Report on Scout Trip to Bulgaria (long)
Turba, Thomas N RV (tnt1@PO11.RV.UNISYS.COM)
Mon, 11 Dec 1995 11:34:00 CST
Back in August I said that I would post a report on the Scout trip to
Bulgaria that I had just completed. Finally, after three months of catching
up, I have had time to finish the report. It turned out to be much longer
than I expected, but still covers only about 1/2 of what happened. I waited
until Sunday to post it so that, hopefully, it would not block out any other
postings. But, as it turned out, it was too big anyway.
What I have done is to take some of the introductory material and a some
snippets and post them with this message. If you want the full report, send
me a private message.
For general information, the cost of this trip was $1,200 per person
(including airfare). On this trip we had Scouts from California as well as
Minnesota and Wisconsin. Another trip to Bulgaria is planned for 1997. The
1997 trip will also have room for Scouts from other states. Unfortunately,
it will probably be more expensive because we will not have partial
Yours in Scouting
Thomas N. Turba
Indianhead Council, BSA
E-mail: email@example.com (primary) -or-
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (secondary)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Report on Scout Trip to Bulgaria
Although the country is steeped in history from Thracian, Grecian, Roman,
Medieval times, the history of Bulgarian Scouting is not so rich.
Scouting flourished in Bulgaria during the 20s and 30s. But, it was almost
completely wiped out in the 40s by the Fascist then Communist regimes that
were in power until recently. One Scout leader told me how they came house-
to-house looking for Scout material, which they would then confiscate and
He hid his and now proudly shows his camp pictures and other materials. He
is one of the few experienced Scouts that are left in the country. They are
all in their 60s and 70s. In Varna and many other cities, these
septuagenarian Scouters are the nucleus for restarting Scouting in Bulgaria.
Most of them are trying to restart the program so that their grandchildren
can experience the same kind of program they knew as children.
In 1994 they held their first National Jamboree in 54 years!
The Bulgarian Scout Organization (BSO) is currently in the process of
getting accredited by the World Organization of Scouting. It has
approximately 2,800 Scouts and leaders nation-wide. This is in a country
of approximately 9 million people. It is still a very small organization,
with units mainly in the major cities. The whole organization is volunteer
run. There is not one paid person in the country. The BSO is open to both
males and females.
In general, Scouting is having a hard time being restarted in Bulgaria. One
of the main reasons for this is the lack of understanding by the general
population as to what Scouting is. In general, they see uniforms and
associate them with the Fascist and Communist youth organizations that
existed until recently.
On our first trip to Bulgaria, two years ago, we brought over general
Scouting literature, Scout handbooks, merit badge books, compasses, craft
materials, and many other items. The current trip was centered around
camping and doing activities with Scouts in Varna, the 3rd largest city
in Bulgaria, with a population of about 1/4 million people.
Before Scouting was outlawed, Varna had the largest and most active Scout
organization in the country. This was both for regular Scouts and Sea
Our three-week trip began in Sofia, the capital, which is nestled in the
Balkan mountains in the western part of the country. There, we had
with Scout families and did sightseeing in the city.
One of the most interesting sights was the "Land and People" museum. Its
title does not really tell you much. It is the best "rock" (mineralogy)
museum in the world! It far outclasses equivalent museums in Washington,
New York, London, Munich, Amsterdam, ... I am sure you have all seen
geodes; those stone balls with crystals inside. You can hold them in your
hand - at least most you can. The geodes at this museum are HUGE - the size
of cars. OK, Tribants, those small East German cars.
The museums were in sharp contrast to the Sofia Scout office, basically a
bare room with only a map of the country showing the cities where Scout
units exist, a few books, some boat models, and a few pictures.
On the afternoon of the third day, we went to the Green Patrols' mountain
base. It is located a short distance outside the city in a wooded area on
mount Vitosha overlooking Sofia.
That evening we enjoyed a traditional Bulgarian meal of soup, bread, cheese,
salad, a delicious barley pudding, and herbal tea. Afterward we had a
campfire, sang songs, and talked late into the night about Scouting, the
environment, and many other things.
