Traverse City Record-Eagle


Inside Goranovtsi Village: Part II, Museum, Church and Grapes

By Evelyn WeliverGrapes are an integral part of life in Bulgaria, from ancient times to the present, as we shall see in the rural life of Goranovtsi Village, Part II.

In Part I our small tour group explores the Hristo Botev Cultural House, Goranovtsi,  Bulgaria, enjoying a warm and friendly welcome from its secretary, president and others. Iva, our translator, is kept busy relaying  information about the weaving, folk costumes and daily living items. Alex, our guide, distributes hand-woven shoulder bags as gifts from the cultural house people.

About 11 o’clock we leave the cultural house and walk through the village to a museum of a  typical house and farming objects and then to the church. [Click on pictures to enlarge and use left arrow on your browser to return to article.]

Evelyn in front of hand woven rugs, Goranovtsi village fete.

Evelyn in front of hand-woven rugs, Goranovtsi village fete.

Purple asters, like we have in Michigan, grow through a garden fence.

Purple asters, like we have in Michigan, grow through a garden fence.

Villagers use every bit of land around their houses to grow vegetables and fruit.

Villagers use every bit of land around their houses to grow vegetables and fruit.

Here grapes are ripening and insects are being caught in bottles.

Grapes are growing up the side of the house.  Garlic, peppers and a bit of laundry are drying on the porch.

Grapes are growing up the side of the house. Garlic, peppers and a bit of laundry are drying on the porch.

Grapes grow along the fence across from the museum.

Grapes grow along the fence across from the museum.

The house museum

The museum of a typical house is behind our group that includes people from the cultural house. Bobby speaks excellent English and is visiting his grandmother, the secretary.

Inside the tidy white house there are two rooms, a kitchen/living area and a bedroom.

Fireplace area

The fireplace area has a wooden bread board, butter churn, hanging kettle and the round, clay, bread baking pan.

Metal lid

Anna Yankova holds the metal lid to cover baking bread in an outdoor fire. Outdoor bread baking is described in Part I.

In the bedroom we see a metal stove of the same design that Del and I have seen in several locations.

Wood stove

A wood burning, metal stove is in the corner of the bedroom.


The bedroom has handmade furniture and rug.

On the wall is a picture of the man who donated his house for use as a museum.

The towel rack gives a personal, feminine touch to the room with pictures of a couple in love.  There is a carved flower design across the top .

The towel rack gives a personal, feminine touch to the room with pictures of a couple in love. There is a carved flower design across the top.

The crisp cotton towel has lace edging. I think it is crocheted using a fine thread. It reminds me of crocheted edgings that an aunt of mine made on pillow cases and handkerchiefs.  Little things like this are connections with people and how they and we live.

Outside we view farm equipment.


There are handmade baskets for storing grain.

Grain separator

Bobby with the machine for separating oats or wheat from the straw.

In the 1950s I used to use a wooden machine very similar to this when visiting an aunt and uncle, only it was smaller and used for shelling corn for their chickens.

I think this is quite an unusual  object. When a bee colony is hanging clustered on a branch it can be captured in this woven cone and moved to a wooden beehive box. The cone has a mud plaster coating.

Bee cone

A grinding stone leans against the wall and in front of it is a woven cone for moving a colony of bees.

Rakia equipment

Here is equipment for making rakia, a type of fruit brandy, that is very popular in Bulgaria and is often made at home.

Making wine is an ancient tradition here and it, too, is made at home for family use.

Wine casks

Wooden casks were used to carry wine or rakia on a pack animal, probably a donkey.

We begin walking uphill to visit the Holy Trinity Church.

Braced grapes

Notice the grapes are braced and hanging over the garden fence.

Beautiful grapes

These lush grapes are almost ready for wine making.

Fat chickens

At the top of the garden, two fat chickens watch us. There is an ax buried in the wood pile.

Holy Trinity Church

Holy Trinity Church, 1885, Bulgarian Orthodox, is white and behind a protective stone wall.

The church was built in 1885, shortly after the Ottomans were defeated. A major area of the country was cleared of Ottomans in 1878, but it took several years for the current shape of the country to emerge. Church services are held here every Sunday and on Holy Days.

Apples at the church, Goranovtsi, Bulgaria

Inside the church yard, against the wall, is a lovely, sprawling apple tree.

Grave marker

Near the apple tree is a monument for two men from the village who died during the struggle against fascism and the Germans in 1943-44. The picture of one is still visible.

