I have to say that Bulgarians do picnics right.
Yesterday I went on a trip to a cave with a group of new Bulgarian friends. I should have known better than to think we were just going to a cave, but I didn't. We met at 8:45 am and were off by 9:15 am: two cars, eight people, and supplies for a picnic. Now what I have discovered so far is that as an American I think of the destination more than the journey. I was all excited and ready to get to the cave, but as a dweller of Bulgaria I need to learn the mentality that the journey is the adventure, not the destination. The first stop on our trip (the caves were two hours away) was to pick up a friend of the people in the other car. The second stop was to have a visit with the parents of my friend Irena's brother's wife's parent (wow). Then we were on to what I think we all thought were going to be the caves, but turned out to be a 3 hour dead-end hike by the longest river in Bulgaria, the Iskar, and up a mountain with no shade in 90+ degree heat. It was pretty and nice, but no cave. So at this point I'm thinking maybe there is no cave and we are just going to picnic and go home...wrong. It's only 1:30 pm by the time we finish meandering through the woods and my stomach is growling. So we set up our picnic.
I went with Sehee, the other PCV at my site, and we each brought a sandwich, granola bar, crackers, grapefruit, and cookies for the picnic. This is OK picnic food right? Pretty standard and normal for an American picnic. Our friends pull out their picnic bags, start setting up and put us to shame. This is the third Bulgarian picnic I've been on and you think I would learn by now. Yordanka has 10 sandwiches grilled this morning, a container full of whole tomatoes maybe 9 in all, a bag of 15 cucumbers, a full bag of napkins, a table cloth, and a box of cookies. Irena has 7 sandwiches and 4 tomatoes. The family of four brought chicken meat pulled from a whole chicken if not 2, a loaf of bread, 15 tomatoes, a 2 liter Tupperware with bagel chips, silverware, and cutlery. I'm sure I left out something but the point is to say that we all sat there and passed around the food, cut up tomatoes and cucumbers, laughed, and ate for at least an hour if not two (I wasn't counting). Every Bulgarian picnic I've been on has been like this. I love it, it's wonderful, they feed everyone.
After the picnic we drove around for about an hour trying to figure out where we wanted to go. Well we knew where we wanted to be but not how to get there, and there was some car to car discussion which was funny. Every time the car in front would go to make a turn they'd stop mid-turn and someone from the car in back would go up and discuss the turn then run back and we would either make the turn or try to back up. After about 2 real turns and 2 false turns we found the road we were supposed to be on. We got to the cave around 3 pm. After the cave we went to sit by the river and eat more that we hadn't eaten from lunch. Then at about 5 pm we packed up to leave. When we dropped the girl that we had picked up off we went to a cafe and had a coke and talk for maybe about another hour then finally at 6:30pm we were on our way back home. We got back at 8 pm and couldn't believe how exhausted we were. I'm still recovering; I took a 3 hour nap today. Excursions here are like meandering paths you go down them only to see, only because you have time.
I had a great time and saw a whole bunch of beautiful nature so I'd say it was a good meander and a day well spent.