Historical Bulgarian of the Week - Kaloyan Stefanov Mahlyanov:

Hello loyal readers.

We here at B22 Blogstars like to stay on top of what’s hip, what’s happen, what’s hot and what’s fresh. For instance, yes we all have the new Soulja Boy album, what got all his fly steps down and of course we rock only the latest fashions. For example look at this picture of me decked out in the latest threads:

Not only that but we like to respond to what, you, our loyal readers would like to hear and judging from the poll located on the top right of this page we have a certain reader who is much more enthusiastic than the rest, dare I call him a "faithful" reader…Ladies and Gentleman, Mike Huckabee is our most "faithful" reader! To show you all just how “faithful” he is I found this on his web-site: “My faith is my life - it defines me. My faith doesn't influence my decisions, it drives them. For example, when it comes to the news, I believe in being a regular reader of such established publications as b22blogstars.blogspot.com. I don't separate my faith from my personal and professional lives.”

You heard it folks, straight from our future presidents mouth! That being said I would like to dedicate my newest blog to Mike Huckabee!

My third "Historical Bulgarian of the Week" is Kaloyan Stefanov Mahlyanov (or “Калоян Стефанов Махлянов” in Bulgarian). He was born on 19 February 1983 in the town of Veliko Turnovo. However, Kaloyan, is better known as, “Kotoōshū Katsunori” which is his professional Sumo Wrestling name.

Yes, you read that correctly. There is a professional Bulgarian Sumo wrestler!

He made his debut in November of 2002 and slowly worked his way up the ranks and now he is currently ranked as an "Uzeki" or "Champion", the second-highest level only to "Yokozuna". At 25 years only he stands at 6 feet 8 inches tall (aka 2.03 meters for all you Metric System users out there) and he weighs 340 pounds (aka 152 Kilos)!

However large Kaloyan seems to us, he is considered light is the world of Sumo Wrestling. He is right handed and switches between hands to grab the belt and use agility to out maneuver his opponents.

All of this Sumo Wrestling research and all of this Mike Huckabee research has really got me thinking... Who would win in a Wrestling Match, Kaloyan or the "Huckster"?

You already know Kaloyans stats, so here are "Huckies": The 52 year old former Arkansas Governor stands 5 feet and 11 inches tall and at one point used to weigh 280-300 pounds! However in 2003 he took a more healthy turn and lost over 110 pounds. He currently sits at a mere 180 pounds...
...while this is great for "The Hucklers" mental and physical well-being I see this as a detriment to his chances in the ring. He is a good deal shorter and considerably smaller. However, the one thing that our next president does have going for him is training. I don't know how many of you were aware but Mike Huckabees personal trainer is the one and only Chuck Norris! The word on the street is that he even has taken Chucks fighting style and blended it to best suit his own methods! For those of you who don't believe me, I have physical proof!!! I think a fight between the two might look something like this......and after a few rounds of our dear friend "Mr. Huckington" toying around with the big fella he pulls out the big guns. Starting with his famous opening move "The Hymn-er"...... which is of course is followed always by what is infamously know among religious fighting circles as "The Sermonizor"......and he would defiantly finish with the most deadly of all attacks, "The Baptism"...Thanks for reading what is, by far, the craziest thing I have ever written. I hope you enjoyed. Also, special thanks to J-Dub Paper stacks for the help! There is no way I could have done this without you. Until next week...

-Kashkaval Pane.

PS- Mike Huckabee when you do in fact read this, as I know you will, I would like to tell you that I have a bone to pick with you about making Gonzaga lose. Now I know you don’t like Jesuits but you really should have let them win at least a couple of games in the NCAA Tournament, for my Grandmothers sake if for no other reason... The End.

Posted byPavel at 10:10 AM 1 comments Links to this post  

Bulgarian Transportation of the Week: Trains

Trains! (влакове!)
are by far the best way to get around Bulgaria (especially if you aren’t in a rush).

This transit system is nationally run by the Български държавни железници (Bulgarian State Railways) or БДЖ/BDZ for short. There are train routes through the country with trains running during most hours. Some PCVs say that I have an unhealthy obsession with trains. Can you blame me? Trains are usually no more than five minutes late, cheaper and the city name is clearly marked on the station.

