Bulgarian Easter

This evening, after a nice long nap, we wandered around the sights of Plovdiv Bulgaria.  It’s a fairly dodgy city with a gloriously old and beautiful Old Town.  Our guesthouse was in old town, so it’s perfect for visiting all the old churches, homes, and bungling the stroller along giant cobblestones.  We snagged the ‘must see these things’ map from the hotel desk and went out a-walking.  Stopped to see some houses, but especially the old Orthodox churches.  Apparently, Eastern Orthodoxy celebrates Easter on Saturday night.  That’s the big evening.  Plovdiv old town had lots of tiny ally’s and meandering streets to occupy the afternoon. The coolest thing, though was the tippy top of the hill where there is a city park with old Thracian ruins.  It was cool to see the view of the city while climbing up over ruins and the rocks from the peak of the hill. Zoe loved it and picked all the wildflowers along the way.  She has been quite a team player this trip…sure there have been issues (especially with hand holding), but in general she finds the sights and activities interesting.  It helps alot that there are lots of stray kitties around for her to befriend. We eventually found ourselves lower on the hill and bought some ice cream (and secret bunny egg chocolate) from a small kiosk.  Plopped on the steps of the closed mosque to enjoy our treats in the nice warm sun.  Avi needed some non-stroller time, so he stood along a short wall and then started climbing the mosque steps!  Yeah!  a first for our little man…up the stairs he went to the mosque.  It was like he had done it a million times, too.  Our Plovdiv old town tour then led us back up the hills to the old Roman amphitheater.  It’s a huge place that is actually closed to walk into, but cool to see none the less.  By this point Zoe had had enough walking and was riding piggy back on my back.  We started back to the hotel, but stopped at ‘Art Hotel’ because it boasted a roof top terrace restaurant.  Up three flights of stairs was an amazing tiny restaurant with 4 tables and incredible views.  We settled in for the sunset and ordered some fancy drinks.  I tried the local beer, Bethany got a mixed drink, and we ordered Zoe some mixed juiced with an umbrella to look fancy.  She thought that was cool.  It was the perfect spot to watch the sun set and the city lights turn on.  There was noticeable darkness in the Old Town where we were.  Avi ate a bunch of food – that dehydrated stuff is working out really well – and then played along the ledge by the windows.  He could see out which helped keep him pretty entertained.  Bethany and I both ordered a chicken dish and got some alright food…mostly the fancy atmosphere and view kept us at the restaurant for a long while.  Once back at the hotel we all got a nice long hot shower in our own bathroom – no more running down the hall!  It was so nice.  I got Avi to sleep while Bethany and Zoe watched some animal alphabet on the computer.  I recall hearing D for dolphins, and then Zoe crawling into bed.  At this hotel we have a triple in the form of a big queen size bed and a single.  The kids and I are in the big bed, while Bethany has her own.  We were then woken at 11:30 by the church next door ringing mournful bells for a long time.  Bethany and I initially intended to wake for the Easter service, but then thought it silly to get the kids out of bed.  The tradition goes that before midnight the Easter service starts and is highlighted by a candlelight – type service.  The flame comes from Jerusalem. At midnight, the bells ring in a celebratory way!  It’s Easter – he is risen!!  So, when Bethany and I heard the mournful bells we got up and looked out our upper floor windows to see people in the road walking toward the church.  Over in the bathroom we had a great view into the church yard where a hundred or so folks were standing with candles lit.  We could hear the priest orating.  It sounded like a repetitive chanting.  The service seemed beautiful and peaceful and then all of a sudden FIREWORKS!  The city fireworks were coming from the hill just to our left, so we ran back around to the bedroom windows and watched the fireworks celebrating the arrival of Easter.  It seems like such a joyful holiday!!!  The kids stayed asleep this whole time which amazed me.  So, after lighting all the candles the parishioners followed the priest, holding an icon, in a small parade around the church and back in.  It was such a beautiful procession to watch.  Bethany decided to go down to the road and participate a bit and experience the people on the street.  There were more people out and about tonight with candles than there were all day as we were wandering around.  When she returned we went to bed.  The church service was still going on at the church beside us, but we could hear joyful bells ringing all over the city.  It was amazing and very mystical.   Just before falling asleep I set out Zoe’s Easter candy that I bought earlier at the kiosk.  We put it in her shoe for lack of a basket and hid it in the wardrobe.  She had been playing in there during the afternoon, and actually took a bit of her nap curled up in its tiny space, so it seemed a fitting place for her to find her candy.  I guess the Orthodox Easter services sometimes last until 2 or 3 am.  The whole experience made me think of a Christmas Eve candlelight service, and seems like such a cool way to celebrate Easter.  Why wait til morning, let start at midnight!  Well, not us…we went to bed.  In the morning, a simple reminder to Zoe sent her searching for candy.  She found a few eggs in Bethany’s shoes and then a couple in mine before finding her own.  She was so excited for her bunny, her Fairy Kinder egg and her other chocolate eggs.  What a great Easter!

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