Bulgarian Music from Авеню

Years ago when I lived in Bulgaria, the most popular music group was a band called Авеню (pronounced Avenue). I sent a couple of tapes and CDs (yes, it was that long ago) of their music home and much to my surprise my then girlfriend and family liked the music. I lost track of the group after I returned to the States. A few years ago, much to my surprise, I found they had a channel on YouTube and had produced a lot of music over the years. A couple days ago, they released another album and posted one song from that album on their YouTube channel.

Seeing how I've never mentioned this band before, I thought I'd post some of their more recent music videos for those who are interested in hearing music from other countries. Most of the music, if sung in English, would probably find its way to an American soft rock station. Even if you can't understand the word, maybe you'll enjoy the music.

Filmed in Bulgaria: Assassin's Bullet

By accident I stumbled across a trailer for the upcoming movie Assassin's Bullet.  Though the movie looks like your typical spy/assassin/thriller movie, what caught my attention while watching it was the familiar streets of Sofia, Bulgaria. So I did some research and apparently they filled pretty much everything in Bulgaria and are actually using Sofia as the main city in the movie. All I can say is: IT'S ABOUT TIME.

When movies are filmed in Sofia, they're generally used as as a backdrop for other European cities like Prague or Budapest. (Jean-Claude Van Damme has filmed a lot of his movies there.)  It's nice to see Sofia actually getting credit for being Sofia instead of pretending its a more glamours Eastern European city. I have no idea where the outdoor scenes were filmed but I didn't see anything that would make me think that it wasn't Bulgaria.

The only thing that makes me cringe is how the actors say "Sofia." Westerners pronounce it so-FEE-a but Bulgarians put the emphasis on the first syllable: SO-fee-a. Yeah, you'd think they would have done their homework but since when have movie makers worried about accuracy?

You can watch the trailer for Assassin's Bullet below.


Ghost Pumpkins and other Random Halloween Thoughts

This Halloween season I was surprised to see that a local store selling large, white pumpkins albeit under the clever name of “ghost pumpkins.” Though I’ve seen stores selling small white pumpkins from time-to-time, this was the first times since I lived in Bulgaria that I’ve seen such big ones. (In Bulgaria, all the pumpkins are white. Orange pumpkins are unheard of.)

The kids weren’t too up on the white pumpkins so we ended up getting the traditional orange ones. Now I’m regretting that decision not to buy one. At the very least it would have been fun to harvest the seeds and grow a couple of plants next year. Besides, after looking online, white pumpkins offer some unique decorating possibilities that wouldn’t look good on orange ones.


Speaking of Bulgaria, apparently Halloween has taken off in popularity over there. Recently I was talking to someone who just returned from there and he said that it common to see kids dress up and go around trick-or-treating and young adults attending Halloween parties. Older people still aren’t in to it. This article is a few years old but it pretty much mirrors whatI was told about Halloween in Bulgaria.

When I lived there, no one even knew what Halloween was. We started a couple of Halloween parties but the Bulgarians who did attend thought it was a silly holiday. I wish I knew what caused the popularity of it to take off. At least the kids are dressing up.

But they also do Halloween fireworks.

And have dance to traditional Bulgarian music at their Halloween parties.


I’ll be taking Jack Sparrow, Captain Rex, a purple fairy, and a skunk out trick-or-treating tonight. I’m glad the kids are excited and the weather will be warm. Hope you all enjoy your Halloween events too.

Weekend Photograph: Bulgaria, January 1997

An anti-governmnet demonstration, Sofia, Bulgaria, January 1997

The recent unrest in the Middle East has made me think back to Bulgaria. The first year I was there, the economy started collapsing. By January 1997 the country was faced with triple-digit inflation and food shortages; Bulgarians reached their breaking point. Mass demonstrations broke out and the people called for early elections. Though there was some minor violence when the demonstrations first stared, for the most part it was peaceful. The unrest went on about a month before the socialist government finally caved in.

It was an interesting time to live in Sofia. Watching people peacefully take their country back was something I'll never forget and a reminder that a government can only exist so long as the majority of people are willing to recognize its authority.

Lukewarm World Cup Fever

2010 World Cup Fever

I’m not much of a soccer fan but enjoy it when the World Cup rolls around every four years mostly because it’s fun to watch many of my coworkers work get into it.

Most of my coworkers have lived in or are from different countries and tend root for those countries. Several cubes around the office are overflowing with the flags of Mexico, Brazil, England, South Korea and other competing teams. (The coworker on my right is a big Germany fan—albeit it without the insanely decorated cube.) Today I even saw few guys wearing soccer jerseys over their regular work attire.

I’d be more included to join the party if Bulgaria was part of the action but, alas, they couldn’t get out of their European qualifying group. I would have been thrilled if they could have pulled off that upset but wasn’t expecting it. The one thing I learned while living in Sofia is that Bulgaria is the Detroit Tigers of soccer. Occasionally they do well but most of the time their fans are resigned to the fact that their soccer team is destined for mediocrity.

The one oddity is that with all the World Cup hoopla at work, no one seems to be rooting for the United States. I think my soccer-crazed coworkers would like to see the United States do well in the tournament (as would I) and would probably root for the US after their other team is eliminated, but their soccer hearts are with other countries.

It does make wonder that if so many coworkers weren’t born or had lived overseas, if anyone at work would even care that the World Cup was going on. I doubt cubes would be decorated with red, white, and blue or people would be wearing US soccer jerseys to work. I know I wouldn’t care half as much (if at all) if I hadn’t lived overseas and been exposed to how seriously the rest of the world takes the sport.

But during this World Cup I’ll put in a half-hearted effort to keep an eye on the US team and hope that Bulgaria qualifies for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.