Trains are a wonderful way to see the beautiful Bulgarian countryside. They also offer more space to stretch out, meet cool people/have crazy adventures and toilet facilities that dump waste straight to the track. This beats buses that have no toilet but I’d still wait until really really had to go before using a train toilet. The Bulgarian train engineers had a worse situation, they had no where to pee on some of the older trains except out the window. In response to this concern being raised by their union, the management issued the following response:

“Bulgarian train drivers have been issued with rotating chairs so they can pee out of the window without having to stop.”

I love this country.

There are four types of trains: International (международен), Express (ускорен бърз) , Fast (бърз) and "contemplate life" (пътнически). International trains should only really be taken domestically if you really have to be somewhere and you live on an international line (ex Plovdiv, Stara Zagora or Dimitargrad) since they are hella expensive but the fastest train available. Express trains are a bit pricey but worth it since they only stop in large cities. Fast trains tend to be the most frequent and are the ones to catch. The slow trains can be excruciatingly long. For example, I took a slow train from Sofia to Dupnitsa. By bus it's a 45 minute ride. By slow train, it's 3 and a half hours. I'm pretty sure we stopped to pick up hitch hikers. So when faced with a choice, pick the fast or express trains (unless you don't live on the main line or in a small village, then you're just S.O.L.).

Train carriages come in a variety options, open, compartment and sleeping. The open carriages are like a plane, with two rows of seats; usually two by two. They don't offer too much privacy but it's still more comfortable than a plane. The compartment are just that-a compartment of eight seats (four by four) facing each other. I find that these are the best when travelling with a bunch of noisey Americans as you won't disturb other passangers. The downside is the aisles can be narrow but that's not much of a downside. They are the option on night trains when you don't purchase a sleeping car ticket. Speaking from expirience, they aren't very comfortable to sleep on. The ticket lady didn't sell me a sleeping car ticket because my trip was only three hours long. You can also purchase a reserve seat for an extra 0.50лв. If you're in a rush, you can annoy the conductor by purchasing your ticket on the train for a 30% charge. Bulgarian trains also come in first and second class. There really isn't too much of a difference between the two aside from the first class coaches being newer. Regardless of any class, Bulgaria seems to be the place where German trains come to die. I have seen some new trains but they tend to go to random places (like from Plovdiv to Asenovgrad. I would have guessed Sofia to Plovdiv).

To get the most for your money, I highly recommend you buy a discount card. The youth card costs 30лв but it saves you 50% on all train tickets and you'll recoop the cost in no time; it's three return trips to Sofia for me. All of the cards are good for a year from the date of purchase. Other cards available are Student, Rail pass and pensioner. It's also worth noting that if you're planning on travelling internationally by train from Bulgaria to purchase one before you buy your ticket. You'll be a baker rolling in all the dough you're saving.

All in all, I love to travel by train. It's a great way to see the country and save money doing so. I could write so much more about trains but I'll save that for a later post.

J-dub "The Duke" Paperstax

On a solem note I would like to mention the train accident that occured on Febuary 29th, which killed nine people, the worst in the Balkans in 16 years.

Posted byJimmy at 10:02 AM 3 comments Links to this post  

Smells of Bulgaria: Unknown Substance

After having spent seven months, 14 days, and about 12 hours in Bulgaria I can say with confidence that it is filled with many smells that are both positive and negative alike. The last two weeks of smells have been somewhat negative in nature, so this week I wanted to highlight a more positive Bulgarian smell.

Last weekend Stacie and I took a trip to our favorite store here in town called Kaufland, a large grocery store somewhat like Fred Meyer back home (but without the obvious essentials like Skippy peanut butter or real brown sugar). They usually have a really great selection of fruits and veggies when they are in season. So last week we were wondering about the expansive produce section and saw sweet potatoes! You can not imagine how excited we were to take these bad boys home and cook them up for dinner! After finishing our other shopping and spending way more than we should have, we took the bus home and turned on the stove.

But after washing our precious potatoes, I began to suspect that something terrible had happened. Once I made the first cut into the gloriousness of our treasure, I discovered that the orangeness of our potatoes had been replaced by a deep dark redness. We had made the tragic and historic mistake of buying beets instead of what we wanted to buy. Who knows if there actually were sweet potatoes there. There was a label on the price list for sweet potatoes, so that is what we paid for, but who knows if they really existed. Sadly, the worst part about the whole thing is not that we did not get sweet potatoes, but it is that we did not have any of the right ingredients to make something good out of our beets. Instead we just sliced them, boiled them, lightly salted them, and ate them for our dinner.

