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Buddha House Café-Library

Author’s note: since 2018, the Buddha House Café-Library has been closed and by 14 January 2019 the location where it used to be is not functioning. However, we decided to leave the article because we wanted you to get an idea why this was one of our and many other people’s favourite place in the city, because we hope that a similar place will soon be again opened to provide the same cozy ambience for creative work and reflection, for meeting friends, for holding presentations and for attending enjoyable jazz and soul music concerts.

bh-1 One of the coziest places I have recently been to in Ruse is the Buddha House café-library. Actually, by the name Buddha House there are four enterprises: the café-library and its adjoining culture club, which I personally regard as one whole, the restaurant, and the spiritual centre. All of them are located at the same address and share a very warm and welcoming atmosphere that can charge your batteries regardless of the time of day. Once you find yourself in front of the door and push on its heavy door-handle, you already feel at home. bh-6

Light-coloured wooden bookshelves on the right, unassuming bar tables, sugar bowls of brown sugar, an appealing barista with warm almond eyes strike the first impression you get – and the most unforgettable one. The home-made lemonade and fragrant cappuccino mark the time as a late Saturday morning that can be any time at any place of the world. Take any of the hard covers from the shelf, lean back on the chair and immerse into the plot having the BH radio music as a background.

This threesome project was established by the owner of Econt Express.

Find more bh-4about the café-library on their Facebook page and on foursquare.

Read on about the restaurant here.

Learn more about the spiritual centre here or buy some literature from here.

And if you want to listen to some really good stuff, go to the BH Radio online.

Here are some photos I made of this inspiring place where you can while the day away together with friends as well as spend the working hours in a creative atmosphere.

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The photos in the article are not owned by this website.

Danube Rock Climbing Competition

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I must admit I didn’t know such an event existed—not before a colleague of mine, a sworn climber and sportive all-muscle nerd, mentioned it to me. In a nutshell, the event takes up one day in October and for a consecutive year was held near Rousse, at the Basarbovo village rocks. Local participants and foreigners taking part in the competition gather together to prove their physical and mental endurance before the eyes of fans mad aboalpiniada-3ut climbing.

The event is organized by the Hristo Popov alpine climbing club. It turns out that Rousse is the forefather of rock climbing and abseiling done with the help of artificial pillars. The beginning was set in 1910 when a local youth sports organization, led by the German Helmut Brocks, climb the steep rocks over the Rousse Lom River only by means of a rope in their enthusiasm to become mountaineers.

Brief information on the 2015 edition of the climbing competitions you can find here.

The photos in the article are not owned by this website.

A Word on Rousse, This Website and Other

Many things have been written about Rousse, its Medieval history and the crucial role its people played during the Resistance against the Ottoman Empire in the second half of the 19th century. Still a lot more can be found about its becoming a drive for the Bulgarian sweeping development at the beginning of the 20th century and up to the Second World War, when it primed on Western culture and architecture and became known ever since as The Small Vienna. Yet, out of the verbosity around, nothing is quite hinting at the unique atmosphere of this incredible city and its recent history, the musical and cultural events that take place there, nor about its people of today.

fountainWhich is one of the reasons I wanted to create this virtual place of mine here. The people of Rousse have always added a special and as if slightly tangible value to the overwhelming cityline. Wilful, their strong opinion often bordering with stubborness, they embody what we Bulgarians would usually refer to as pride. As part of the Northern population of a nation, whose millennia-long history and geoplitical location on a peninsula crossroad between three continents coined a motley DNA, the people of Rousse always kept their chin up. Sometimes it has seemed utterly useless to do so, other times it is outright stupid. However, this readiness to stand for anything, whatever unbelievably petty and unreasonable it may be, has always made me feel I am at home.

