Bulgaria: Emen Gorge

Emen Gorge is super close to the Balvan village, which is about 20 minutes away from Veliko Tarnovo city centre. We had no idea at the time that Emen is walking distance to my mum’s home in Balvan and its pretty awesome this place is literally in her back garden. It is a little local secret, tourists are unaware of Emen Gorge and it is difficult to get to if you don’t have a car- but not impossible. There are local buses from Veliko Tarnovo to Balvan and Emen or you can get a taxi straight to Emen village & the Gorge- however taxis and buses only run until around 5pm in regards to going somewhere out of the city centre, so if you did opt for local transport, timing is crucial in order to catch the last bus back from or tell your taxi driver to collect you at a designated time. There is also no phone signal out there so other than the local kiosk in Emen village that has a landline phone, you have no way of contacting a taxi company AFTER your walk around the Gorge- so pre-book your taxi journey back to Veliko before you visit Emen and please make sure it’s before 5pm, the drivers will get grumpy with you and charge you even more or in our case, just decide its not worth their time!

That being said, we didn’t know all this information when we went there, ha! We booked a taxi to take us there which took 10 minutes from Balvan to Emen and when we were done exploring, Jon realized there was no signal so he couldn’t ring up to get a taxi back to my mum’s home and we had missed the last local bus (You might need to check for local buses to and from Emen, we mainly used buses to and from Balvan for day trips because that was our main base).

Thankfully the lady who runs the Emen kiosk took pity on us, gave us water and rang up a taxi company from the shop’s phone line, however as stated above, the company wouldn’t come out to get us as it was after 5pm. One of the locals over heard our issue and said he was going to Veliko Tarnovo after he’d finished his beer and do we want a lift? We said yes as it was our only option being stranded in this place, he dropped us off in Balvan and we gave him some money for a couple of beers as a thank you and then we found out that Emen is walking distance from Balvan- so we could have walked home. Walking from Emen to Balvan is about an hour and 30 minute walk, which would have been nice to take in the scenery on the way back to my mum’s house because we are a couple that loves walking plus saving money in the process- ah well!

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7 Magical Realist books I recommend

Magical realism is probably my favourite genre, I first discovered it in my early 20’s when reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel “100 years of solitude” which was both torturous and tremendous to read- torture because it’s slow paced spanning over 3 generations and the language that describes the daily life of the family is very realist and at times tedious- just like real life and there have been times where I’ve lost my patience and had mild tantrums at the lack of action in that novel and then suddenly like a long awaited orgasm something mystical or odd happens which unfolds like a rare flower blooming in a mundane landscape. Needless to say 100 years of solitude is actually a favourite novel of mine- with divine hot chocolate that upon sipping, made the local priest levitate 4 inches off the ground, a girl hanging out bed sheets to dry, suddenly looks up at the sky and without saying a word, floats up to heaven never to be seen again, a boy is born with a pigs tail and it rained for 4 years, 11 months and 2 days in the epic tale. It is a unique literary experience, overwhelming in its virtuosity and magnificent in scope.

So what is magical realism? Magic realism is a technique which combines the real and the imaginary to create a fantastical, yet believable story, and also forces us to question the absurdity of our everyday lives, as if on a long, very normal and boring train journey to work and then suddenly your mind drifts into a seeping day dream. In the magical realism world, the people treat magical happenings as normal and part of every day life- a flying carpet is not awe-inspiring but perhaps something useful to society? And a beating heart made of diamonds could be sold on ebay? And a house is jealous of a girl as though it has emotions and a soul?

Magic realism is what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe. So with that being said, here are 7 of my favourite magical realist novels you might fancy reading.

The Clay Girl by Heather Tucker

A stunning and lyrical novel about a young girl called Ari, her invisible seahorse, a turbulent childhood and her poetic, magical view of the world around her.

The language so poetic, so allusive, so enigmatic that for the first few pages I found myself agreeing with Ari’s teachers later in the book as he reads one of her stories: “I haven’t a clue what half of it means but I feel it, I see it, and on some level I understand it completely.”

The puzzlement clears soon and it becomes obvious that Ari is telling her story in the only way she can –sideways because the full on reality is too harsh.

The novel follows Ari from eight — when her father kills himself, her mother has a breakdown, and the sisters are doled out to various relatives — to sixteen when she has an opportunity to put into action the lessons life has taught her. During those eight years, Ari bounces between wonderful, nurturing situations and people — and other people and situations that will test all her resilience.

A very hauntingly, beautiful book, buy it here: The Clay Girl

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Lesley Walton

This book reminds me of traditional fairytales in their purest forms – before being sanitized or gentled for the presumed fragility of young minds. it positively drips with death and loss: people cutting out their own hearts, turning into birds, people suffering endlessly because of impossible loves.

and in the midst of all this, a girl is born with a pair of wings.

It is magical realism at the height of its potential. it is like Marquez in its chronicling of the relentless suffering of the different generations of a family, and it is esquivel in its food-as-magic: “Happy smiles were shared between the bride and groom, but it was the cake their guests remembered – the vanilla custard filling, the buttercream finish, the slight taste of raspberries that had surely been added to the batter. No one brought home any slices of leftover cake to place under their pillow, hoping to dream of their future mate; instead, the guests… ate the whole cake and then had dreams of eating it again. After this wedding unmarried women woke in the night with tears in their eyes, not because they were alone, but because there wasn’t any cake left.

Reading this book felt like wrapping myself in a warm blanket on a misty, autumn day. The writing was beautiful. The characters were magical. The entire book felt like something you could sink into. This tale was not just made, it was threaded and crafted. I feel like it has burrowed inside of me.

Buy this dream-like book here: The strange and beautiful sorrows of Ava Lavender

The Dovekeepers

“They say that a woman who practices magic is a witch, and that every witch derives her power from the earth. There was a great seer who advised that, should a man hold a witch in the air, he could then cut off her powers, thereby making her helpless. But such an attempt would have no effect on me. My strength came from water, my talents buoyed by the river. On the day I swam in the Nile and saw my fate in the ink blue depths, my mother told me that I would have powers of my own, as she did. But there was a warning she gave me as well: If I were ever to journey too far from the water, I would lose my power and my life. I must keep my head and not give in to desire, for desire is what is what causes women to drown.”

This is a historical-saga fictional novel with slices of magical realism woven softly into the narrative like silk. This book has been called Alice Hoffman’s masterpiece, her most ambitious and mesmerizing writing, and I surely agree. This is the richly told story of four strong and mysterious women from diverse paths who find themselves drawn together as sacred dovekeepers for the 900 Jews who held off the fierce Roman army for months in the Judean desert at the mountain fortress Masada. Hoffman explores themes on ancient magick, sexuality, freedom, gender, love, eroticism, daily life, family, war, childbirth, landscape, historical facts and much more all within this epic tombe!

Each word, each sentence and each paragraph felt precious and personal as though reading a diary. All 4 women had beautifully strong personalities and stories that interlinked with each other and it was such a breath of fresh air reading a novel where the secondary characters were male which allowed the female characters the opportunity to tell their tale and be deep and complex beings in their own right- love and relationships was a strong theme in the book but each woman had other important tasks to concentrate on than centering their livelihood around the men in their lives.

Seductive. captivating. factual and thick like desert air. This story is gorgeous.

Buy the book here: The Dovekeepers
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Rhythm of Beauty’s Yoga Mat Sprays

Yoga Christmas gifts, stocking fillers for yogis, yoga mat sprays
Rhythm of Beauty now offer a beautiful range of yoga mat cleansing sprays which are 100% natural and organic, non sticky and utilizes gorgeous essential oils and flower extract, making your mat and practice feel fragrant and fresh.
As with all Rhythm of Beauty products, these mats are seasonal and flowers specific to that season will be used, all products are created with the moon cycles in mind as well- keeping in rhythm with the essence of mother nature at her finest.

Upon testing and now reviewing these sprays- They are just exquisite!

The word Shakti is Sanskrit for ‘Sacred Force’ or ‘Divine Feminine’
This spray has a gorgeously earthy and aniseed-like aroma to it that makes you feel grounded and primal, as though you’ve danced in a forest during a rainstorm. This rejuvenating and refreshing cleansing spray contains anti-bacterial and anti fungal fundamentals that work to eliminate sweat, odour and germs. its botanical ingredients include spring water infused with holy wood, rosewood, butterfly bush and lavender; to me, it embodies the primordial spirit of Durga, Hindu goddess of protection and courage. Selenite crystals are added which work with the crown charka and helps rid you of any stuck or stagnant energy to ensure a smooth flow of positive energy through your body, object a space. They are one of the most powerful crystals for energy clearing and energy cleansing.

Ananda Bliss
Ananda is Sanskrit for ‘Conscious Bliss’
This cleansing spay smells very soft and sweet with hints of a citrus-like scent.
This spray is my favourite because I’m a Libra and I love airy, floral scents. I’ve also been using this one as a room spray and it has been calming me down and aiding me in having a good nights rest. This gentle, soothing and nectarous aroma smells like spring dew on a tropical flower during sunrise, it contains anti bacterial and anti-fugal properties as well as herbal essences infused in spring water with botanicals such as Sage, Rose, Blossoms of Yarrow, Chamomile, and Lily working their magic to make your mat, clothing or room smell divine . This spray embodies the gentle nature of the goddess Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of love, beauty, desire and abundance. rose quartz crystals are also included, which work with the heart chakra to bring peace, unconditional love and carries soft feminine energy that heals emotional wounds.

I feel that once I, myself am fully qualified as a Hatha and Yin (and possibly pregnancy) yoga teacher I would love to continue working with Louise and train as one of her Rhythm of Beauty Coaches and perhaps be involved in co-creating and promoting a collection of yoga sprays specific to different styles of yoga and meditation practices- I would even love to create a sacred dance (or belly dance) collection, that would be awesome!

These beautiful yoga mat sprays are mild and their scent is not overpowering, they can also be used as room sprays or freshen up your clothing. Just shake well to release a soft mist to cleanse and create a sacred space or blissful practice. These are also perfect stocking filler or extra gifts for a lovely yogi in your life this Christmas.

Visit the Rhythm of Beauty website to view all products, workshops and retreats
Here is another Rhythm of Beauty product review on the blog
Here is an interview with Louise Allen, creatrix of Rhythm of Beauty

View more product reviews? Click on the links below.
Wonderful bath products for a leisurely day off:Day off Ceremony to feel delicious
Yoga Mat Product review: Buying my first Mat
Yoga book review: Fierce Kindness and Kitchen Yoga

If you wish for your product to be reviewed and you feel it is in keeping with Sunflowerteeth Blog’s aesthetic then email me via my contact page.

Grateful Yogi

yoga in Plymouth

I am grateful for the simple and beautiful things in my life, like the yellow leafed tree behind me, the aching sky above me, my rain boots and favourite mustard scarf, my woolly poncho falling on my face in wheel pose, rolling in the long grass, walking silly Milly and all the smiles!

Life at times can be hard, and it is meant to be this way in order for us to learn the lessons of love, kindness, patience, gratitude, forgiveness and remind us to appreciate the sweet, simple things. If you stop moaning, pause for a few breaths and notice the cutest little beetle, that lovely orange leaf or help a snail cross the path so he won’t get squished then you are practicing love towards something other than yourself (and your 1st world dramas) Stop. Look. Listen. Love.

“Everything wanna be loved. Us sing and dance, and holla just wanting to be loved. Look at them trees. Notice how the trees do everything people do to get attention… except walk? I think it pisses God off when you walk by the color purple in a field and don’t notice it.”- The Color Purple
kids and teens yoga teacher

yoga in Devon

dog walking

yoga in nature

nature yoga

yoga outdoors

warrior pose
“I hope that you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, that you will work with these stories…
Water them with your blood and tears and laughter until they bloom, until you yourself burst into bloom.”- Meghan Currie
Push aside your worries and enjoy your sweet, short life. It is so fleeting being here on this beautiful planet, try not to become consumed by the material world, instead step out into the fresh air and play in the natural world, it is where stories are formed, it is where life is happening all around you and within you, it is where ideas are formed and day dreaming occurs, which in turn makes room for those dreams to become genuine thoughts and actions that can then become your reality and your happiness. How can one do that when staring at a screen or buying things you don’t need? Our material world has been created to dumb down the mind and still our hearts. We’ve forgotten what it truly means to be human to be a soul riding in our vessels.
So look at the world through child-like eyes, see the beauty all around you and enjoy your time on earth and be grateful for all you have.
wheel pose
Photos by Jon Roberts Photography

Bulgaria: Veliko Tarnovo

Bulgaria visit Veliko Tarnovo
When people hear ‘Bulgaria’ they think of Sunny Beach in Varna which is a tourist hot spot in the summers, or they think of the snowy mountains and ski resorts in Borovets and Bansko. Yet there is so much more to Bulgaria than those two destinations.