The church yard is tiny and secure behind the stone wall.  There is an ever-flowing fountain here that has provided water from the earliest of times. It never dries up. I can identify with the importance of this, having lived on a farm in Pennsylvania. One summer we had a drought and many creeks dried up. Neighbors had to transport water for their cattle, but our creek had springs that provided water for our animals. We were very grateful and I remember feeling like it was a miracle and very wonderful.  Let’s go inside the church.

Holy Trinity Church, Goranovtsi, Bulgaria

We are inside Holy Trinity Church, village of Goranovtsi, Bulgaria. It seems to welcome us.

There is much symbolism in churches, especially Orthodox ones. The more I, a protestant, learn, the more I understand what Bulgarians may see and feel when they visit their churches. Images can have different meanings, but I will do the best I can to explain what we see.

It is possible that the apple tree outside the church was planted on purpose as a symbol of salvation.

A lot of symbolism is on the iconostasis, the screen that divides the most sacred part of the church from the people. The two-headed eagle is a reference to the eastern and western Catholic churches. The iconostasis has a Holy Door in the center that the priest uses. The icons on the wooden screen are in a fairly predictable order. Usually to the right of the door is an icon of Jesus and to the left an icon of Mary. Many believe that the icons are a link between earth and heaven and/or a spiritual connection with that saint. Icons have been sanctified, or made holy. Think of the emotion people must feel when in a room covered with icons, even the ceiling. We have been in several of these special places in Bulgaria as well as the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.

Individually framed icons, displayed on special stands, are sometimes believed to bring about miracles or have healing powers. We were in one church where women lined up to pray in front of a beautiful silver icon of Mary to grant them help with conception.

I remember being in a little Parisian Roman Catholic church where an older woman with stooped shoulders, in a dark wool coat, headscarf tied under her chin, was talking quietly to a statue of Mary. She obviously had a very spiritual and personal connection.

Note the black iron stand in the picture that is for holding candles people light when they say personal prayers.

Across the upper portion of the iconostasis is a beautiful  border of pink and blue grapes.  The grape decorations have many meanings including representing Christ as well as abundance and family. In ancient times they were the symbol for Dionysus, god of wine.  He was the son of  Zeus (ruler of Mt. Olympus gods) and Semele, a mortal. Later, as we were traveling, I saw hanging down from an overhead arbor, a large cluster of rosy pink grapes with the sun shining through them … translucent, glowing.


Iconostasis, Holy Trinity Church, Goranovtsi, Bulgaria

Icons of lesser saints are in an upper tier.

The lighter color blue may be a symbol of the heavens or truth.  A darker blue is used for Mary’s gown.

There are blue roses, a symbol for mystery, something that cannot be explained. The pink roses are a symbol for love, for Mary, or perhaps for the union of God and Mary.

The people here often work two or three jobs, yet they take time to care for their church.  The roses remind me of my father who worked long hours as a teacher and dairy farmer.  He took time to grow special tea roses for my mother, watering, pruning, fertilizing (with cow manure) and spraying them for insects. Each winter he ordered another rose plant for her.


A graceful, hand-carved, wooden dove is on the raised pulpit with pink roses.

The dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. It can also mean unconditional love and peace.  Painted blue, it stands out against the white ceiling.

This little church is not covered in gold and shrouded in darkness, as are so many magnificent churches, but rather it is bathed in natural light, God’s light, and covered in love.

It is with reluctance that I leave the beautiful  little church, lovingly cared for by her people. I can feel God’s spirit here as I often do in small, intimate places of worship. Others in our group are also slow to leave.

Quietly we walk outside, down the narrow sidewalk and through the wooden doors in the wall. It is time to return to the village center for the festival. A young father and his child are walking past us, already on their way.

Father and child

Father and child going to the festival.

Tables and people

Tables are set up and people are gathering for food, music and dancing.

Grapes and roses tumble over the fence and wall. We walk slowly, savoring the crisp Autumn air, the smell of sausages being grilled, people talking and laughing, relaxing and enjoying being with each other.

Next time, Part III, the meal, music and dancing.

Photographs copyright Del and Evelyn Weliver


  • Vivian McCallum

    I love how your words and pictures let me have a glimpse into another way of life. Such interesting aspects of Bulgarian life in this one! It makes me want to visit. Even if I don’t get the chance to travel more, I feel I gain some of the same benefits of travel by reading about & seeing pictures of the places you go. Can’t wait until your next post!

    • Evelyn

      Thank you, Vivian! I am glad you enjoyed reading about this fascinating country.

Record-Eagle Blogs is proudly powered by WordPress
Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS).