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Charbroiled delights at a small village festival in a winery heavy area and the basement of one such windery

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The first two shots are from our walking tour, the third from our wine/valentine holiday tour.

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Cost of a beer in a bar: US$2-3 for 500ml

Song currently stuck in my head: Six Feet Under (Marcu Rares Edit) (Billie Eilish)

In Bulgaria St. Valentine’s Day coincides with The Day of St. Trifon Zarezan, during which they cut back the old grape vines to allow for new growth. Its consistent with every other Spring Renewal Fertility Celebration, like our Easter with its rising dead, its high-fecundity rabbit imagery, eggs and lilies, but also particularly Bulgarian and rustic. This is wine country; most of my neighbors have elaborate trellises wrapped in vines and covering their drive ways, patios and yards. High quality wineries are well represented, but fermenting garage grape hooch is a widely practiced amateur past time too. Families take a lot of pride in their product, though the local practice among home vintners is to add powdered sugar to kick up the fermentation. I don’t know if it all ferments off or if they all come out tasting like desert wines. I bought a liter of ‘Bulk Red Wine’ at one of my local groceries, sold via a tap where you can bring your own vessel or use one of their plastic bottles, for US$0.90 (about US$0.13/glass). It didn’t taste overly sweet and it certainly wasn’t terrible, though it wasn’t quite as good as the carafe of ‘house wine’ (made by the owner) we had with our pizza the first night in Mostar or any of the mavrud I’ve had here.

We took a free tour around town with a local outfit, Slow Tours Bulgaria, and we were so happy with it we started shopping their other offerings immediately. We landed on a St. Trifon Zarezan special trip to a nearby village called¬†Brestovitsa to cut some vines, witness some rites, tour a few wineries and hit up the village’s modest festival in their central square, all in for ~US$19. The drizzle did nothing to dampen our spirits. The grilled meat was amazing.

On another note, I finished the locally appropriate ‘Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe’ by Kapka Kassabova this week and it was fantastic. I’m not sure if this qualifies as magical realism, because I don’t really understand what that is, but this book will be my reference point until someone corrects me. I have prolonged train travel coming up that I was holding the bulk of it for, but it was too good to put down. I’ll have to lean on Sunday Night Noir to keep me entertained instead.

I have few reasons to leave my neighborhood here in Plovdiv. I’m interested in some whiskey, BBQ and Mexican food, all of which will require some travel, but otherwise this location has all my bases covered. The pharmacy around the corner was happy to give me a course of antibiotics to overcome some tonsil and/or throat thing that might finally be in check after I ignored it for weeks. The grocery just beyond that continues to delight me with strangeness from their hot bar. Cafes, as always, abound as do coffee machines. I’m well provisioned in this cosy little nook of The City.

Double Vendi

04.13.18

Afore mentioned coffee machines (these are at either end of my block, more or less, placed about how you would hope public mailboxes would be in The States) and Central Perk, a Friend’s themed cafe in The Old Town, next to The Cat and Mouse.

Around Plovdiv

04.11.18

Plovdiv, ladies and gentlemen.

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Price of a beer in a bar: ~US$2/500ml bottle

Song currently stuck in my head: Awake (Tycho)

The coffee machine at the end of my block has started dispensing inconsistent amounts of liquid. I push the button that Google Translate tells me is either a ‘Tall Espresso’ or ‘Pig Fistula’ and after weeks of dependable service I’m suddenly getting different levels of output each time. I can accept a lot, but I’d really prefer the gods not fuck with me on this. I have no idea what’s going on inside this magical caffeine ATM, whether its pod or liquid concentrate based or relies on some secret cold war ingenuity unfamiliar to my capitalist mind, so I don’t know if I’m getting shorted on the good stuff or just having less water added to ‘tall’ it all out a bit, but I’m starting to suspect the former.

I arrived in Plovdiv having promised myself I’d buy some kind of coffee brewing hardware if the rental didn’t include some. We’ve been living off of instant coffee in the home since we left Poland and I’m ready to return to grounds; get off the methadone and get back to pure tar. Thankfully there’s a mocha pot here, so I’m covered. I used it for a week or so but have ended up relying on the nearest machine; partly because the mocha pot is a 20 minute process and partly because the machine coffee is so good. It really is. Every morning I’m in front of this thing within minutes of climbing out of bed and sometimes I have to wait in line.

These machines are everywhere in Plovdiv and, I assume, in Bulgarian towns beyond. I’m not exaggerating when I estimate there are 6 of them in a 5 minute walking radius, no two stationed together.

Our place is a comfortable one bedroom/studio in a residential neighborhood about 35 minutes on foot from the closest reaches of The Old Town. There’s a decent sized grocery with an affordable hot bar as well as several other shops around the corner and the neighborhood is silent at night. And it comes with an optional cat, as pictured above. There are cats all over this neighborhood and all over the town in general.¬† There are about 7 or so that live in our yard and the neighbors seem to look out for them to varying degrees. But there’s one feline in particular that seemed insistent that it belonged in our rental, so I messaged the host and she said yes, it was ‘hers’ and if we wanted to let it in we were encouraged to do so. We don’t feed it and I won’t let it stay inside overnight because I don’t want to foster any dependencies that could be dangerous for the cat when we pull up stakes and head on in a few weeks. Most mornings it shows up giving every indication it spent the night indoors somewhere, so I think it’s lined up a series of several sister wives to call on.

Most of the dark beer in Europe is far to sweet for me, but this deep, smoky Bulgarian craft stout was perfect, if ~US$3.20/bottle. I had it here at The Cat and Mouse, a craft beer bar in The Old Town.