How to Make French Fries

At 163 km from Sofia, according to Google, there is a small village which for some years in the past was known as ‘the village just below the famous Dobarsko – the one with the 16th-century church with Jesus Christ in a rocket’. Today, Gorno Draglishte is known as the village of the joyful grannies who welcome every visitor as a long-lost friend. They are like a constant spring of humour and good mood; you can never be tired or depressed around them.

If you happen to visit the guesthouse of Deshka located right at the turn to – believe it or not – the village of Dobarsko, it is very likely that humour will arrive soon in the face of Garndma Lena and Grandma Yana. Dressed in the colourful local costumes, they seem to feel equally comfortable at +30 and -5°C. Mind that the costumes are made of wool. The grannies help the host, Deshka, with serving meals but mostly they present themselves as the ‘local animators’ who entertain visitors. And entertain they do!

If you happen to pass by, you’re welcome to stay. The cheerful ladies will cook you the best home meal ever, with delicious 100% local products. They will sing playful songs for you and tell juicy jokes for you. One of them I show to make French fries in the village-stype but I’m not gonna spoil it, you have to hear it for yourselves. Then they will dress you in one of their colourful costumes, put a kerchief on your head and take by the hand out, in the yard, to dance horo. And this will last as long as you can manage. There’s your challenge!

Being Roman

Professor Mary Beard from the University of Cambridge, a globally renowned expert in ancient Rome, has written several large volumes and filmed several extensive series about what does it mean to be Roman. We decided to cut short and find this out by visiting a trail in the Macedonian parts of Belasitsa Mountain, connecting the villages of Gabrovo and Bansko.

The trail can be taken in both directions but we decided to start at the Roman Baths in the village of Bansko. The latter is mostly known for the high-quality mineral waters, presently being used, as it seems, only by pensioners sent here under some national health-security scheme. The important thing is the same mineral waters obviously attracted the Romans too, many centuries ago, so they settled and built a huge spa complex. One that we’d gladly use even today.

The entry info board told us about the role of baths in the everyday life of the Roman Empire – for cleaning, yes, but also for communication, gossip and politics. The trail winded above the Bansko Baths and took us into the lovely forests of Belasitsa where a short while later we found the second info board telling us about the most interesting inhabitants of the mountain, such as the Wild Boar, the Salamander and the White-Backed Woodpecker.

The third info board was dedicated to the gifts nature provided for men, obviously since the times of the Roman Empire and probably even earlier. It paid special attention to nuts, forest fruits and what else but the Caesar’s Mushroom. Further into the forest, we were informed about the most interesting and precious among its plant population – both trees and flowers.

At the end, we discovered the “most guarded secret of Belasitsa”, as our Roman guide Marcus Populus had written for us – the wonderful waterfalls that hide in the depths of the mountain and reveal themselves only to those who persist.

After having learned what Romans found most valuable in their lives, we finished our journey by a truly Roman feast on the green lawn of the Kostadinov family in Gabrovo. And guess what we did next? Of course we paid respect to the excellent Roman tradition of taking a break after meals and allowing blood to re-distribute itself between brains and digestion.

You’re welcome, Prof. Beard!

Let Us Be Reminded of the Varied Accommodation and Culinary Supply of Petrich Municipality

Momata Hotel in the village of Kolarovo offers a pleasant and relaxed stay in the Belasitsa eco surroundings. This is a rural tourism but in new and modern rooms. We tasted traditional Bulgarian cuisine. As a surprise, we were greeted by a Bulgarian folklore group which increased the atmosphere; and when music, meals and friendship are in place, it inevitably comes to dancing Horo.

Though the village of Kolarovo has only 700-800 houses, one can receive diverse catering offers here. The atmosphere at the small restaurant and the lunch at Stefan’s in the village gave us a forgotten feeling, as if we were being guests to a rural family. Lunch was exactly how our grannies cooked it. Everything was familiar and ordinary but perfectly delicious and natural. The greatest success in answering tourists’ needs comes when the hosts are directly involved in preparing food and are constantly ready to provide additional help.

We saw, when visiting Ograzhden Mountain that villages have been abandoned by the young and a lot of time and kilometers are needed to get there, but even in such deserted places there were still some ethno-restaurants, which is something to be praised. We tasted traditional food with a rich menu: seasonal salad, beans, Gyuvech (meat baked with vegetables), Banitsa (pastry with white cheese)… ethno-atmosphere with ethno-food.

Dinner at Rukie Izirova in the village of Yavornitsa offered a surprising mosaic of local gastronomic specialties. The 70-years old hostess did not hide any secrets of her culinary mastership. We were happy to taste her cuisine for which she has got a lot of awards. The music and dancing added to the wonderful evening at Rukie’s.

The last day we had a farewell lunch at Yanksih in the village of Samuilovo. Young girls waited us at the door in national costumes and with plates of cherries. I was most impressed by the latter which are grown here in the Petrich Municipality in big massifs. The homemade roll with fig jam and bananas was an excellent dessert before our departure to Macedonia. Greetings to all. We drive on…