As you drive into the village of Gela in southern Bulgaria a sign informs you that this is the birthplace of Orpheus, the legendary Thracian musician and poet. I’m not sure if it’s true, but who wouldn’t be able to “charm all living things and even stones” with their music if they were born in a village with such a view? These are the Rhodope Mountains in the golden afternoon sunlight of early spring.
Gela is just a stone’s throw from the cultural village of Shiroka Laka and about twenty minutes from the ski resort town of Pamporovo.
Ligatures for “ль” and “нь” are unique to the Cyrillic alphabets of several Slavic languages in Southeastern Europe. We don’t have them in Bulgarian, so I can remember being confused the first time I saw them in Serbia. My confusion turned into fascination once I realized that their construction fused two characters that I knew how to use into one that we simply don’t have.
You can see љ (Lje) on this road sign for Жељуша in Serbia (with the Serbo-Croatian Latin representation below it):
Yesterday I met Zachary Karabashliev, the talented Bulgarian author, at a book launch event in Sofia. His 2008 novel 18% Gray is set in San Diego, California and follows the story of a fictional young Bulgarian couple named Zachary and Stella. As a born and bred San Diegan married to a Bulgarian named Stella I just had to meet him and have a laugh about how random it all was.