Thursday, 30 June 2011

The 7 day circuit to Bulgaria - The morning of day 3 (Kazanlak) - the 14th of June 2011

Soon after having reached the foot of the Balkan mountain range where Kazanlak stands, we headed towards the 4th century B.C vaulted brickwork beehive tomb, known as the Thracian Tomb, which seen from the outside does not "unveil" the beauty of what we would soon see (in a replica tomb close by) in the form of magnificent painted murals representing a Thracian couple at a ritual funeral feast.

The Tomb seen from the outside (top left) and the painted murals depicting horse-chariot race scenes in the centre of the cuppola, the Thracian king and Queen with two musician warriors on their right, as well as a farewell of the groom to the bride scene .

We then continued towards Shipka to visit its Memorial Church located just 12 kilometres north of Kazanlak, at the foot of the Stara Planina mountains. It was rected after the Bulgarian independence as a tribute  to both Russian and Bulgarian regiment soldiers killed at the Shipka pass (1877-78).


The project design which incorporated golden domes and coloured facades was influenced by the 17th century Russian church architecture with arches, pediments and gold-plated ornaments, though it was the work of a Czech architect.
The icons in the church were offered by Russian monks from the Greek Monastery of St. Pantaleimon in Mount Athos.

Walking down from the hill, so as to continue our journey through the "land of the Thracian kings", we came across a little yellow souvenir shop with quite interesting traditional objects worth buying

It was a very "rich" cultural oriented morning ... which all of us enjoyed. 

(to be continued)

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Recent "Godmothers" ...

Dora has recently joined the group of "godmothers" and decided to be responsible for the school needs of Eveline and Verónica.


Eveline (left) and Verónica (right)

Mena has also got herself a "godmother" (Silvia), who will equally provide for her school needs. I will have Sílvia's photo downloaded as soon as I get it.


I couldn't be happier ... because with such a group of "godparents" we might be able to make a  difference in the community of Calheta. I have already been noticing some huge differences, not only regarding the children's self esteem but the progress they have been making at school.

What a difference  having a "godparent" makes !!! ...


The "power" of an image ... a couple of words or even a simple gesture ...

I have just been sent a photo of Eduardo reading the card his "godmother" (Maria João) sent him recently and  according to Sibylle, who has taken his photo, he was absolutely fascinated by it ...


I have also been sent a photo of the five girls who stopped over at Lisbon airport, after having participated in the Bern "Frauenlauf" on their way back to Cape Verde, with their mothers. The ladies came around to "thank" me (through Sibylle) for having been with their "girls" in Portugal and helped them with the airport formalities.

From left to right: Vânia, Eveline, Ertemisa, Ludmila and Anícia

A card ... a "gesture" ... and recognition on people's facial expressions ...

This is what life should be about ... "gestures" (gestures  of affection and love for the others) ...

Moments ...

I have just been sent some photos taken to some of the girls of Calheta moments after having received the presents their "godmothers" sent for their birthdays (Carla and Leinira having been the exception, as they were given books Rosário together with her family and I sent for them respectively).

Erica wearing her new dress and holding the extra birthday presents sent by her "godmother" Noëlle.

Daniela with her new dress and the birthday presents sent by Lourdes Baptista, her "godmother".

Marline wearing her birthday outfit and holding the extra birthday presents sent by her "godmother" Charlotte.

Carla and Leinira with the books Rosário and I have sent for them respectively.

These may just be moments ... but they are certainly moments of happiness for both the girls and us all ... The happiness associated with the act of receiving is as almost important as the one of giving ...

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The 7 day circuit to Bulgaria - Day 2 (Nessebar cont.) - 13th of June 2011

The traditional wooden houses of Nessebar (impressive beyond any doubt) did contrast with the modern part of the city the guide insisted we should stroll along and which none of us seemed to have any particular interest on, once it resembled any European  touristic seaside resort area.

Different views of traditional houses in the old city of Nessebar

Though the hotel facilities were the best we could have possibly expected ... we all seemed to miss the "genuine" Bulgaria we all  had came for. 

Different views from the hotel room

We travelled  back westwards the following morning  on our way to Kazanlak to visit a Tracian Tomb and be again immersed in the Bulgarian history ...

Monday, 27 June 2011

Birthday presents for the children of Calheta ...

