Bulgaria's second largest metropolis, Plovdiv, prides itself on its status for doing issues its personal manner. As quickly as you get off the bus within the capital Sofia, you possibly can really feel the change in tempo of life. Individuals stroll extra slowly. They appear to have extra free time. The site visitors is much less hectic. As you make your strategy to the town middle by way of the park, the place previous folks congregate to play chess and other people lounge and chat underneath the shade of previous bushes, Plovdiv instantly feels totally different. There’s a type of recklessness to Plovdiv, one thing that’s each instantly noticeable and troublesome to place your finger on.
Within the downtown district of Kapana, folks spill out bars and cafes on the pedestrian streets. Beneath brightly coloured murals on the partitions, teams of younger folks hang around, flirt and test their telephones. Within the cafe of the Dzhumaya Mosque within the metropolis middle, folks sit for hours and sip cups of Turkish espresso. Even the cats on the cobbled streets of the previous city appear extra languid than anyplace else. They stretch and purr, then they flip round and fall again to sleep. When you ask folks right here why the town is so relaxed, they'll inform you: Plovdiv, they'll say, is "aylyak".
The phrase "aylyak" is little used exterior of Plovdiv, though it seems in Bulgarian dictionaries from the tip of the 19th century. It’s a borrowed phrase from Turkish "aylaklık", which suggests "idleness", "chatter" or "vagrancy", and it’s rooted in Turkish "aylık", which suggests "month".
In response to Yana Genova, director of the Home of Literature and Translation in Sofia, the unique that means of aylyak was an individual employed to work month by month, who subsequently knew what it was wish to have free time. The verb that accompanies aylyak is 'bichim', a by-product of the verb 'bicha', which suggests to strike, whip, or lower beams and planks right into a tree trunk. The thought of hitting, whipping, or chopping is a reminder that aylyak is one thing lively. If you wish to observe aylyak, you need to separate your self from time. You have to take the initiative to half together with your each day worries.
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However regardless of the phrase's origins, in modern Plovdiv aylyak has taken by itself that means and significance, one thing that shouldn’t be translated as a lot as skilled. Whenever you ask folks to clarify what it means, as a rule they’ll inform you a joke. The joke goes like this. A citizen of Plovdiv hangs out with a Spanish customer within the metropolis. "What’s aylyak?" asks Spanish. The Bulgarian thinks for a couple of moments, then says: "It's like your mañana, mañana, however with out all of the stress."
In 2019, Plovdiv shared the title of European Capital of Tradition with Matera in Italy. As a part of the actions of the Metropolis of Tradition, a company – the Hearth Theater Mime Firm, led by Bulgarian actor, director and mime artist Plamen Radev Georgiev – organized a collection of public consultations to discover the town of tradition. aylyak extra in depth. He needed to know what aylyak is, what its origins are, and the way it turned so carefully related to Plovdiv.
I met Georgiev at a restaurant in Sofia. He was born in Stara Zagora, about 80 km northeast, and when he arrived in Plovdiv in 2018, he was like an outsider to the intricacies of Aylyak tradition. "Our analysis was troublesome," he advised me. “Individuals requested why we had been inquisitive about aylyak. They stated it wasn’t a worth in any respect. It was simply laziness.
It's like your mañana, mañana, however with out all of the stress
However because of public discussions, an even bigger image has emerged. Aylyak, folks stated, was about discovering time. It was about sitting down for breakfast with buddies and discovering you had been nonetheless hanging out after darkish. It was all about taking pleasure in your environment. It was associated to social standing, with a type of dandyish wandering the streets doing nothing. And, on a deeper degree – Georgiev known as this "zen aylyak" – it was to do with the liberty of the soul. "Aylyak means you will be engaged with the hardships of life, however you keep protected from all the troubles in life," he stated.
