links to other sites of interest 

Worldwide Aromatiques

Essential Oil Suppliers

PEACE HAVENS
OF BULGARIA

Villas & Apartments

What YOU need to

know before buying

a Villa in Bulgaria

Visit Bulgaria Sites

& meet some of our

Bulgarian Friends

The Bulgarian Festival Calendar

 

Bear's Day

November 30

Andreevden

 (Saint Andrew's Day)

      According to the calendar it is considered the beginning of the winter holiday cycle and  is connected with the belief that the day starts to grow like a millet grain from this day on and the sun starts to move like a chicken in an egg. It is celebrated in honour of the bear.
   Corn, which is left in water over the night, is boiled in a cauldron early in the morning on this day. When it is boiled it is tossed up into the chimney and people say: "Bear, take that boiled corn so that you will not eat the raw one, the cattle and the people!". They also put in the cauldron a few grains from everything that is sown in the field and in the garden: beans, lentils, millet, wheat, barley, oats and etc. This is done so that everything that is sown grows big.

Andreevden (Saint Andrew, the First-Called) - November 30

  The Name day of everyone named Andrey, Andriana (the name has the meaning “masculine”, therefore “strong”).
   Bulgarians call it “Bear’s Day”. And legends tell that: Once upon a time, long time ago, in a family with a small daughter the woman died. The father remarried a woman who also had a daughter. But the step-mother loved her child more and made the step-child do all the housework. And she was never satisfied. Once, when it was very cold, she gave the step-child black wool and told her to wash it till it becomes white. “Or else, don’t return home!”, said the step-mother. The small girl put the wool on her shoulder and went to the river. She began washing but… the black wool never became white. Frozen all over, the child sat on the bank and cried. Immediately an old man with a white beard appeared in front of her. “Why are you crying, child?”, asked the old man gently. The girl told him everything and the good man said: “Put the wool on your shoulder, go back home and don’t be afraid.” Then suddenly he disappeared.
   The child went home, knocked on the closed door for a while and when the evil step-mother opened the door she was struck – in front of her a golden girl was standing and shining like the sun itself. She became even more angry when she understood how the child turned golden and decided to send her own child as well, so it becomes golden too. She dressed it well, gave it wool and sent it to the river. The little girl quickly reached the river, threw away the wool for she had no intention to wash it and sat on the bank. She waited and waited but nobody came. She was all frozen and started crying. In a moment the man with the white beard appeared. “Why are you crying, child?”, the old man asked. “I’m waiting for you, old man,” the girl answered in a rude voice, “I want you to make me gold and go back home.” “All right, my girl, put the wool on your shoulder and go back home,” the old man said and disappeared. The girl grabbed the wool and ran home. The step-mother, on hearing her steps, quickly opened the door but closed it on the moment, for in front of her was standing a big black bear. The old man punished the evil step-mother by turning her child into a bear.
    From that day on, people tell stories about bears. With the first rays of the sun the oldest woman in the house takes boiled corn with a wooden spoon, throws the beans into the chimney and says: “Here is boiled corn for you, bear, - so don't eat it raw!” And people believe that “bears won’t walk in the fields and won’t do harm to the people”. From Saint Andrew’s Day on, the day begins to grow, “by as much as a grain of rye”. The womenfolk bake the Andreevden ritual bread.
    The Holy Apostle Andrew, the First-Called, was the first of the Apostles to follow Christ, and he later brought his own brother, the holy Apostle Peter, to Christ. The future apostle was from Bethsaida, and from the time of his youth he turned with all his soul to God. He did not enter into marriage, and together with his brother he worked as a fisherman. When the holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John began to preach, Saint Andrew became his closest disciple. Saint John the Baptist himself sent to Christ his own two disciples, the future Apostles Andrew and John the Theologian, declaring Christ to be the Lamb of God.
    After the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, Saint Andrew went to the Eastern lands preaching the Word of God. He went through Asia Minor, Thrace, Macedonia, he reached the River Danube, went along the coast of the Black Sea, through Crimea, the Black Sea region and along the River Dnepr he climbed to the place where the city of Kiev now stands.
On his journeys the First-Called Apostle endured many sufferings and torments from pagans: they cast him out of their cities and they beat him. In Sinope they pelted him with stones, but remaining unharmed, the persistent disciple of Christ continued to preach to people about the Savoir. Through the prayers of the Apostle, the Lord worked miracles. By the labours of the holy Apostle Andrew, Christian Churches were established, for which he provided bishops and clergy. The final city to which the Apostle came was the city of Patra, where he was destined to suffer martyrdom.
    The Lord worked many miracles through His disciple Andrew in Patra. The infirm were made whole, and the blind received their sight. Through the prayers of the Apostle, one man was recovered from serious illness; he healed the wife of the governor of Patra, and his brother as well. The miracles accomplished by the Apostle and his fiery speech enlightened almost all the citizens of the city of Patra with the true Faith.
     The Governor was mad with Andrew’s popularity and sentenced him to death. Saint Andrew the First-Called accepted that sentence with joy and with prayer to the Lord, and went willingly to the place of execution. In order to prolong the suffering of the saint, the governor gave orders not to nail the saint's hands and feet, but to tie them to the cross (the so-called "Saint Andrew's cross", in the form of the letter X). For two days the suffering apostle was teaching and preaching to the citizens who gathered about. The people, in listening to him, with all their souls pitied him and tried to take Saint Andrew down from the cross. Fearing a riot of the people, the governor gave orders to stop the execution. But the holy apostle began to pray that the Lord would grant him death on the cross. Just as the soldiers tried to take hold of the Apostle Andrew, they lost control of their hands.
     The crucified apostle, having given glory to God, said: "Lord Jesus Christ, receive my spirit." Then a blazing ray of divine light illumined the cross and the martyr crucified upon it. When the light faded, the holy Apostle Andrew had already given up his holy soul to the Lord. The governor’s wife, whom Andrew himself converted to Christianity, had the body of the saint taken down from the cross, and buried him with honour.
     A few centuries later, under the emperor Constantine the Great, the relics of the holy Apostle Andrew were solemnly transferred to Constantinople, and placed in the church of the Holy Apostles, beside the relics of the holy Evangelist Luke and Saint Paul's disciple, Saint Timothy.


