Srikanth Sastry A Techie in Boston

Small town Bulgaria

I had a really good time visiting Mira's family in Sevlievo, Bulgaria.  I am intrigued by the culture and sensibilities in small town Bulgaria.

We started with visiting the old St. Prophet Eliah Church. The last place I was allowed to take photos was the entrance. It was pretty quaint on the inside, but we were not allowed to take any pictures.

There are a few more churches around the corner, and none are like the churches I am used to seeing in India and in the US.

Interestingly, the insignia on one of the church doors, often associated with the Byzantine empire, looked a lot like Gandaberunda, the official emblem of the state of Karnataka.

As I read up more about it, I discovered that two headed birds are ubiquitous in state insignias and mythologies.

As it turns out, there is a mosque in town as well, but only muslims are allowed in. So this is pretty much all I got to see.

The only mosque in town, and we are not allowed in.

Next, we head to the city center. The old town. Not the most happening place, but nice nevertheless. Mostly clean streets with plenty of space to relax and lounge. Here is a sample of small-town Bulgarian main streets.

The city center also has an impressive statue on a pillar. Apparently, the pillar it stands on is an original Roman pillar from the Nicopolis ad Istrum, and the statue was made in Vienna.

In true European fashion, Sevlievo is also home to some old european houses that once belonged to the rich, but are now run down, but maintained. I remember seeing similar houses in New Castle Upon Tyne, Madrid, and other old cities in Europe.

Interestingly, Sevlievo is also home to one of the oldest clock towers in Bulgaria, built in 1777/1779.

Clock Tower
One of the oldest clock towers in Bulgaria.

Moving on, the city also has a "palace of culture", which ironically looks rather drab.

Palace of culture
Palace of culture

Speaking of culture, the town also has plenty of monuments and installations from the communist days. I was surprised by the monotony of these installations. Here is a sample to give you an idea of what I mean.

In fact, it appears that everything was pretty monotonous during the communist days. Sevlievo retains some a of communist-era buildings that served as stores and supermarkets. Here are a couple of them.

For contrast, compare them to the new bookstore that right down the street.

The bookstore looks a lot more like in the west.
The bookstore looks a lot more like in the west.

Among all the things uniquely Bulgarian, the most intriguing is the death notice. We are all familiar with the obituary section in the newspapers. In Bulgaria, there are such obituary notices all over town to announce a death, or a death anniversary. For instance, here is a tree that is used as a obituary notice board.

A tree trunk used as a obituary notice board
A tree trunk used as a obituary notice board.

People also post similar notices on the doors of their homes as well, and at times, it is accompanied by a black ribbon tie.