I shall soon be sending some birthday presents to the girls in Calheta, whose birthdays will be in late July, August and September. I have bee lucky, as Bd sport active director Beat shall be stoping over at Lisbon airport  (on the 8th of July) before flying to Cape Verde, so I won't need to use the postal service this time.

The birthday presents for Ineida bought by me (left) and those for Mena bought on behalf of her "godmother" Silvia (right).

The birthday presents for Juliza bought on behalf of her "godmother" Isabel Mégre (left) and those for Claudina on behalf of her "godmother" Mafalda (right).

The birthday presents for Jussara bought on behalf of her "godmother" Cristina (left) and those for Eveline on behalf of het "godmother" Dora (right). 

I am sure the girls will be thrilled with their presents, but so will the "godmothers" once they see their faces of happiness. Sibylle will once more take photos of the girls as they are handed the presents. 

Note: the notebooks for Ineida, Juliza, Jussara and Eveline have been provided by Lurdes with the rings and bracelets for Claudina and Mena having been offered by Surama.

The 7 day circuit to Bulgaria - Day Two (Nessebar) - the 13th of June 2011

Our second day was spent travelling eastwards, so as to be able to visit Nessebar. I must confess I was impressed to see huge stretches of cultivated land, as well as farmers selling their vegetables and fruit on both sides of the road all the way there.

On the way to Nessebar

Often referred to in several books as being "the pearl of the Black Sea", Nessebar bears clear evidence of having been occupied by a wide variety of different civilizations (reinforced by historical accounts) and is said to be the town with the highest number of churches per capita.

We were shown quite a few of these old churches whilst wandering about the town, though we didn't visit the interior of any (which some of us felt might have been interesting). Amongst these were  the 13th - 14th century Church of Christ Pantocrator, which was designed in late Byzantine cross-in-square style. Constructed from stones and brickwork (known as opus mixtum construction) it has amazing decorations in its exterior walls.

Church of Christ Pantocrator

The cruciform Church of St. John the Baptist dating from the 11th century was the one we visited afterwards, followed by St. Stephen Church, also dating from the 11th century.

St. John the Baptist Church (left) and St. Stephen Church (right).

Our visit to the old town ended with the 13th - 14th century Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel and finally the old Bishopric, constructed in the late 5th and early 6th century and best known as Saint Sofia Church.

The opus mixum technique (interchanging straight rows of brickwork and stones arranged in chequered patterns) seems to have bees excelled in the case of the Church of the Holy Archangels, and since 1927 has been under state protection, because of being a "national antiquity". Regarding Saint Sofia Church it should be said that in 1257 it was looted by Venetians, who took many of its religious relics, (which can now be found in the church of San Salvatore in Venice), in what is said to have been an unprecedented campaign against the Bulgarian Empire.

The Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel Church (left) and Saint Sofia Church (right).

(to be continued)

The 7 day circuit to Bulgaria - The afternoon of Day one (Veliko Tarnovo) - The 12th of June 2011

After Koprivtshitsa we headed towards Veliko Tarnovo, having stopped at Arbanassi's oldest temple, the Nativity Church, with St. John Baptist Chapel amazingly beautiful mural paintings (painted from 1597 to 1681), showing around 5,000 faces, which we  were fortunate enough to see, though understandably not allowed to photograph.

The Nativity church seen from the outside

Some of those images were embedded in our minds and as we continued our 9 kilometre drive to Veliko Tarnovo none of us dared speak ... (we were still visibly moved by the beauty of what we had just seen).

As we reached the main western entrance of the medieval stronghold of Tsarevets over the river banks of the Yantra river, which embodies the greatness of the medieval Bulgarian state, the weather changed and it started raining heavily, as we were walking along the bridge prior to having made it to one of its gates.

The bridge leading to the main gate

A map showing the Yantra river and the Tsarevets hill on the right.

After having seeked shelter for over ten minutes some of us managed to soon make it all the way up to the Royal Palace and the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Holy Ascencion of God. Veliko Tarnovo is "legitimately" said to be one of the oldest settlements in Bulgaria.

View of the city from the fortress (left). On the way up (right).

The Patriarchate ensemble

After having walked back to the main entrance, we were driven to a hotel located in a quiet part of the medieval city centre, which had a "charming touch" of its own.

View of the old city quarter (from the Hotel room)

We couldn't have had a better day ...  full of history, Art, Religion and bucolic landscapes that made us think about life ... the one we lead ... the one they once led ...

We are looking forward to what tomorrow might bring ... from what I have read, another day as equally "rich" as this one ...