I know a lot of people from Rousse: my parents and relatives, childhood and high school friends; neighbours, friends of my friends, and family friends. Some of them, including me, left years ago to settle in other corners of the country or of the world. Others studied and lived abroad or in Sofia, and then returned. And I do respect every single one of them. The ones who live in Rousse and the ones who don’t. The former, because I believe in their talents and in their capability of finding well-paid jobs anywhere they might try and, yet, they decide to stay and raise their children there. The latter, because they made their choice and because at least in the beginning it was not easy to leave it all behind. And this, believe me, is something that I know.

If you ask the people, many will tell you that Rousse is devoid of dynamics, that there is nothing to do there and that economically it lacks behind almost any of the medium-sized Bulgarian cities. True, on the night of this year’s municipal elections, Rousse was not even mentioned in the exit polls, nor in the live comments of the journalists on the National Television – not until the results were 99.98% official on the other day. What keeps me going in this paragraph is that the chalga concert from a couple of days ago, which was intended to be an all-time event at the brand-newish sports hall, turned out to be an all-time fail. Instead of exceeding the 10,000 people capacity, only 300 people turned up. The reason, alas, is not that the people of Rousse do not listen to chalga, but because “the tickets (with a maximum price of EUR 13) were very expensive”. Let us not forget that in July 5,000 people attended Lili Ivanova’s concert when the maximum price of the tickets was a whole EUR 7 more than the chalga one. What did I tell you about the obstinacy of the people of Rousse? Yes, they listen to chalga, but they don’t care much about authorities and chalga stardust. If they don’t want to spend their money on something, they won’t, even if Obama was going to play the guitar that night. I’m gladly rubbing my hands at the victory of this battle, thоugh Lili Ivanova is far from a favourite singer – with all my respect to my colleagues, they are really very smart and funny lads and I truly like them: I detest chalga and the simplification of the mind it brings about to parents and children alike.

It’s time for me to set off for the next pages. This is my first post, maybe not the best one. I have a lot to do about this website until it becomes useful to anyone who might want to visit the city and/or read the insights of an insider. I want to make it bilingual and add some additional content tot he other pages, currently under construction. What I want is to show you a city you could fall in love with. Whether you will, or not, is entirely up to you. But never feel certain you really tried, until you’ve seen it my way.

The photo in the article is not owned by this website.

The Women’s Basketball Team

Author’s note: despite its unprecedented sports achievements, at the end of 2017 the women’s basketball team in Rousse was disbanded. We decided to leave the article, however, because we experienced genuine joy and took sincere pride in the successful sports performance of the girls, also because we want their sporting merits to be remembered, and because, of course, we hope that some day again Rousse will again have such an outstanding team of ladies.

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It is my incredible pleasure is to introduce you to the women’s basketball team of Rousse known by its full name of Dunav 8806 Rousse, or simply Dunav Rousse. Dunav is a most common name for anything in the city as it is the transliteration from Bulgarian of the river Rousse is situated on – the Danube. The numbers come from the telephone number of its biggest sponsor, which, being a taxi company, holds the premium 4 digits that decorate the girl’s outfits.

A former basketballer myself for 7 years at elementary school and for yet another year at my high school team, I truly admire these ladies for their discipline and dedication must have been consistent and unceasing to lead the team to the first place in the National Championship in 2014 and make it the winner of the Cup of Bulgaria in 2013 – both for a fourth consecutive time. Some of the girls stayed with the team long before its fame became a characteristic going hand in hand with its name.

Get yourself acquainted with what’s next on the team’s Facebook page.

Visit their official website where you can follow the latest news, statistics, and everything related to the team and their sports club.

Image courtesy of Stanislav Stefanov at http://www.sportal.bg.


The photos used in this post can be found on the Internet and are not property of this website.