My mum lived in Veliko Tarnovo for three years which is a city situated in the middle of Bulgaria. It’s about 4 hours away from the capitol, Sofia which is close to the ski resorts, and 4 hours away from Varna where Sunny Beach is situated. It is literally smack bang in the middle of the country. She chose to live here because whilst it is still geared up for tourists and there are things to do and see here, it is a slower paced lifestyle and you’re surrounded by an array of forests, gorges and caves! What’s not to love? Many people who do visit here, opt for a short stay or day excursion. It’s exceptionally beautiful all year round and there are many coaches or tours operating from both sides of Bulgaria to enable you to visit Veliko Tarnovo, perhaps you need a break from skiing and fancy touring around this quaint town covered in snow? With its cobbled stones and traditional buildings what’s not to love? Or maybe after days of sun bathing on the Sunny beach strip you fancy a day of culture? Either season, Veliko Tarnovo is a place you must visit!

Many expats prefer to buy and live in villages just outside Veliko Tarnovo. Land and property is cheap to buy because many young Bulgarians go to work in the cities- preferring a more London-like lifestyle whilst British expats have been renovating these huge farm houses and turning them into Bed & Breakfasts, hotels and retreat centres thus reviving the entire area for the locals to thrive from- tourists bring money which supports local shops and markets.

Visit Bulgaria

day trip to Veliko Tarnovo

living in Bulgaria
My mum sadly does not live in Bulgaria anymore. Due to health and personal reasons she has recently moved back to the UK for the time being but she loved living out there. She loved the people, the food and the simple way of life so who knows what the future holds? In comparison to Spain and France, it is is also a cheaper place to live, your money will stretch even further and you’ll feel comfortable.

I loved our family home, I was sad to let go of my childhood home, she still kept it and rented it out to a family back in Blackpool however it was a weird feeling of excitement for this new adventure living abroad and resentment for allowing a new family live in the house I grew up in. But it was a smart financial move to do this, renting out our house in Blackpool gave my mum a small income to live off in Bulgaria (on top of her retirement pay), any savings she had went towards renovation and decoration of her new Bulgarian home.

My childhood was a financially difficult time for my mum as a single parent barely affording food and heating yet things began to change in my late teens and my mum became a retail manager and over the years also became a landlady to 4 properties, that’s when we began to live more comfortably, it was then, she decided to work towards owning a property abroad- for a while she did think about the usual destinations like Spain, France and Cyprus but then she remembered how much she adored our family holiday to Borovets, Bulgaria when I was six years old which she scrimped and saved for, for years! She adored the wooden beamed houses and cabins, she adored the locals and way of life so she went back out there and fell in love with the house in Veliko Tarnovo. She sold all those rental properties in the UK to help buy and renovate it and I was so proud of her for achieving this, we were dirt poor when I was a kid and people were amazed my mother achieved this dream as a single parent, she is living proof that no matter your circumstances you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it and it is her strong willed, tenacious spirit that inspires me and I’ve become a lot like her now I’m a grown woman.

So below are a few photos of the Bulgarian house and its vast garden that my mum owned, I just loved visiting her there, it was a nice break away from England and inspired Jon & I to live abroad because we could physically see the possibilities just from staying with my mum in Bulgaria and both of us dislike the lifestyle in the UK. We even thought about buying a property and land in Veliko Tarnovo to run our businesses from- I’d set up a yoga & belly dance retreat and Jon thought about running photography tours. We are still considering this dream, but not found the right country for us to make that move just yet!

Fancy living in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria? Click on the link to look at properties: Yantra Homes

buying property in Bulgaria

holiday in Veliko Tarnovo

expat in Bulgaria

expat living in Veliko Tarnovo

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