There is a secret motive behind my post for this week. That secret is awareness. If I can help anyone out there not make the same mistake we did then our mistake would have been worth it. Our mistake: not having yogurt or dill on hand to make “Bulgarian Beets with Yogurt” (page 53), or not having one chicken leg on bone or cabbage to make “Ukrainian Borshch” (page 32). Along with an emergency stash of Snickers bars, I believe it is important to always have some of these things.

I leave you with words of caution. If you ever go to the store looking for potatoes, but buy beets instead, be prepared. If you ever go looking for bonboni, but buy beets instead, be prepared. If you ever go looking for soap or some other type of hygienic item but buy beets instead, be prepared. You will never know when this might happen to you and you walk all the way home holding beets instead of what you really wanted to buy, so be prepared.

P.S. The beets actually smelled pretty good.

Posted byJason Smith at 9:10 PM 2 comments Links to this post  

Rocky Heart Your Ultimate Fighting Bulgarian Food and Drink Critic Pacifist declares “Boza (Бoза) as the newest member of the Axis of Evil.”

This weeks Bulgarian Food/Drink Item of the Week (BFDIW) is Boza.

As always we will first start off with the facts. Boza is a drink in Bulgaria that is commonly drunk in the morning along with banitsa. In fact Boza is the Bulgarian drink equivalent to banitsa (read BFDIW I for an understanding of the place banitsa has in the Bulgarian society).

Boza has a long documented history in the Balkan region and Turkey. Boza enjoyed wide popularity up until the 16th century when it was made illegal by the Ottoman Empire because it contained alcohol and bans in some way shape or form on the beverage remained in place until 19th Century. But it was noted, that in 17th Century Istanbul, there were 300 Boza shops employing over 1000 people. The bans on Boza were later lifted and it is once gain widely drunk in these regions. (Sidenote: In regards to Boza, prohibition was not a bad idea even though it did not work. Power to the people I guess. End sidenote.)

Every country makes it a little different. According to the best source on the Internet, Wikipedia says that Bulgarian Boza is like Albanian Boza. Albanian Boza is made, “of maize (corn) and wheat flour, sugar and water.” My bottle says it consisted of wheat, rye, and water. One litre of Boza contains a thousand calories, four types of vitamins A and B, and vitamin E. During fermentation lactic acid, which is contained by few foods, is formed, and this facilitates digestion.

Those are the historical and production facts on Boza. But you maybe asking yourself, what truly is Boza? Simply put Boza is evil in a bottle. I can only assume that the stuff running under the streets of New York and which engulfed the museum in Ghost Busters II would smell and taste and with a little pink food coloring look like Boza. In fact now that Iraq has been rid of its weapons of mass destruction, I am formally going to petition our president to replace Iraq with Boza in the Axis of Evil. The new Axis of Evil will look like this: Iran, North Korea, and Boza.

I went to the best source I could find, my fellow PCV’s, to get an accurate description of the taste of Boza for you.

“George Vaflington says drinking boza is like drinking a warm glass of rubber cement without all the headaches and demons.”

“I only tried it once and my opinion is that is was like thin gravy, smelled like a sick child from my past, and tasted incredibly like it smelled.” Joan

“My host mom tried to feed it to me. It's similar to the consistency of a shake. I don't even know if I can begin to describe the taste - it's sickeningly sweet and wheaty at the same time. The texture is enough to make you gag if the taste doesnt get you. Also, sipping it through a straw DOES NOT make it taste any better.” Emma

“it's like they took the left over milk from your bowl of coco puffs and mass produced
it....seriously, when i even hear the word boza i wanna yak.” Rajun

“boza! ohbojay!” Wil (Obviously they drink in the morning in Bourgas.)

“I always describe it as sweet cold fermented gravy........and its better not to smell it before you drink it otherwise it may not stay down.” Cyndi

“Boza the other brown liquid” (Chase)

“Sort of like drinking a pureed can of baked beans.” Jason

"Boza tastes like sugar frosted wheat cheerios after having been left in bowl of milk in the sun for several days. It is simply disgusting." (Dude from a place that is the sound a bird makes + an)

“I haven't had the real thing ever, just the "stand in" that the cleaning ladies provide (they swear that's what it is), but I would say it tastes like carbonated sweet wheat.” Jess

“I am sorry that this is your topic. Boza is basically the grossest thing on the planet. I feel like I am drinking fermented bean juice. Who would drink fermented bean juice? It's almost like they tried their hand at refried beans and then failed miserably because they realized they were using wheat. I don't know. All I know is that I hate Boza with the fiery passion of 1000 suns.” Barb

