Finest wine, dozens kinds of excellent cheese and lavender fields – these words conjure all that sunny French landscapes in our mind, like Provence, Champaign, Bordeaux and Burgundy. Meanwhile, these beautiful sceneries, treats and gourmet foods can be found in Bulgaria.
Wine growing and wine making appeared both in France and Bulgaria since time immemorial, approximately in 5th century BC. And this is of no wonder – even a stick stuck in the ground is blessed to bloom and bear fruit, given local mild and gentle climate. Kidding! (Every joke has a grain of truth). As wine making, with further wine drinking, were widely spread, Khan Krum had to introduce a Prohibition accompanied by cutting down the vineyards. Later on, Ottoman officials and forces struggled with wine during 5 centuries of Ottoman Rule in this region.
Fortunately, precious vines were saved and Bulgarian viniculture was revived by Orthodox monks. By the mid-20th century the county had become a large wine producer. Joking apart, in the 70s-80s tiny Bulgaria provided the USSR with a hundred of tanks of noble alcoholic beverages daily! Today there are dozens of Bulgarian vignerons who produce hundreds of different wines at any taste.
Gourmets may taste both well-known sorts (such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Kadarka, Muscat, Chardonnay) and local wines like Mavrud, Melnik, Misket, Tamyanka and others. Most Bulgarian wines have dry, sour tart taste and some drinkers prefer to sweeten them a bit with some honey. Surely, the quality of wine products not to be compared with French ones, however, many people had taken a strong fancy to liquors of humble Bulgaria.
Lavender Blue Dilly Dilly!
Picturesque lavender fields have become a kind of Provence’s signature piece. Yet, there are many delightful places in Bulgaria, where these lovely flowers are grown as well. In the end of summer thousands of people set off to the local lavender fields to take pleasure in its beauty and charming fragrance and also to indulge a romantic photo shoot. Surprisingly, Bulgaria manufactures under 250 tons of essential lavender oil, most part of which is exported to France.
France is a land famous for its cheese. The options are similarly endless there and concerning cheeses, Bulgaria is a little behind and that is why. The thing is that Bulgarians have been producing “sirene” for ages. This brine cheese with feta texture is a popular ingredient used in salads and a variety of pastries and has become an icon of the nation. It’s hard to say exactly how many kinds of “sirene” are produced here nowadays, but there are dozens of sorts. And if you are a bryndza-eater you’ll be definitely into it. As for hard sorts of cheese, they’ve been produced in Bulgaria for a short period of time so far and on this matter they’re fairly losing to French ones. Though, here you can find a nice and tasty Bulgarian yogurt (“kiselo mlyako”) — sour milk enriched with Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles, a healthy and lit dairy product.
Dairy products in Bulgaria. “Shopskiy” salad
Climate and national character
Since ancient times it is known that climate affects people’s character. When nature favours its inhabitants, and generously gives plenty of heat and food, it makes people peaceful and careless. Both Bulgarians and French, if we talk about rural residents and countrymen, are characterized by relatively slowness and unconcerned living. And this hardly can be blamed. Why to hustle if you’ve got a bottle of fine wine, a good piece of delicious cheese and picturesque fields of fragrant lavender for amusing the eye.
France, Provence Bulgaria, Veliko Tarnovo
Many people are discouraged by the ruins of Bulgarian villages, well, it makes sense. There is a huge gap between the down here and French province. Average income of the population is quite low and big families live their lives in dilapidated houses. The horse-drawn carts are often met along the highways, and we unlikely will see so bony horses anywhere else. Nevertheless, there are some refined touristic villages and more European chalet style settlements with golf courses are being built.