Hanging out with Krassy is never a disappointment. I especially enjoy it when he invites me to do something besides our normal ‘eat dinner, watch tv, prank call his wife Nadia, and listen to Serbian music’ routine. Don’t get me wrong…that’s always a blast too, but some of my best memories with Krassy have been when we do something a little different like cook banitsa, make rakia, or even just go to the post office (more on that hilarious story later). But knowing how entertaining an afternoon with Krassy can be, I was jazzed when he asked if I wanted to head out to a random field one afternoon to shoot guns. Now I’m not usually a huge fan of guns, but when Krassy told me his eccentric friend Atanas would be joining us as well, I knew there was no way I could miss out.
So one Sunday morning, we packed up Krassy’s old Volkswagen, and drove several miles outside of town. After about 20 minutes, we pulled into a small field. Krassy told me to wait in the car as he stepped outside to survey the terrain. I could tell from his scrunched up nose and head bobble that he saw something he didn’t like, and we quickly resumed the drive. A few minutes later, we turned down a muddy road and Krassy stepped out of the car again. After scanning the horizon like a ship captain, Krassy was once again visibly displeased, and we continued on our journey. This happened another 5 or 6 times before we finally settled on a suitable spot that looked remarkably similar to the half-dozen we had just visited. Fortunately, I’m easily entertained.
We unloaded the gun (I’d describe it as a glorified BB gun), and began stringing up a variety of bottles in all shapes and sizes. The smallest was a travel size shampoo bottle that I was immediately determined to hit.
Krassy took the first few shots, but then insisted that I take over. I soon found that neither he nor Atanas seemed to have any interest in shooting at all. Krassy was completely content yelling words of encouragement between cigarette puffs and Atanas spent the entire time in the car complaining about how cold he was. While I had fun shooting, my interest started to wane once I hit the swinging shampoo bottle. All of a sudden, warming up my freezing hands sounded a lot more appealing than putting another hole through a bottle. Fortunately for me, a car pulled up just as I was starting to lose feeling in my fingers.
Krassy has friends all over town, and we seem to run into them everywhere we go. Today was no exception as Krassy explained that the approaching car belonged to his good friend Iliyan (this was Krassy’s second friend who happened to be driving by this field in the middle of nowhere). Iliyan was chatty, and seemed excited to meet “the American,” so he invited us to swing by his ranch for some homemade wine…off we went! Like Krassy (and many Bulgarians), Iliyan also makes his own rakia, and grows many of his own fruits and vegetables.
Iliyan gave us a tour of his ranch home, eagerly explaining the process he uses to make wine and rakia. His cellar was overflowing with onions, apples, pears, and garlic, amongst other things. When I walked outside with my freshly poured glass of wine, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Iliyan’s neighbor blasting Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio from his car stereo. I laughed at the irony and had another one of those “where the heck am I” moments…they never fail to bring a smile to my face.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better…I NOTICE THAT ILIYAN HAD A CANNON!!! Okay, so it was a small cannon, but still a cannon. Iliyan must have noticed my fascination, because the next thing I knew he was lighting the fuse and excitedly motioning me to step back. Based on the canon’s size, I wasn’t expecting much, but that thing was LOUD! If only we had had some cannonballs…
We sat around for about 30 minutes and watched Atanas dance to the neighbor’s music and shout things like “AMERICA BABY” in broken English. Iliyan sent me home with two liters of rakia and a variety of fruits, vegetables, and roots, including some sort of squash that’s bigger than my arm. You can see in the picture immediately below that it’s bigger than a 2 liter bottle! And here I was thinking I’d left GMOs back in the United States. I had no idea what to do with the squash, but it is still sitting in my kitchen as a proud symbol of Bulgarian hospitality.