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The Joy: Soul of the Balkans

2015.09.14 Един коментар
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by Dr George Chaldakov


There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man,
by which so much joy is produced as by a good pub.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

From ancient Greece, when Plato wrote his book Symposium, everything is sympotein (drink together) – banquet, cocktail, get together party, liquid discussion. Plato’s Symposium in Athens gathers philosophers who discussed the nature of knowledge and love, they eat and drink wine – sometimes only drink. During that time, in an ancient Greek custom, the Symposiarch (“Chairman” of symposium) diluted wine. If the talks are serious, pour some more water, generally preparing three “crater” – the first for health, the second for pleasure, the third for sleep, more than three crater lead to bad behavior. And Symposiarch is not responsible for that.

A female aulos-player entertains men at a symposium on this Attic red-figure bell-krater, c. 420 BC. Source: en.wikipedia.org

A female aulos-player entertains men at a symposium on this Attic red-figure bell-krater, c. 420 BC. Source: en.wikipedia.org

Today, on the walls of some of the new pubs in Burgas has calligraphy inscribed wisdom – one of them is: “The family gets boring, the pub not!” Modern Spanish writer Antonio Gomez Rufo also wrote wisdom in his novel The Soul of Fish – one of them:

“The soul weighs as much as weigh her memories.”

Burgas, Bulgaria

In 1879 Niko Popov – the first mayor of Burgas – appreciating that the key to living a life of joy is “to open more restaurants offering plenty of eating and drink to facilitate and gladden the people to forget the five-century slavery.” So in 1888 there were 155 pubs (in Bulgarian, pitieprodavnitsi – places where drinks are sold) available to the 9 865 citizens of Burgas. Most eminent event in the pitieprodavnitsi has been happened on 28 August, 1938 when the Minister of Education Nikolay Nikolayev opened the pub named Casino – the most visited “library” of Burgas. By 1990, the Casino left to self-destruction because there is no such ministers like Nikolay Nikolaev – doctor of legal sciences, one of the 43 deputies who do not give Bulgarian Jews to the Nazis.

In 1934 there were 179 pubs, 92 cafes and a Russian Club available to the 36 231 citizens of Burgas. At that time the most democratic pub in the city was “Two Leva” (leva is Bulgarian currency) – for two leva the client can eat and drink on belly.

Burgas, ul. "Bogoridi '20s of the twentieth century. Source: LostBulgaria.com

Burgas, Bogoridi str., ’20s of the ХХ century. Source: LostBulgaria.com

The most aristocratic place for joy in Burgas was the Civil Club – in the center of the city, 18 Bogoridi Street, one floor coffee and playing cards and backgammon, the other – a restaurant. Club owner David was a Jew, he became the godfather of the marriage of my mother and my father in 1938, when my father was a waiter at a Club, later – a co-owner with David.

Now the “The joy in Burgas” has about 4000 visitors in Facebook.

Leskovac, Serbia

Of the many pubs and kafani will only mention the culinary Olympics in Leskovac – a city 40 kilometers South of Nis. Together with my friends from Nis we travel on the road to Kragujevac and after 30 minutes arrive in Leskovac – not because there is there a modern Clinic IVF (in vitro fertilization). But because its director Professor Miodrag Stojkovic has invited us to roshtiliada – Olympics of grill (in Serbian, grill is roshtil). At this time of year, the middle of September, Leskovac is the most densely populated place in the world – thousands of people, tons of meat, wine, brandy – and red chilies. Vigorously smiling young people clap meat between the palms of their hands (like making applause, in Serbian – plyaskane), put it on the grill and plyaskavitsata is ready to eat after 15-20 minutes – “Applause” grill is a traditional Serbian patent. And red wine, especially that labeled Pro cordis, due to its rich content of resveratrol. The wine is named Vranac (Black stallion) after the Montenegrin black horses. Roshtiliada lasted three days and three nights, and in the next September, we will be again on the road “from Nis to Leskovac…”

Rostiliada. Source: odans-travel.com

Roshtiliada. Source: Odans-travel.com

Lyaskovets, Bulgaria

Now, in the first days of September, we go to Lyaskovets, a town nearby the city of Veliko Turnovo – there will have a great joy with lots of grilled meat, red wine and Balkan rhythms. Our roshtiliada is called skariada.BG (in Bulgarian, grill is skara). At this time of year Lyaskovets will be the most densely populated place in the world – thousands of people, tons of meat, wine and brandy, accompanied by the ethno Balkan melodies of the Bulgarian clarinetist Ivo Papazov-Ibryama, the Serbian Weddings and Funerals Orchestra of Goran Bregović and other Balkan musicians. Unlike Plato symposia, neither roshtiliada, nor skariada have Symposiarch.

Sofia Photo Agency, архив

Goran Bregovic. Source: Sofia Photo Agency

Yet, due to such a joy the soul of the Balkans becomes heavier weighted. And unique. Carpe diem of ancient Romans. Joie de vivre of French people. Wine o’clock as recently added to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Donazdrave as already introduced to the Bulgarian Dictionary of Soul (nazdrave means “for health”, dovizhdane – “see you again”, hence donazdarve – “drink with you again” – that is more vital and joyable than dovizhdane. To see someone without drinking is nonsense, indeed!



PS: Additional information of Soul of the Balkans may be found in the Serbia-Bulgaria Project Veni, Vino, Vici.


One Comment »

  • Paul Stewart said:

    Donazdrave – drink with you again.

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