Market Day in Yablanitsa

Friday mornings here are going to be like Sunday mornings in Mazatlán, but more regular since they’re my only source of really fresh produce.

I wanted to get quite a bit of work done before the 10AM PST invoice deadline (8PM here), so I set off at 8AM to be back home by noon. I walked to just past the restaurant when I got offered a lift by a couple who then picked up an old lady at the corner where we turn left for town. It was a bit of an awkward drive because they were really curious about me and not daunted by my lack of Bulgarian. Over 5KM, they managed to learn about me:

-I’m not English, but Canadian;

-I live in Maluk Izvor, not Sofia;

-I was not on my way to Sofia, but on the way to the market and stores in Yablanitsa (by the way, took a guess and said “bazaar” for the market as that’s fairly universal word and that was bang on!);

-Max is the reason I’m here.

They dropped me off near the square and then I headed to the market. I took a few pictures, but it was really too much to juggle a notebook for people to write prices in, a wallet, bags of shopping, etc. It really is a lot like the markets I experienced in Maz, complete with the smell of cooking sweet corn! It’s just as hot, too!

Here’s an overview of what I’m going to call “vegetable lane”. All those colourful umbrellas in the background are produce stands, more veggies than fruits.


Need live fowl?


Or carpets? The capri vendor in the foreground at the left was there last week and is hopefully a regular since I know I’ll be going through my capris by the end of the summer. Her stock is much better quality.


Like in Mexico, LOTS of shoe vendors!


I’m pretty sure you can find almost anything at the Friday market. Here are some tools and hardware:


I started by scoping out the wares and making a shopping list of sorts, then bravely waded into the crowd. I had a notebook handy for folks to write prices in. I have been studying my numbers, but, get this, how numbers are written and how there are said is different and there are variations on the oral variations! I knew this going in and had no expectation of understanding prices, so when I did, I was very pleased!

Here’s my final haul:


Produce prices here warrant an OMG:

Tomatoes: 1.20BGN/0.90CAD

Onions: 0.70BGN/0.53CAD

Cucumbers: 0.80BGN/0.60CAD

Potatoes: 0.80BGN/0.60CAD

Carrots, green onions, beet, courgettes, hot peppers: 1.15BGN/0.86CAD

1 kilo of apricots: 2BGN/1.50CAD

Bananas: 1.20BGN/0.90CAD

Total for all this: 5.89CAD.

I bought the bananas on the way out of town and the man rattled off a price that I was pretty sure was 1.20BGN, so I pulled out a one-leva coin and a 20 stotinki coin and passed them over with an uncertain, “Dobre?” (Okay?) He grinned and said, “Mnogo dobre!” I knew that meant “very good”! This was the most “complicated” price I’d understood this morning and felt like a huge milestone. When I bought the tomatoes, onions, and cukes, I had the girl write the first two prices down and realised she was quoting me in stotinkis, so for the cucumber price, I wrote down what I understood, 80 stotinki, and that was correct. Progress!

I got all the veg first and then looked for fruit, of which there was not much. It appears to be apricot and cherry season. I couldn’t imagine getting the cherries home, so I went with the apricots and said, “Beek iskal edno kilo molya.” The vendor said. “Dobre!”, weighed out a huge handful, took out three to get to the kilo, put two back into his pile, and gave me an extra one as a gift! I really had no idea how much a kilo of apricots would be, but it ended up being the amount I would have picked out on my own. That was a big exchange and my first chance to try out my brand new “I would like ______, please” phrase. Guess that one’s mastered. My extra apricot was very good. 🙂

I then went to the supermarket to pick up a few things. I’ve been spending “a lot” on groceries since I got here, but I am rather building up a pantry and I know my expenditures will go down. I’m hoping to not need to go to town again till next Friday and to get whatever I may need at the little village shop…

One thing I’ve been trying to find since I got here is a cheap notebook for doing my lessons in. I don’t want to use my new Moleskine for that and I couldn’t find even scrap paper around the property. I’ve been shocked by how hard it has been to find paper or a notebook. So when I passed a little shop in which I saw heaps of pens, I figured I’d struck gold and found a stationery store. Yes! Unfortunately, like a lot of shops here (and in Mexico, for that matter), everything is behind a counter and you can’t really “shop.” I just pointed to a notebook at random and bought it. It’s a bit larger than what I’d envisioned, but the wide line spacing will be really good for practicing my Bulgarian calligraphy. The price was right, too.

I’d reached the limit of what I felt I could carry home and headed back to the market for bananas, then stopped at an ice milk vendor. What ensued still cracks me up. I asked for chocolate in Bulgarian and he replied, in German, “How many?” Without registering that A) the guy had spoken German and B) that I understood him, I replied, “Zwei, bitte”!!!! He made my cone and continued,in German with, “One, please,” I passed over a lev, and said, “Thank you very much!” still in German. I guess that’s 15 weeks of German 20 years ago paying off?!

I then began the long walk home and got, oh, maybe a kilometre from town when a guy pulled over and offered me a lift. Picture Wladimir Klitschko in a car so tiny he couldn’t even sit up straight in it, a car full of stuffed toys, with a baby seat in the back, and no fewer than three baby on board signs. I said, “Maluk Izvor,” and he motioned for me to get in. As we got to the turnoff for the village he spoke quickly and made hand gestures that I interpreted as “I’m not going to Maluk Izvor, but I’ll take you in and then turn around.” I wasn’t too sure, though, and didn’t want to take advantage, so when we got to the corner, I said, “Dobre,” and started to unfasten my seat belt. He said, “No, no,” and again made the sign of turning around. So he drove me into the village and at the restaurant, I said that this was fine and thanked him profusely.

So I just had the long uphill schlep to home, where I got in at 10:15! Town really isn’t far when you get lifts!

Last night, I did some research on the possibility of renting a car while I’m here. The best price I found was 1,200 euro for three months. *gulps* I can’t justify that. But I am going to consider going to Sofia by bus the first chance I get and then coming back with a rental car for, say, a week, just to give me some freedom to go out during the day and explore. I’d really like to go back to Teteven and up to the monastery. I could drop the car off in Sofia when I’m done and come back on the bus. Something to consider.

It was a very good day in town. Next thing I need to do is eat at a restaurant!

10 thoughts on “Market Day in Yablanitsa

    • The rides thing is part of the culture here. I’m grateful for it, even if it feels like an odd thing to do! I don’t ask for the rides, btw, just trudge along and these folks have pulled up ahead of me of their own initiative.

  1. Progress and more progress. Soon they will be calling you the equivalent of the ferryman saying “island girl” to explain him charging you less than the tourist.

  2. It has been so ingrained in me not to accept rides from a stranger. I’m not sure I could or would choke down the fear and crawl in. My heart jumps every time I read about it. I wonder if my mother felt the same way every time we kids jumped in a swimming pool or lake.

    Apricots?!?! I love fresh apricots! I’d ditch the beet, courgettes and bananas for more apricots.

    • Judy, it was fine with the couple, but with the two men, you can bet I kept my hand on the door handle the whole time and was ready to jump out if I needed to! Definitely a case of learning to do what the locals do even if it violates every one of my core instincts!

      I love beets, bananas are good for me, and I’m starting to not hate courgettes. 🙂

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