“To a Southerner, it may remind them of pinto beans, cooked using a ham bone” Steve

Except for Wil’s, I would have to agree with the assessment provided by my fellow PCV’s. You may be thinking that there is no way it smells as bad as it tastes, but you would be wrong. For you see, I worked at a grain elevator (for those not from a small town, a grain elevator is where farmers take their grain to sell) and the grain would slip off the conveyor belts and fall on the ground. After a while a pile would form and then it would become wet and then moldy and then rat infested. It was my job to shovel this. Keep in mind that there is not a lot of room where I am working. So I am completely engulfed by this smell of rotting grain. It has been five years since I had this job and I had not smelled anything close to that until I opened a bottle of boza.

But like every credible blogger, I needed to do more research on the topic, so I on banitsa Wednesday’s purchased a bottle of boza for 50 stoltikni and brought it to work. In order to provide further insight I invited my Buglarian counterpart to share in the experience.

First with banitsa in hand we nazdrave (cheers). The reason I am smiling is because my counterpart for a second convinced me that it was not that bad, so I am trying to take a positive attitude into the experience.

My counterpart imbibes first. Bulgarians love this stuff.

Next is my turn. Here goes nothing. This is what I look like when I am hating life.

Victory over evil! (I seriously imbibed a full glass.)

Now that I have drunk my last drop of boza ever, I find myself able to reflect on the finer points of the drink. There are two that come to mind.

The first is that boza is widely believed to enlarge breasts size. You make think that I am making this up, but I have been told on many of occasions that when I go back to America I must take back a crate of boza with me. In fact, I found this article online which serves as proof that this is true.

Breast boosting beer sells like hot cakes

“EUROPEAN men are flocking to Bulgaria to buy "breast-boosting beer" after the country's accession to the EU has meant that customs duties on the tipple have been abolished.

The millet-based ale called Boza allegedly makes women's breasts bigger, but was previously expensive. Now thousands of tourists are traveling to the Bulgarian border town of Ruse to buy Boza for their wives and partners.”

Was this one of the contributing factors in addition to Bulgaria being awesome that helped with getting into the EU? Interesting question if you ask me.
In order to test this theory, I took a before and after shot. The results speak for themselves.

The other fine point of boza is that to love Bulgaria, which I have grown to, is to love boza. So Boza, you me be evil, but you are an evil that I love. We may have had our last dance, but it is a dance that I will never forget.

Til the next episode,

Rocky Heart
Your Ultimate Fighting Bulgarian Food and Drink Critic Pacifist

Posted byKellen Utecht at 11:18 AM 12 comments Links to this post  

Vafla of the Week: The Eco-Vafla

Feast your eyes on this:

Right there is what you might call the "obiknovena vafla" or usual vafla. Another term might be, "old school vafla" since it is vafla in its simplest form with no fancy coatings. To me, however, this is the Eco-vafla. What does the Eco stand for? Economical and Ecological, of course.

Since blogs are all about blatantly forcing your own agenda on the world, I will start with the ecological side. This vafla is the most environmentally friendly vafla because it has no plastic wrapper that will sit in a landfill for a million years, kill sea gulls and make babies cry. The packaging I received it in is the very paper in which it rests. Here is a more detailed shot of the vafla's wrapper:

The wrapper there is mostly for sanitary reasons. When I bought this vafla, the shopkeep picked it out of a bulk box of vafla, wrapped it in the paper and handed it to me.

This paper is reusable and recyclable. I can use it to scratch down vafla inspired haikus or drop it off in one of the town's recycling bins. Why is this significant? Because, although very nice and superb at sealing in freshness, the normal plastic wrapping of vafla is not recyclable (at least not normal recycling -- to my knowledge) and worse still, many locals enjoy littering the streets with these very vafla wrappers. This kills me knowing that they will end up in a water source, then get to the ocean, then kill a sea gull, make a baby cry and never bio-degrade.

When the wrapper of the blue borovets vafla gets me down, but not enough to stave off my vafla temptation, I often reach for the Eco-vafla. It is also the most economical vafla I know of because one vafla costs only ten stotinki! That's 10 for a lev and 20 for a euro! What a deal!

Agenda pushing aside, on to the testing.

