Wednesday, November 16, 2011

UFO Studios, Ivancha

Arriving in Veliko Tarnovo late after an entire day of bus travel, we had no time to explore the heralded city, and took a taxi from the central bus station to our hostel in the old city center. Exhausted by the day's travels, we went to sleep early, and woke up early the following morning to catch another bus to the nearby town of Polski Trambesh. We had arranged for our new host, Margaret (from Glasgow, Scotland), to meet us there and take us to her home turned art project. After introducing ourselves, we piled into her sedan and drove the fifteen minute distance to Ivancha - the site of Margaret's UFO Studios, a project set to attract artists of all types. We arrived to be greeted by a gorgeous property, two playful dogs, three lovely cats, and two fellow work-traders, an American named Suchi, and her Argentinian partner, Ezekiel. Charmed by the new surroundings, we quickly settled into our new room and got to know the property, which included an orchard, several barns, a disheveled cottage, and numerous outbuildings destined to one day serve as studio, event, workshop and residency space for visiting artists.

We soon fell into work roles, with Roy mainly landscaping, pruning, and preparing wood stores for the coming cold. Catherine found herself gardening, baking, sweeping, and quickly got to work on a mural to cover an outbuilding wall. In the evening, we'd share cooking duties and occasionally play a fiercely competitive game of Scrabble with our housemates. One morning we greeted the arrival of another worktrader in Toru, from Japan, then Michael, from Scotland, and the next week, Helen and Bruce arrived to make it a full house.

Catherine's mural depicting people of Ivancha's past.

Our housemate, Toru.

Soon after their arrival, Bruce and Helen began paving a patio area using local stone, bricks, and antique bottles for accents. After finishing it, we suggested continuing it as a path around part of the garden, and asked if we could help. We enjoyed the work and spent the next week adding onto their original design to create a lovely path around the garden well. As we started the final section, Roy noticed a beautiful ammonite fossil remnant in one of the paving stones that the Australians had found earlier in the week. It ended up the perfect focus to the final section, and we surrounded it with bottles and bricks to catch the attention of future visitors.

One weekend we accompanied Bruce and Helen to Veliko Tarnovo, to better visit the picturesque city. We had a lovely time walking along cobbled streets and taking in stunning views of the cliffs along the Yantra river. Unfortunately, the galleries were closed, and most of the pubs and music venues were slow despite the presence of a university in town. On the bright side, we chanced upon some interesting shops, and Catherine managed to pick up an antique hand-knit Bulgarian wool sweater for about fifteen dollars.

We were also surprised at the amount of street art in Veliko Tarnovo, including some of the more interesting pieces we've come across in our travels.

Soon after finishing the path, we took a break from work one morning to explore the local market in Polski Trambesh. There were scores of vendors selling produce on one side, and on the other vendors sold clothing, tackle, hunting supplies, and home-made goods. Roy bought some hand-knitted socks and slippers from a lovely little old lady, and Catherine picked up some local bee pollen to spice up our morning cereal. A few days later we celebrated Guy Fawkes Day, and said a sad goodbye to Bruce and Helen, who left to continue their travels in Romania.

Mountains of cabbage at the market

With the leaves falling heavily, we decided to take advantage of the remaining sun and explore the hills behind Ivancha before the inevitable cold. The landscape was beautiful in its own way, transitioning from grazing lands to pine plantings. We delighted at the sight of several pheasants (all of which eluded us for photographs), and some of the local livestock.

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