Bear’s Day (Saint Andrew’s Day) and the man-animal in Bulgarian folk tales.

       Bear in Varna Zoo

 
     The Christian feast of Saint Andrew’s day is also observed as Bear’s day in Bulgarian folklore tradition. Folk myth has it that Saint Andrew once tamed a bear hence the coinciding of the two holidays. Bear’s day is also connected to ancient mythology. Bears have played a prominent role in folk stories, beliefs, and sayings.
   In times, when people knew bears not from the zoo but from actual unanticipated encounters in the mountains, their attitude to those giants of the woods was quite ambiguous. А bear’s size and strength kept people on the alert even in the period of its winter sleep. Hence the saying “The bear is sleeping, its ears are pricked” meaning that the bear is not fully asleep even while hibernating. To overcome fear man brags with his sense of supremacy. This is evident in another saying too – ‘the bear is afraid but I am not’ – that Bulgarians have used till date to encourage themselves in perilous situations. Man’s daring to wrestle with a bear has been ridiculed in a folklore anecdote. A young village lad tells the story of how his father subdued a bear. One day, father and son went to a nearby village to attend a feast. On eating an entire ox and drinking a barrelful of wine, the father, full and excited, started bragging that if there were a bear around at that moment he would defeat it. On the way back to the village, a bear emerged out of the woods. Father and bear began wrestling. When the son saw what was going on, he got so scared he ran home. Only the next day did he return to see what had happened. All he found were the laces of his father and no trace of the bear. This is how the anecdote ridicules the fake victory of the father over the bear and the meaningless bragging of the son. Another proverb says that “a bear will never part with its skin” meaning that a strong man will not give up easily.
      Folk stories have preserved an ancient reverence to the bear. There is a folk tale in which a he-bear married no other than the king’s daughter herself. Their son inherited something of both parents and had quite an uncustomary looks – the head of a man and the body of a bear. They combine a bear’s strength and a man’s wits. Thanks to this, their son succeeds in overcoming a lot of obstacles and at the end he becomes a king.
    In folk tales the opposite version also exists – when a lad marries a she-bear. Probably that was where the saying “It is raining, the sun is shining – the bear is getting married” sprang from.
     On Bear’s day, peasants feed the bear with boiled corn. They also tend to liken it to a human when it is standing erect on two legs and compare its paws to human palms. Moreover, in Bulgarian folklore, the bear has always been a symbol of motherhood and fertility. In the past, at her wedding the bride would dance a chain-dance dressed as a she-bear. That custom expressed the wish for bride’s fertility. Another very popular image of the bear from folk tales is of the good-hearted and naďve grandmother bear. Hence another anecdote – the bear was boasting that soon there would be lots of cornel-cherries in the woods. When people asked how it knows that, the bear told them that it was because it felt like eating cornel-cherries. This anecdote ridicules the illusion that desire brings about something real. Bears are also seen as clumsy and awkward. An example of this is the expression “a bear’s favour” meaning that somebody may have had a good intention to help but at the end they did more harm than good.