Traveling further south, we arrived at Kasanlak, our stop for the night. We
arrived just in time to visit the site of a 5,000-year old Thracian tomb
was discovered only 50 years ago. The tomb was a large pot-like,
chamber with a circular opening at the top. It was through the top that the
last workers had deposited the body and burial goods. Wearing slippers, we
entered through a side opening underground from the museum. It was kind of
a spooky feeling.
On the horizon we could see a large cloud of smoke, as we approached we
could see the blazing fields. Soon, we were right up next to the fire. We
could feel the heat coming right through the closed van. Then, we were
engulfed in smoke.
In Varna we were greeted with roses by the local Scouts and leaders. The
rose is not only their national flower, but also a symbol of friendship they
give arriving guests.
We stayed in Varna with Scout families for two days. During this time the
Scouts showed us around the city, taking us to the Roman baths, planetarium
on the Naval base, Sea Museum, Sea Garden, and other attractions.
One of our first activities was the flag raising. I thought I had seen all
the ways a flag could be raised, but I had not. The flags, both Bulgarian
and U.S., were first attached to sticks along the short end - with nails -
than rolled up. The flags were then raised on the flag poles by a rope
attached to the sticks so that the flags were always unfurled - downward.
I saw flags being displayed in this manner at other places. I am still not
sure of the origin of this practice. Every time I saw it, it was something
to do with a sea activity.
Our second morning at camp was spent on a service project. We cleaned up
the relief map of the Black Sea in the Sea Garden in front of the aquarium
in Varna. This was a joint project with Scouts from Teteven who met us
there. They were staying at the Varna Bay Scout Camp.
That afternoon we had a meeting with the mayor of Varna, Christo Kirchev, a
supporter of democracy, free enterprise, and the Scout movement. Reporters
from at least three papers were there to talk with us and take pictures. We
were featured on the front page of the local paper - foreign Scouts shaking
hands with the mayor and having a meeting with him.
The next day *** we went to visit the Scouts from Teteven at the
Bulgarian Scout Camp on Varna Bay. ***
The camp is actually a small public campground that the Scouts get to use
because the owner is friendly with them. It is a very small place. The
tents were so close that it was hard to walk between them.
Before Scouting was outlawed, the Scouts used to have a camp by the Sea
Garden in the main part of Varna. This land was built on and they do not
expect to get it back. The City has offered them a piece of land next to
the camp they are now using. The land is full of concrete and other rubble.
For lunch we visited a hunter's and fishermen's lodge nestled in a scenic
wooded area. There we had a fine fish stew with bread. Because the lodge
was small, we took turns eating lunch while the others enjoyed the
Adjacent to the lodge, accessed over a wooden foot bridge, was a good-sized
fishing lake. Around the lake was a walking path and blinds for duck
hunting. The whole area was contained in a large wooded reserve for
hunting. During Communist times only party members could visit this place.
The next day we went on a sightseeing outing with the Bulgarian Scouts and
leaders. Our first stop was the Aladzha Monastery. The monastery had been
built during the Turkish occupation. Like most monasteries build at the
time, it was hidden. The monks had made caves into the sandstone cliffs.
They build a chapel, kitchen, sleeping rooms, corridors, and much more, all
hidden within the cliff and only accessible by a retractable wooden ladder.
A couple of centuries ago, the area was struck by a large earthquake. The
face of the cliff collapsed exposing the ant-like maze of tunnels and rooms.
Today, the monastery and the crypts that adjoin it are a tourist attraction.
We saved our bag lunch for Kaliakra, a long slender cape stretching out into
the Black Sea with a large uprising rock cliff at its end. During medieval
times, the end of the cape was a fortress enclosed by a double wall with a
drawbridge separating it from the landward side. The seaward side had the
cliff for natural protection.
Although the walls and drawbridge still remain, today they just guard a
naval radio station, a restaurant, a museum, and a monument.
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City