asthfghl: (А бе къде е батко?)
Hi folks! Today I'd like to point your attention to this tradition which we celebrate here in Bulgaria every Jan 6, which is Jordan's Day (we're very fond of our name days, they almost have the status and weight of birthdays; it's always nice to have twice as many reasons to drink and celebrate, right?) The ritual follows an old tradition probably predating (but bearing obvious parallels to) Epiphany - or Twelfth Day as it's known - and all Christianity, rooting back to the ages of the Thracians who lived around these places in Roman times. The dance is called "horo", a traditional feature of every Balkan feast, where people line up and make a series of elaborate steps in rhythm with the music.

This particular one is a bit special though, because it marks the beginning of the coldest season by... plunging the "horo" into the frozen waters of a small river! It's done exceptionally by men (for understandable physiological reasons), and it's meant to send wishes to the God(s?) for health and prosperity throughout the new year. First the leader of the horo goes in to break the ice, then the drummers enter and start the rhythm, and the rest follow, normally by order of seniority. The whole thing lasts for about 10 minutes, and is preceded and then followed by feasts, eating a lot of meat and of course drinking a lot of wine and rakia. Anyway, behold the weirdness!

(Warning! Do not try this at home without proper preparation! And by that, I do mean industrial amounts of alcohol conveniently infused into your blood system!)

This horo is from the small mountain town of Kalofer, home to legendary revolutionaries, and considered part of the historical heartland of the country. The ritual has been there for many years, and it has been attracting ever growing crowds each year.

This of course brings us to the next local tradition, the Kukeri, an even more ancient tradition which we talked about a while ago.
asthfghl: (Слушам и не вярвам на очите си!)

On the day when a rampant terrorist shot the Russian ambassador in Turkey dead, the Russian people didn't give a damn about that news, as much as they were shaken by other news coming from the heart of Siberia. And there's good reason they cared about it so much, because it directly impacts their sense of safety and security - to such an extent that the local authorities declared a state of emergency in Irkutsk, banning all liquid sales. The reason? 60+ people went to meet their creator after having ingested fake alcohol. And that's not just some obscure footnote in some online media, it's the News.Ru being the first to report on it. So it must matter a lot, guys!

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asthfghl: (Слушам и не вярвам на очите си!)

Stalinist realism. We've all heard of it. Well, most of us anyway. It's an architectural style that still defines large swaths of urban territory across East Europe, parts of Asia and even Africa and Latin America. Wherever communism has set foot at least for a while, we see gargantuan concrete mastodons. We've talked about life in those monsters before here. But what about the most extreme and weird specimens of that epoch? Here are a few that will sure raise a few eyebrows.


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asthfghl: (Ауди А6 за шес' хиляди марки. Проблемче?)


Did I get your attention with that pic, eh? Well, that's because this is a regular sight at the place where I'm currently writing from. See, there's hardly a hotel left in Bulgaria, which doesn't proudly wear a grand-sounding name like "Something-something Resort", "Something Spa Palace", or "A-lot-of-Something Resort & Spa Palace". In the worst case, either "Something Beach", "Anything Del Mar" or anything related to a lot of awesomeness amidst a presumed sea of tranquility and relaxation.


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asthfghl: (Слушам и не вярвам на очите си!)

Communal apartments, or Kommunalky. You can see most major Russian cities being encircled by those mastodons of Socialist-realist architecture. They look grand, imposing, intimidating even. But what's life like in those? And I do mean *is*, not *was*. Because a huge chunk of the Russian people still live there. I've been to Moscow over a dozen times through the years, but I must admit this is the first time that I've come to know Russians so intimately.



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