 

Wild Bears in Bulgaria
      About 800 brown bears still live in Bulgaria's mountain forests.
According to Bulgarian mythology the bear was once a woman. Traditionally "Baba Metza"
(Grandmother Bear) was a sacred animal and killing it was taboo. Bears go into a state resembling hibernation during winter, giving birth soon afterwards, associating them mythological-wise with the seasonal cycle, the earth's fertility and the return of spring.
   The practice of keeping dancing bears (common throughout the Balkans and in other countries) runs contrary to this tradition of respect. Captured in the wild as cubs and trained through cruel methods, the bears could still be seen in many tourist locations up until a couple of years ago. Muzzled and with a ring through their nose, they moved on their hind legs to music played by their masters, usually on a gudoulka (Bulgarian upright fiddle).

       Dancing bears have provided the livelihood for many poor Roma families for generations in the Balkans.    Now dancing bears have almost disappeared from the streets after a sustained international campaign and a changing political climate in which such treatment has become unacceptable. The bears in the photos did perform for tourists in Bourgas and Varna in 2006.
     Bears are now protected under Bulgarian law and there are measures in place to safeguard the wellbeing of captive bears. A bear sanctuary called Four Paws has been established in Belitsa in the Pirin Mountains where 20 former dancing bears will live out the rest of their years in natural surroundings. Four Paws pays out compensation to former bear trainers who hand over their animals, to help alleviate the resulting loss of income while they find alternative work.

 

Bears in Varna City. The Roma complain they can no longer beg for money without their bears.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Four Paws

Sanctuaries

    Belitsa is the biggest of Four Paws sanctuaries. It attracts hundreds of visitors every year. The sanctuary is near the town of Belitsa in South West Bulgaria. It is located in the Rila mountain range about 170 km south-east of Sofia and covers over 120,000 square metres.

 

Meet some of the bears that Four Paws has already freed:
 
Bobby

Sex: Male
Fur: dark brown
Born: 1997
Favourite food: grapes
In Belitsa since: Summer 2001


Bobby is a quiet and friendly bear and gets on well with all the other bears in the park. His best friend is Stefan and these two sometimes play wildly together. Bobby enjoys bathing in the ponds and relaxing in his enclosure. He has gained a lot of weight since he was transferred to Belitsa and is now enjoying good health.

 

Charlie

Sex:
male
Fur: dark brown
Born: 1991
Favourite food: fruit
In Belitsa since: May 2004

Charlie prefers his own company and is a calm and lazy bear. He enjoys sleeping in the forested sections of his enclosure. He has gained lots of weight since he was transferred to Belitsa.

 

Dana

Sex:
female
Fur: nearly black
Born: 1993
Favourite food: grapes and pears
In Belitsa since: November 2003

Despite being one of the largest female bears in the park, Dana still likes to climb trees. When she is hungry she lays on her back. She feels comfortable in her surroundings, and is a quiet and peaceful bear.
 

Dobri

Sex:
male
Fur: dark brown
Born: 1987
Favourite food: melon
In Belitsa since: November 2003

Even though Dobri is blind, he enjoys wandering around in his area, looking for food, laying under the trees and sleeping lots. He spends his nights in the caves. Dobri shares an enclosure with Galya.

