Off Site: Artists' Balkan Expedition

Dog Days of Summer


Leannej and My Name is Scot find quail eggs, barking puppies and homemade wine at a Bulgarian market in this week's installment of Off Site: Artists' Balkan Expedition.

Everyone here recognizes that we are foreigners. Often, our friends will report sightings of us by strangers. On Saturday morning, we met our friend Tanya at the market and she told us she knew we were there already, because the vendors had told her.
The market is filled with people selling water bottles filled with homemade wine or Rakia (a kind of brandy made from grapes or apricots or whatever fruit is handy), tubs of pristine white squares of feta, bundles of grape leaves, dusty bags filled with quail eggs, boxes of tomatoes and dusty red peaches. Also: pigeons, finches, ducks, chickens, puppies and kittens. There are stands that sell bags of animal feed, and stands that sell goldfish and aquarium plants by the bag. The market is bustling and filled with people. It is dusty and it smells a little like manure and sawdust and frying sausages, and it is loud with the voices of the vendors yelling, the crowing of roosters, barking puppies, and the sounds of people bustling about.
When I first arrive at the market, I feel conspicuous, but eventually I forget myself, and become lost among the crowds, though apparently I am never invisible.

Rain. Glorious rain. When it rains in Sofia, it is very dramatic: dark skies, pounding thunder and flashes of light. We’ve been stuck in heatwave. So when it rained yesterday, half of the citizens of Sofia ran outside. Across the street from us, a little girl danced in the rain. Later, I thought I heard the huge chestnut tree in front of our building sigh with relief.

The Sofia flea market is vast enterprise that sits on the edge of the city, just next to one of the three Roma neighbourhoods. To get to the flea market, we walked up several streets to the peak of a hill that overlooks downtown Sofia. At the top of the hill, our guide, Petko, pointed to a large, open air complex in the distance and said, “That’s the flea market; this is just the before.” The Sofia flea market is packed with stuff, from communist era radios and books, WD40, cockroach traps, new and used Bulgarian pottery and knock off Adidas gear.

Our friend Tanya had us over for dinner. She lives in one of the few old houses remaining in downtown Sofia. The table was filled with food. Two kinds of savory pepper dishes: peppers soaked in oil and herbs. Fried zucchini and eggplant, an omelet filled with crunchy vegetables. There was also feta and smoked cheese, as well as fresh cucumbers served in dill. We sat down and ate and drank Rakia, spiced wine and beer. Tanya talked about the Buddhist notion of impermanence, of how we can be sure of only this moment, and the uncertainty of saying “see you later.”

All photos by My Name is Scot.



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