SUBMONKS

Now I’m going to tell you a couple of words about…SUBMONKS
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SUBMONKS is a DJ crew and a bunch of friends. Some of them live abroad and this might be the reason why their biggest parties are usually held on national holidays such as Easter and Christmas. Submonks first start playing at parties in 2009. They love drum&bass and dubstep and as their initial idea went, they organize monthly events in clubs and in the open alike both in Rousse and in other Bulgarian cities. They played in Romania several times before in exchange for their Romanian DJs coming to Rousse and driving the local audience mad with their expressive music and mixing sound.

SUBMONKS members are SUBfreak, Pixelize, Tekniq, Zombassa, and M.T.K.

Read more about SUBMONKS and any upcoming parties on their official website. Listen to their explosive DJ sets on Youtube.com.

The photos in the article are not owned by this website.

Portable Elephant

So, it seems that this week is going to be fully dedicated to the music bands that are born and bred in Rousse regardless of the fact whether they still live on or have broken up. portable-elephant1 Luckily for us all, Portable Elephant are alive and kicking and continue their artistic evolution. Kaloyan and Angel, two friends in their late twenties, stand firmly behind the band and dive into, as they say themselves, the post-noise-punk-jazz-core music. Whatever the terms used to indicate the style of the music they create, you are guaranteed to listen to non-commercial art. Some articles I found on the Internet state that their sound resembles the one produced by Oresund Space Collective and that their pieces are an example of instant composing.

During the last two years they’ve been regular guests at the Alarma Punk Jazz—a radio festival organized by the Bulgarian National Radio under the hood of the Hristo Botev radio program. portable-elephant3 They were the support band for King Automatic, played together with Keira Is You and Weinberger, and also opened the 2013 Atmospheric Festival.

The two guys work on their separate music projects as well and are also the two out of three members of the psychedelic-rock KAR trio. Another of their projects was the Raincircle (Live In Dom Kafe) impro-piece they released for Mahorka.

Listen to some of the music produced by Portable Elephant, learn more about them on their official Facebook page, or tune in the Alarma Punk Jazz free music channel online.

The photos in the article are not owned by this website.

Ico Darka & Mazut

mazut1Here is another musical project from Rousse started years ago by Ico Darka—Darka, unsurprisingly meaning ‘the Dark’—the cyberpunk band Mazut. Along with writing the music, he plays the guitar (and what not!) and is quite a colourful character, whom I remember ever since I was a teenager. Ico frequently visits the capital city of Sofia where he is a regular guest at underground musical events in clubs and at festivals.

Currently the band consists of Ico himself and Dory, the charming blondie that additionally jazzes up their musical and visual performances on stage. I am far from being the greatest cyberpunk fan, but from what I dug up out of my resources and my scattered personal impressions from the couple of their concerts I went to, Mazut is probably the only local musical and visual project that is not afraid to explore the unknown territories of cyberpunk anico-darkd its related musical styles.

Just like many artists, genuinely attracted and dedicated to music, Ico runs another musical project called Cogwheel Crack, which takes part in the first musical compilation of the Kontingent Records label.

Read more about Mazut on their official Facebook page and listen to their music on Youtube.com. Find some additional information about Ico and his projects here, also here, and here as well.

The photos in the article are not owned by this website.

Nikolay Danev and Antoni Rikev

Both Nikolay, known among us since the dawn of time as Kolio, and Antoni, a.k.a. Toni, come from Rousse. They started their musical career by setting up the local band Ahead in 1996 and sticking to it throughout its dynamic evolution over time of attracting members from other places in the country, letting go of others from the initial pack, and eventually rising to national prominence. The guys have gone through many musical projects since then, finally arriving at the Tri O Five one.

kolio2I’ve known Kolio since I was in high school and he was playing the drums in a local amateur band called Hon Gil Don together with other guys from the English Language School. I don’t quite feel fine about going into details on Kolio’s getting the first drummer kit as a gift from his father at the age of 5 as this is something I myself know from the Internet. But I feel pretty comfortable to say that Kolio is an extremely talented musician, sharing his love for music in an expressive though humble, concentrated, and always smiling manner. When he’s on stage, you may sometimes not be able to see him very well as drummers are not quite visible behind the drums, and the drums are usually positioned at the back, somewhere between all the mikes and cables and amplifiers and front men. However, you cannot but succumb to the rhythm – uncompromising and clear in its measure and irresistible in its insight, depth, and mood.