      In November 2003 FOUR PAWS set out for Yagoda, Eastern Bulgaria to rescue Dobri who had suffered as a dancing bear for 17 years. When we found Dobri he was blind and was in very poor health. He had several rings in his nose and was chained to a tree. His chain was only a metre long and hardly allowed him to move. We were also disgusted to learn that Dobri was only bread and sugar to eat. When his owner needed to sedate him he was given alcohol.
    We transported Dobri to our sanctuary in Belitsa and operated to remove the many rings in his nose. Dobri quickly recovered and gained lots of weight under the care of our team of keepers and by the winter of 2003 had gained sufficient weight to hibernate in a cave for the first time of his life. The picture shows Dobri is now free.
   The following autumn an international team of vets gave him a thorough medical check-up but discovered that his blindness was in-operable. However, they also treated his teeth which were full of cavities after a high sugar diet.

 

Elena


Sex:
female
Fur: light brown
Born: 1990
Favourite food: carrots and strawberries
In Belitsa since: April 2006

Elena is a small and playful bear. She was very curious even when she was first released into her enclosure. She enjoys walking around and doesn't want to miss anything. 
 

Gosho

Sex:
male
Born:
1989
Favourite food: Gosho loves all food, especially nuts
In Belitsa since: June 2001

Gosho lives with Mariana, and they understand and get along with each other very well. Gosho has gained approximately 50 kg since he was adopted by FOUR PAWS, and he is currently in the best of health. He is the largest member of the DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa, and he enjoys swimming in the ponds in the area. In the warmer seasons this large bear likes sleeping in the forest shade and lying down on his back.
 

Izaura

Sex:
female
Born:
1982
Favourite food:
Izaura loves all food!
In Belitsa since: February 2004

Izaura is one of the oldest bears in the DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa. She enjoys walking around her enclosure and foraging for food. Izaura enjoys spending her time alone.
 

Kalinka

Sex:
female
Born:
1989
Favourite food:
Grapes and bread
In Belitsa since: September 2000

Kalinka is a quiet and peaceful bear. She likes climbing trees and wandering around but when the weather is nice she loves to sunbathe. Unlike many of the other bears she doesn't particularly enjoy swimming. Since her adoption by FOUR PAWS she has gained a lot of weight and is in good health.
 

Leta

Sex:
female
Fur: light brown
Born:
1983
Favourite food:
bread
In Belitsa since: November 2003

Leta is the smallest bear living in Belitsa. She gets along well with Bobby, Stefan, and Kalinka. Leta enjoys wandering around in the sun near the ponds.
 

Maria

Sex: female
Born: 1981
Favourite food: watermelons
In Belitsa since: June 2005

Maria adapted very quickly to her new life in the park and gets on well with Galya, the bear who is living in the enclosure beside her. She enjoys sleeping in the woods.
 

Mariana

Sex:
female
Born:
1987
Favourite food:
bread, nuts, and grapes
In Belitsa since: October 2000

Mariana lives with Gosho, with whom she seems to feel safe and protected. Mariana is curious and likes swimming in ponds.

 

Marinka


Sex:
female
Born: 1996
Favourite food: carrots
In Belitsa since: April 2005

Marinka adapted very quickly to the new surroundings in her enclosure at the bear park, getting along with the other bears easily. Unlike many other bears, Marinka prefers open fields and grassland to wooded areas and scrubland.
 

Mitko

Sex:
male
Born:
1993
Favourite Food:
Mitko likes his food a lot and eats everything he's offered.
In the Belitsa since: October 2004

Mitko was abused by his former owner and had several rings in his nose. He also had rings in his jaw and a hole which had to be operated on. Now Mitko lives in his own part of the section of the park and prefers little contact with the other bears. After being adopted by FOUR PAWS and transferred to the park he is enjoying his new life. He is a very curious and active bear however when the weather is bad he likes to go into his den.
 

Nadka


Sex:
female
Born:
1988
Favourite Food:
Grapes and Nuts
In
Belitsa since: November 2003

Nadka is a beautiful bear with gorgeous fur and a unique build. She loves to wander around the enclosure searching for food. Nadka is a loner, and doesn't get along very well with the other bears at the park.
 

Rada


Sex: female
Born: 1992
Favourite Food: carrots
In
Belitsa since: June 2006

During Rada's early days at the park she showed repetitive dancing behaviour. However, as time has passed she became calmer and enjoys her new life in the park, swimming in the pool and spending hot summer days in the dense forest.