In Sofia, many individuals I spoke to had been skeptical about aylyak, seeing it as nothing greater than the Capital of Tradition model or hipster advertising. I, too, was not satisfied. So, I took the bus from Sofia to Plovdiv, to spend a number of days within the metropolis and whip up my aylyak. In Plovdiv, I spoke to Dr Svetoslava Mancheva, anthropologist and director of ACEA Mediator, a company devoted to connecting communities and concrete areas. Initially from Kardzhali within the southwest of the nation, Svetoslava is an avowed convert to aylyak. She has been residing in Plovdiv for 10 years and has no plans to go away. “Lots of people come to dwell right here exactly as a result of it's aylyak,” she says. Her colleague Elitsa Kapusheva advised me that she was raised in Plovdiv, however not too long ago left Berlin. She was glad to be house, she stated: Berlin was wonderful, nevertheless it was not an aylyak.
For Mancheva, aylyak is rooted in Plovdiv's lengthy historical past of cultural variety. Historian Mary C Neuberger describes how the town was a thriving business middle within the 19th century. Of all of the cities of the Ottoman Empire, it was the second after Istanbul and was house to Jews, Greeks, Bulgarians, Roma, Armenians and Slavs, crammed into the streets and kafenes, or cafes. Mancheva says aylyak was a response to the challenges of residing alongside strangers. “It's about discovering your individual house within the metropolis,” she says. "For me, the inspiration of aylyak is communication. You don't have to like your self. What issues is the willingness to talk, the need to grasp.
Historic accounts of Plovdiv cafes within the 19th century describe them as locations the place artisans and retailers mingled and time handed slowly. 19th-century Bulgarian poet Hristo Danov wrote with disapproval of how folks spent all day in kafenes. Individuals go to kafene, he writes, to smoke, speak, drink espresso, and "sit up for sundown to allow them to change to plum brandy." Outsiders additionally appreciated Plovdiv's distinctive feeling of leisure. In his 1906 travelogue, British traveler John Foster Fraser was fascinated by the tempo of life in Plovdiv (then known as Philippopolis):
“Think about the scene. A backyard, lit by quite a few lamps. Underneath the bushes numerous tables. On the tables stood “all Philippopolis”, sipping espresso, consuming beer, toasting themselves in gallons of wine. At one finish of the backyard was a small stage. There was a Hungarian band taking part in rhapsodically… It was Sunday evening and Philippopolis was having enjoyable.
As I used to be chatting with Mancheva and Kapusheva about aylyak, they stored coming again to an concept again and again. Aylyak is all about discovering house. It's about discovering house in a busy day to drink espresso. It's about discovering nooks and crevices within the metropolis – alleys, small parks, benches – the place you possibly can hang around with buddies, play music, drink beer, or chat. It's about making room for others while you talk. And, as Georgiev advised me, it's about discovering an area of freedom amidst the hardships of life. For many who have developed the expertise, like Mancheva and Kapusheva, there is no such thing as a higher strategy to dwell.
Aylyak means which you can be engaged with the hardships of life, however you avoid all of the troubles of life.
After a number of days in Plovdiv I misplaced my skepticism and discovered to bichim aylyak. I strolled the streets. I took it simple. And surprisingly sufficient, I discovered that I did no much less, that all the things was completed with much less stress. In the direction of the tip of my keep, I puzzled if Plovdiv had one thing to supply the remainder of the world. I despatched an e mail to Bulgarian author Filip Gyurov, who studied aylyak as a philosophy of life and as an alternative choice to financial progress as a part of his masters thesis on the 39; College of Lund. "It's not simply concerning the hustle and bustle of the massive metropolis, the necessity to purchase the most recent tech toy, the necessity to all the time climb the social ladder," I advised me. Gyurov wrote. “Individuals, particularly younger folks, have suffered the horrible unwanted side effects of burnout. Therefore the necessity to decelerate, to lower, to dwell extra in tune with nature and ourselves.
On my final afternoon in Plovdiv I sat within the cafe exterior the Dzhumaya Mosque. I ordered a Turkish espresso and a serving of kyunefe, a dessert that originated within the Center East and which in a culinary burst pairs baklava and cheese. The espresso arrived with a small glass of candy rose water syrup which softened the bitterness. Beside the mosque, underneath the rose bushes, a pink and white cat was dozing peacefully. I didn't have my watch. I didn't really feel the necessity to test my cellphone. I didn't have any appointments to maintain. I drank my espresso and let the afternoon unfold, understanding I had on a regular basis on the earth.
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