toni-triofive-1 As for Toni I know one thing for sure. Don’t be misled by his charming smile and timid respect for his guitar while on stage—rather take these as a true sign for a single thing: you are listening to a professional. Kolio and Toni, sometimes together, other times on a separate venture, had taken part in a number of other musical formations and projects before joining the initial members of Tri O Five.

tri-o-five Now, apart from the two of them, the group consists of the 21-year old Preyah as the lead singer, who first rose to national recognition through her participation in the Bulgarian edition of X Factor and later on Musical Academy, DJ Marten, and Desislav Ivanov playing the saxophone.

As Kolio’s and Toni’s musical careers are long and marked with collaboration projects with a lot of other musicians, you can get some more information about one of their current projects Tri O Five on the band’s official Facebook page and also on Youtube.com.

Listen to more singles by Ahead on Youtube.com as well.

The photos in the article are not owned by this website.

Popocatépetl

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Having named their band after the active Mexican volcano, these guys have always been almost that much eruptive and unpredictable on stage ever since 1995 when they gathered for the first time. The leading singer and the face of the group from the beginning is Tzetzo the Animal – an explosive ball of energy who gives himself away when on stage. At the beginning of the 1990s he was a notable figure in the city as he hosted a radio show on a local media. My memories of this period are not so profound as I was quite young, but what I know from my recent encounter with the band is that the Animal has not changed at all. A couple of months ago, when I went to Station Hall to see the band play, his stage performance was so contagious, so inflammatory, that I found myself dancing right away.

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The group changed its members on different occasions and was joined by members of two renowned nation-wide groups: Favorit, a famous jazz-and-rock musical group, whose leading vocal and drummer died one after the other in tragic circumstances, and Fobos, a trash musical band. This altogether lead to a change in the band’s sound and from producing rock and alternative cover pieces and creating their own tracks in the same genres, now they experiment with pop, ethno, and swing music as the group attracted some young brass players as well.

Popocatépetl was the support band for Goran Bregovich’s concert in Bulstrad Arena on December 20, 2015, which speaks for the international recognition and respect the band has deserved with their music.

The photos in the article are not owned by this website.

Station Hall

If you are looking for a club where you can dance the night away, listen to the alternative sounds of the ’90s, or enjoy a live band indulging their audience into a myraid of styles from Jazz to Rock and roll, and see a great many locals and have a word with them, this is your place!

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Check the program first to know what Station Hall is up to in the evening. And sleep well: I can assure you, cross my heart, over my dead body, you will never hear chalga in this place.

The club is located on the bank of the Danube river. As the rumors have it, the owner (possibly tenant) of Station Hall is an Irish guy. Do not ask me what wind of change has brought him here. I can only bless and cherish the day he heard of Rousse. Rousse needed such a place—and this is me that I tell this to you; me, not living in Rousse.

Station Hall has two halls, one of them is the restaurant. You may wish to have a meal during the day there or dinner in the evening and then just across the door is the club itself. Don’t spare youyrself this experience, just go and enjoy yourself by chatting with friends over a beer, vodka, or many of each depending on your metabolism and enzyme capacity for processing alcohol. The inside is red brick walls, high ceilings (it’s a hall, after all), a stage, and a couple of cosy niches looking out over the scene. No smoking is allowed inside, but you can enjoy a fag outside the front door, or cross the railway and sit by the river to enjoy the sound of the water splashing against the bank. I like this place and sincerely recommend it!

This is the map to Station Hall.

Check out what’s up tonight in Sation Hall on their Facebook page.

The photos in the article are not owned by this website.