Here is a shot of the flavor layers:

That's four layers of wafer and three of chocolate. This ratio leads to a good amount of heaven. Last week's entry had the same ratio, but with a whole chocolate shell around it, leading to a 5:4 chocolate to wafer ratio, plus the chocolate on the sides, which adds exponentially to the heaven. It's important that the vafla ratio always lead to an odd amount of layers. Just like giving out an even amount of flowers is considered a tremendous insult in Bulgaria (mostly true), so to is it an insult to give out, produce or consume a vafla with an even amount of layers (less true).

Since this vafla is the closest to sugar wafers, I tried dissecting it to see if the layers could be removed like on sugar wafers. This proved impossible and ended up with me crushing some of my vafla. :(

On the bright side, this experiment proves the difference between vafli and sugar wafers. The *heaven*. Obviously there is something greater - something more divine - holding the layers of vafla goodness together. That, my friends and followers, is the heaven. If you don't believe me, ask Mike Huckabee.

On the taste, this is a mighty fine obiknovena vafla. Not as good as the borovets obiknovena vafla, but that is the gold standard which I will review another day. There was something nutty in the chocolate filling. Perhaps they use some hazlenut or something. That or Finetti.

The only down sides are that this vafla can lead to a lot of crumbs and, depending on how long ago the bulk box was opened, might not be fresh. Fortunately, since it's a great deal which many Kresna vafla enthusiasts cash-in on, I've never found my vafla stale.

If your local shop doesn't engage in this practice, I dare you, my fellow Bulgarian PCVs, to ask them to do so. I don't want you to do this to promote the ecology or economy of such a vafla, I want you to do it because it would be painfully awkward to try to make such a request in Bulgarian.

OK. Dares and agenda aside. This is a dandy vafla, and on my new arbitrary scale, I'll say it's "Vawfully Good!" on taste "Vawfully Perfect!" on ethics.

update: Due to complaints from "someone" I will add a numeric score for the obiknovena vafla. We'll say that "Vawfully Good!" on taste and "Vawfully Perfect!" on ethics translates into a 9.000000001

Vafli Yours,

George Vaflington

Posted byThomas at 11:00 PM 4 comments Links to this post  

pop! of the week: Shantel

I'm not quite sure what's going on here, but it seems like the rest of the world is waking up to the fact that we here in the jello mold of the Balkans know how to kkkkiiiccckkkk it. So here is Western Europe catching on to our Balkan beats, Roma horns, and the curious way of pronouncing disko.

Shantel: Disko Partizani
This video takes place in Turkey (Istanbul I think)

Seriously, if you can get ahold of this album, it is well worth the trouble.

you want more?

and please, check out the website: Disko Partizani

Thanks John!!!!!

Posted byshizzaun at 11:32 PM 2 comments Links to this post  

Baba of the Week: Baba Hoods

You see them everywhere in Bulgaria. They are abundant in the small towns and villages, but scarce in the large cities. They come in many different shapes and sizes, colors and textures. They are Baba (grandma) hoods. For those of you who don’t know what baba hoods are, let me try to articulate there bad assness in writing. Like their cousin headwear apparel bandanas, these too are tied around your head. Similarly to the bikers’ tradition of bandanamania, baba hoods are dawned proudly above most babas in Bulgaria. Unlike biker bandanas though, they do not have a proudly displayed bald eagle or an American flag on them. They come in patterns that can only be compared to really bad wallpaper from the 60’s and 70’s. Each has a unique smell which is a direct result from long hours in the field and smells from the kitchen. The colors range from simple black to rainbow colored “skittle” head types of hoods. As I asked around about why the hoods are so important to a Bulgarian baba, I was surprised by some of the answers.

1) To protect their colored hair from the elements, such as rain, wind and other things that could affect the red colored hair.
2) It’s cheaper then a hair brush. Why stress in the morning about what to do with your hair when you can just put a piece of cloth around your head and call it a day.
3) Prevents alien attacks
4) Fashion Statement. What better way to make your fellow baba neighbors jealous then by wearing a new fashionable baba hood. They also will make all the old grandpas drool (not from being over medicated) by strutting their stuff in front of them with their new hoods.
5) Used for aroma therapy.
6) So they can be recognized by their family and community
7) Aerodynamic. The curvature of the hood allows for a tight forming fit around the head that enables the 80 year old to reach maximum speed faster. Imagine them without the hoods.
8) It can double as a handkerchief.
9) Being “Hip”. These hoods make them look and feel younger.

Feel free to add more reasons for this phenomenon in Bulgaria and remember to have a great St. Patrick’s Day!!

Until Next week, this is

Brian Fantana

Stay Classy Bulgaria

Posted byChase at 10:05 AM 1 comments Links to this post