Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Bulgarian Connection

While walking the streets and parks of Budapest towards the end of March you might occasionally see red and white yarns being tied to blossoming trees- this is not a local custom, but a Balkan one, kept alive by Budapest's expat Bulgarian community. The red and white yarn ornament is called Martenica and is offered as a gift on the first of March, it is then worn on clothing or around the wrist until one sees the first blooming tree- the Martenica is then tied to a branch of the tree for health and luck. Bulgarians and flowers have a long lasting tradition in Budapest: in the 19th century Bulgarian gardeners who had developed a special method of  gardening on small areas moved out from their homeland spreading to the centre of what was then the Austro-Hungarian empire and establishing themselves in Budapest too. They became so popular that their activity turned into a proper Hungarian noun "bolgárkertészet", and the main area of settlement, in today's Zugló has a street bearing their name, Bolgárkertész utca, incidentally the first street I lived in after I arrived in Budapest.

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