Angel Kanchev University of Rousse

universityThe University is named after Angel Kanchev, a 19-century Bulgarian revolutionary who committed suicide at 21 in Rousse after having been betrayed and his attempt to join the Bulgarian revolutionaries in Romania failed.

The university was established in 1945. At the time it was the one and only higher technical school in Bulgaria outside the capital city of Sofia. This was the result of the efforts of local intellectuals to decentralize the educational system in the country. Back then, before the land nationalization and the consequential end of the private sector in Bulgaria had been initiated by the Communist government, the urban working class was just emerging and the country was primarily depending on its agriculture. Hence, the initial agricultural and mechanical engineering specialities at the university. Nowadays, the scope includes Law, Business and Management, Public Health, Natural Science and Education.

One of the nation-wide initiative held at the University is the RuseConf. A relatively new event with its first release in October 2014, it brings together leading Bulgarian IT specialists as part of a free conference on cutting-edge programming technologies and coding.

When talking about the University of Rousse, I cannot but share the name of Ignat Kaneff, one known too well to the locals. In short, he is born in a village near Rousse to poor parents as one of their 7 children. After leaving Bulgaria first for Austria and then for Canada, he is now the owner of a billion dollar construction business. At 89 he is known in Rousse as a major University benefactor. He donated USD 1,5 million, which was used to build a state-of-the-art conference hall named after him and opened in 2014.

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Well, I am humbled by such a deed and my heart is filled with hope. As long as there are people who are rich enough not to care about education and still do, I agree we can all do better.

If you are further interested in this topic, here is some detailed information about Angel Kanchev, University of Rousse, RuseConf, Kaneff Centre, and Ignat Kaneff.

Photo credit: Georgi Kirichkov.

Arena Monbat (Arena Rousse, Bulstrad Arena)

Author’s note: in 2018 Bulstrad Arena was renamed to Arena Monbat, also known as Arena Rousse. The links and text below were respectively updated on 14.01.2019.

Among the greatest and recent accomplishments for Rousse is the newly-built fully-functionaning, though not completely finished, Bulstrad Arena sports venue with a capacity to accommodate more than 8,000 people in live concerts. Its opening was announced at the end of July, 2015 (remember that concert I told you about? Lili Ivanova – rings a bell?) and has already hosted Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance, Scottish hard-rock band Nazareth, Bosnian world-famous film-music composer Goran Bregovitch, as well as Dunav Ruse women’s basketball tournaments. (Author’s note: despite their unprecedented achievements, the women’s basketball team in Rousse was disbanded at the end of 2017.)

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It took the local authorities nigh four decades to complete the sports hall, the construction works having been suspended on various occasions and innumerable reasons, among which some of national importance such as the fall of the Communist regime in 1989. The dead site of construction, cuddled behind a hedge of metal plates, has been a regular sight for what it seemed ages and an alternating symbol of malfunctioning communication between national and regional authorities, lack of investments, change of building intentions, and economic stagnation. For years to come, people would briskly shrug at the question if anyone knew what was going to become of these bare, as if wasted in the limbo of the passing time, hundreds of square metres. Now that the end result was even officially acknowledged in July by the presense of the Prime Minister, I must confess I am happy to see almost all of it said and done and that all efforts on behalf of the local institutions and patience on behalf of the citizens have been worth it.

The official page of the Arena features all scheduled events that are going to take place in it.

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As an aside, they host the all-cultural events program for the month on their website too. (Author’s note: which is no lonegr true – their website included that information when the hall was under the Bulstrad Arena management.) If you are still wondering what to see this December, check it out – the program is quite interesting and intended to add to the Christmas holiday spirit. So, my dear fellas, take your child to the Regional Library, your partner to a Christmas concert in Kaneff Centre, or your Granny to the Opera (she does not hear well anyway!) and simply enjoy yourselves!

Here is some additional information on the Arena from Wikipedia.

The photos in the article are not owned by this website.