Monday, April 26, 2010

Grandparenting in Israel

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Time Out from Bulgaria to Be Grandparents

We are proud to announce the birth of our granddaughter, Daniela Shammay. Daniela was born on Sunday night and she and her mother are in good health. Today Daniela left the hospital to go live with her parents, Reut and Nir, in their Tel Aviv apartment.

Jodie flew to Israel late Sunday night, lucky that the volcanic ash cloud was kind to Bulgarian air space.

I fly to Israel on Thursday to meet the new member of our family.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Breaking News = Bulgarian Air Space Closed

All air traffic in Bulgaria has been stopped since 09:00 this morning, the Bulgarian Transport Ministry has announced. Flights from Sofia to northern European destinations had been canceled over the past few days due to the volcano in Iceland, but flights to Spain, Greece, Turkey and Israel had been operating as usual, until this morning's announcement.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Anyone Have an Old Refrigerator for Disposal?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Potholes in the Streets

As I (Ellis) was riding in a taxi to a meeting in the center of Sofia yesterday, the taxi driver, whose knowledge of English was very good, complained about the maintenance level of the city's streets.

"There are potholes everywhere," he said. "And where there are none, the municipality is making sure to dig new holes."

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Houses of Lozenets

In the Lozenets neighborhood of Sofia in which we live there is no shortage of drab Soviet-era tenements and multi-colored modern apartment buildings, but what really gives character to Lozenets are the few older individual homes, relics of what the neighborhood used to be like. Some of them are almost crumbling to the ground, while others have been restored and painted brightly.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Men in the Park

Saturday, April 10, 2010

National Museum of Natural History

Last week we had a chance to visit the National Museum of Natural History for the first time, and we were quite impressed. This museum, founded in 1889 and located in the center of Sofia, is the oldest museum in Bulgaria and the only institution in the country devoted to the preservation of scientific collections of animate and inanimate nature.

Last year the museum celebrated its 120th anniversary. It was first opened to the public in 1907. During World War Two the building was destroyed by aerial bombardment but the museum collections survived, having been evacuated in time.

The museum has exhibitions arranged in halls on four floors, and we noted that the steep staircase allows access to the handicapped. Most of the labels on the exhibits were also listed in English. Some of the biggest stuffed mammals on display included the largest brown bear in Europe and the last pure-blooded European bison.

The museum is also connected to the ongoing scientific work of the Bulgarian Academy of Science. The museum's website posts news of the latest discoveries, such as last year's discovery of the skeleton of an ancient deer from 5.5 million years ago.

We enjoyed visiting this museum and seeing its collections of birds, fish, reptiles, butterflies, mammals and more, from Bulgaria and from around the world.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Waiting for a Chess Game

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Flower Lady

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Springtime in Sofia

On the lower branches of many of the flowering trees we saw martenitsas, the red and white strings given out by Bulgarians on March 1, and which are tied to trees at the first sign of Spring.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter Week and Traditions in Bulgaria

This past week, we have seen and learned of some of the different traditions surrounding Easter.

The first of the traditional celebrations started last Sunday, when people went to church and received willow branches in honor of Palm Sunday. We actually saw some people walking around in the mall carrying these branches. Like many of the holiday traditions, there is a religious explanation for the traditions, but, many of them are also symbolic of spring, rebirth, health and good luck.

On Maundy Thursday, it is customary to start dying eggs. In Bulgaria, the first egg should be dyed red, and this egg is supposed to be set aside and kept in the home for the coming year, which is supposed to bring good luck to the home and the family.

A religious practice, for those who are more observant, is crawling under low tables that are set up in the church, which is supposed to represent Jesus’ coffin. By crawling under the table, you guarantee health and fertility.

Saturday night, just before midnight, people attend church, where they light candles, and walk around the church 3 times, and then carry the lit candles home with them, again, to ensure good luck and health for the home.

Sunday, is the day of the Bulgarian tradition of “smashing” eggs with each other – the (hard-boiled) colored eggs are distributed, and members of the family knock each other’s eggs with their own colored egg – the person whose egg has the fewest cracks after all of this, will have a year of good luck and health.

There are also many highly-decorated Easter eggs which are given as gifts – these eggs have been hollowed and then decorated with colorful dyes, and often wax – with special folk-lore designs, or even pictures representing spring or whatever comes to the imagination of the person painting the egg.

On Easter Sunday, a large family meal is eaten –usually with lamb being the main course. There is also traditional bread – Kozunak, which is sweet, braided and decorated.