  Rada's story - The fourteen year old dancing bear, Rada was taken from Knezha Zoo in Bulgaria when she was a cub. Her owner trained her to ‘dance’ using cruel methods. For example she was forced to stand on a hot metal plate (whilst listening to music) which made her lift her paws up to learn the ‘dancing’ steps. She learned to obey the owners’ commands whilst being chained through the nose. It is well known that using a nose ring in bears causes terrible pain.

 

 
   In the following years Rada was made to dance for the entertainment of the people at festivals, parties and in the streets of Bulgaria for tourists.
    When FOUR PAWS heard about Rada we were horrified and arranged to visit her. She was chained down in the backyard of her owner with very little space. She was suffering with little poor quality food with only a damaged roof to protect her from harsh weather.
     On the 3rd June 2006 FOUR PAWS relocated Rada to Belitsa. She was transported to the park without the need to be sedated.
      During Rada's early days at the park she showed repetitive dancing behaviour. However, as time has passed she has become calmer and enjoys her new life in the park, swimming in the pool and spending hot summer days in the dense forest. The caves in her enclosure have made it possible for her to hibernate for the first time in her life
 

Stefan

Sex: male
Fur: dark brown
Born: 1987
Favourite Food: Mitko likes his food a lot and eats everything he's offered.
In
Belitsa since: September 2000

 
Stefan gets along well with Bobby, they like playing together and swimming in the ponds. Stefan is one of the biggest bears in DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa and has a very large appetite.
 

Stefka


Sex:
female
Born:
1984
Favourite food:
Apples and grapes
In
Belitsa since: November 2003

S
tefka is a quiet, lazy, peaceful bear, who gets along with all the other bears.
 

Tsveta

Sex:
female
Fur: li
ght brown with a few flecks on her back
Born:
1990
Favourite food:
Melon
In
Belitsa since: February 2004

Tsveta loves to wander around the area, especially when the sun is shining. She gets along very well with the other bears in the park, but she prefers to eat alone.
 

Vela

 

Sex: female
Fur:
almost black
Born:
1989
Favourite food:
Bread
In Belitsa since:
September 2005

 

Vela was born in Russia (hence the almost black fur and large size). When she was a cub she was transferred to Bulgaria.

 

Violeta


Sex:
female
Born:
1981
Favourite food:
Grapes, bread, and nuts
In
Belitsa since: November 2003

Violeta has some hairless spots because of a skin disease which was a result of long-term abuse and underfeeding. However, we are really pleased to see that her health and her fur have improved immensely since she was adopted by FOUR PAWS.

 

Sanctuary opening hours:
April - May: 10.00 am- 6.00 pm
June - September: 10.00 am- 8.00 pm
October - November: 10.00 am- 4.00 pm
December - March:  no tours as the bears are hibernating
.

 

 

NEWS UPDATE 09-12-08

    Bulgaria Becomes First EU Country to Sign a Contract for Humane Animal Treatment.  Bulgaria becomes on Tuesday the first European Union (EU) country to officially sign a contract for the humane treatment of animals.
    The Bulgarian Agriculture Minister Valery Tsvetanov and the President of the international "FOUR PAWS" Foundation, Helmut Dungler are signing a contract for collaboration between the Agriculture Ministry and the non-governmental organization to assure humane treatment of animals in the country.
     The "FOUR PAWS" Foundation is consistently and successfully helping mistreated animals across Europe. The Foundation is best known in Bulgaria for the establishment and maintenance of the Dancing Bears Park near the town of Belitsa.  Although the ownership of dancing bears is forbidden, many dancing bears are registered throughout the country.
    The bears are tamed by the cruel method of training cubs to dance on hot metal plates. The animals jump around in pain, while the same music is playing over and over again. When they hear the music, they "learn" to "dance" immediately because they fear the unbearable pains, caused by the hot metal.
FOUR PAWS started the struggle against the torment of bears in Bulgaria in May of 1999. The first three brown bears arrived a month later while the park was officially opened on 17th of November 2000.
     The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry gave to Belitsa Municipality 8.6 hectares to be used by FOUR PAWS for its ambitious project. The organization invested in its own land too. The total area of the park is now 12 hectares.
       Other "FOUR PAWS" projects in Bulgaria include systematic campaigns for the neutering of stray animals.

