to Russe, Bulgaria.

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