NEWS UPDATE 01-02-09

    The "FOUR PAWS" Foundation had successfully transported the last three registered dancing bears from Serbia to the Bulgarian "Dancing Bears" refuge and park in Belitsa, the Foundation reported. In 2007, all registered dancing bears in Bulgaria were relocated to the park and the Foundation focused their efforts to save abused animals in neighbouring Balkan countries.
The three newest residents of the Belitsa park are named Seyda, Milena and Natasha. In addition to being housed in their own sector of the park, the three bears have a special feeding program and would be monitored constantly. Milena's condition is reported as being the worst since she is completely blind, very old and week.
"Milena only has several months to live. Despite that, all efforts to bring her hear and take care of her are well merited because this poor animal would be now able to spend her last days in freedom," Vassil Madokev, leader of the caretakers team said.

 

 

By Toni Maskrachka. 24 APRIL 2010. waz.euobserver.com

   Twenty-seven retired dancing bears from Bulgaria and Serbia are slowly returning to their natural way of life in the wild in a readjustment park near the south-western town of Belitsa on the outskirts of the Rila Mountain in Bulgaria.
    The ten year-old project, which is unique for Eastern Europe, was inspired by former French movie star-turned animal protection activist Brigitte Bardot and the Four Paws wild life foundation. It hosts 24 former dancing bears from Bulgaria and 3 from Serbia.
   "This winter there was only one bear that did not go into hibernation, the rest did. This is a sort of record and a serious indication that the animals are gradually resuming their habits and adjusting to life in the wild, a proof that the park offers a natural living environment", park employee Vasil Madolev said.
    Most of the quadrupeds dug lairs in the woods themselves and did not resort to the artificial ones that the workers had prepared for them. A couple of days ago, with the weather getting warmer, they began to wake up. The greatest sleeper was Vela who slept for four months.
     For years the animals' owners had used them to entertain tourists in cities and resorts. The mouths of all bears are damaged with holes pierced in their lips to hold chains and metal rings that were used to bind them. The park team is now focusing mostly on healing wounds on their snouts and treating their teeth.
    "The constant trauma that they have lived with for years has changed the structure of their throats and it has been difficult for them to eat and drink," Mr Madolev said.
      He added that some bears are totally blind because of the alcohol former owners gave them. Two of the beasts have had their eyes gouged out so that they would be easier to control.
     "A medical team is treating the animals so that they adjust well to the environment," park manager Dimitar Ivanov said.
     In May, all bears are due for an annual health check. As part of it, they will see German dentist Dr. Mark Luse and the team of his Bulgarian colleague Bogdan Aminkov.
     An ophthalmologist will also be called in to examine the blind animals and assess if at least a part of their vision can be restored by an operation.
    While under anaesthesia, they will also receive antiparasitic medication, be examined for body injuries, have their pulse and blood pressure measured and blood samples taken. Every bear has a personal medical record.
    After the hibernation, during which bears lose up to 30 percent of the body weight, park wardens start to gradually feed them. "We start with a daily ration of 5-6 kilograms of fruit, vegetables and bread. The weaker ones are also given honey to strengthen them. We include chicken or fish in their menu once a week," Mr Ivanov said.
     So far, the food has been scattered around a conspicuous place, but from this spring the caretakers will hide it under trunks and in hollows so the bears search for it like they would do in the wild.
    They roam in a fenced area of 120,000 square meters, 12 kilometres from Belitsa and around 180 kilometres south west of Sofia.

Click on thumbnail to return to Festival Calendar

   
PEACE HAVENS of BULGARIA
Company number 148109245
Ged Dodd, Peace Havens Ltd, 1 Todar Petrov Street, Varbyane, Bulgaria.
Please Telephone 0044 1535 212 971, mobile in Bulgaria 0885 062 333. jed.dodd@blueyonder.co.uk
  

Peace Havens Ltd

Varna, Bulgaria

Worldwide Aromatiques

Essential Oil Suppliers

PEACE HAVENS
OF BULGARIA

Villas & Apartments

What YOU need to

know before buying

a Villa in Bulgaria

Visit Bulgaria Sites

& meet some of our

Bulgarian Friends

  

This site is sponsored by Worldwide Aromatiques - for the Lion of Bulgaria