Jan 1, 1800 - Jan 1, 1925

Romance from the Memory Box

Regional Ethnographic Museum-Plovdiv

Love and Romance from the Bulgarian Revival Period
XIX - XX c


According to all travelers, Plovdiv is the largest and most beautiful city in Bulgarian lands. People of different origin, religion and culture live in the city of the seven hills and Maritza river. They speak different languages but have all adopted European cultural influences in manner, style and habits. This formed the eclectic Plovdiv urban culture in the Revival period. The city is like a crossroad for different cultures. Many foreign diplomatic agencies and European trade offices brought European atmosphere to the city. Even the Bulgarian knyaz Ferdinand himself often celebrated important events in the city under the hills. In rich homes music was played by string orchestras and on gramophones. The elite of Plovdiv organized balls and soirées that turned into a parade of elegance and fashion. Dances would start late in the evenings and last until dawn. Gardens were common places for secret romantic meetings. Evenings were filled with sighs addressed to the beloved ones. Music boxes, bonbonnieres and sweet meat music boxes sounded when ladies wrote letters to their lovers lit by the trembling flame of the gas lamps.


How did the kiss, tseluvka in Bulgarian, come to the world?

Tseluvkadis was a Greek shepherd. After many days of hard work, he moved to Thessaly where he became shepherd for Triadis who had large herds of sheep. Every day Tseluvkiadis would take the sheep to the mountain and play them with his kaval flute.

Triadis had a daughter called Evridia. She was beautiful and gentle, learned in every wisdom. One day she met Tseluvkiadis. She was always close to his heart and her thoughts were only of him. He also thought only about her and hoped that one day he would have his own herds of sheep and a small house where he would live together with Evridia. Sometimes Evridia wandered along the mountain peaks to meet Tseluvkiadis, all by sheer chance, while he had taken his sheep out to graze.

And he would know as if in a secret way that she is close and he would play such sweet melodies that even the sheep raised their heads and listened. She called him Tseluvka (Kiss) and he called her Rida.

One day as she was wandering the mountain and listening to the sweet kaval of her lover, Evridia found a wonderful small stone near a mountain creek. It was about the size of a pea with jagged edges. Turning it at the sun she delighted and wondered the way it reflected every colour like a rainbow. She was about to bring it to Tseluvkiadis when she heard the clatter of hooves. When Evridia turned, she saw the creature she had been avoiding all her live. It was the great god Pan. He had horns, rough and furry face and goat legs. Evridia had heard him roar in distant forests and now she was trembling at the sight of the terrible creature before her.

- “Give me the stone!” – he said with his hand spread.

- “No!” – said Evridia – “I will give it to Tseluvkiadis.”

- “Oh! And who is this Tseluvkiadis? I want him for one of my forest nymphs.” – said the god approaching Evridia menacingly, but before he could reach her, she flew to the mountain and called for Tseluvkiadis.

Evridia could hear the steps of the god and his hoarse angry roar, and she was terrified. The thought of Tseluvkiadis who would protect her was the only thing that prevented her from fainting on the spot. In less than a minute she was in her lover’s arms. Her sudden appearance followed by the terrible roar of Pan scattered the sheep. However brave Tseluvkiadis was, he could not help trembling like the smallest lamb in the herd.

Then he spoke gently to the god, begging him to go away. Cross and grumbling, Pan stamped away in the mountain because he would always listen to the sincere plea of honest shepherds.

- Tell me, Rida, what was all that about? – said Tseluvkiadis. Evridia told him about her meeting with Pan.

- Where is the stone you were about to bring me? I am afraid you threw it away while you were running.

But Tseluvkiadis was mistaken, for Evridia had put the precious stone in her mouth and now she drew it out between her lips where it shone in the sun.

- Take it. – she whispered.

But both hands of Tseluvkiadis were wrapped around Evridia and hers were clenched in his embrace. Who could take the stone from the girl’s lips? Tseluvkiadis found a solution to the problem. Only a genius could perceive the idea that came to his head at that minute. It occurred to him that he could get the stone from the woman’s lips with his own lips. He bent slightly forward and his face approached hers. Closer and closer until their lips touched. And then Tseluvkiadis forgot all about the stone. He felt such thrills and chills all over his body, piercing him and he forgot not only the stone, but also the sheep, the kaval flute, the mountain, the sea, the earth, the sky and even god Pan himself in the bliss of that moment...

…It was something new. Never before had such a thing been invented by any mortal man.

…But alas! Alas! The secret spread just like all secrets that have ever been confined to women.

E. R. Terzieva, “Svetlina” journal, 1896-1900


Myrtle – the myrtle blossom is a symbol of eternal love, marriage, harmony in the family and happiness. In Ancient Rome the myrtle was dedicated to the goddess Venus. People used to make the wedding wreath of myrtle blossoms and the groom adorned the lapel of his suit with a myrtle bough. For centuries the Europeans used rosemary blossoms instead of the fragrant myrtle for the bridal wreath. In 1586 a German judge in Augsburg had his daughter married. On the wedding day they could not find the traditional rosemary blossoms so that they used myrtle boughs for the wreath instead. Thus the tradition of the myrtle wedding wreath was born.

Tulip – symbol of eternal love, happiness and faithfulness. According to an old Persian legend, scarlet tulips sprout from the blood of a lover who was separated from his beloved one. In the language of flowers tulip is a love confession.

Lilac – lilac indicates the thrills of first love, infatuation and beauty. It is a symbol of innocence and purity. A bunch of lilac is given as a token of affection and devotion. Poets praise this flower in their verse emphasizing the love associations of lilac.

Peony – sign of tender and devoted love. It symbolizes peaceful and happy marital life. The gentle flowers of peony represent the pure and romantic image of the bride. A peony bridal bouquet is associated with devoted love and faithfulness, kindness and affection between future spouses. Its appealing and doping aroma is a proven means of attracting love and romance. Symbolically and metaphorically the peony is the epitome of femininity and female beauty.


Strawberry – sign of love, passion and fertility. In the Roman empire strawberries were symbol of Venus due to their shape, resembling a heart. The legend tells about the grief of Venus after Adonis's death. She would weep day and night and her tears would fall on the ground where strawberries grew. Therefore strawberries have the shape of a heart.

Swan – symbol of love, grace, unity, beauty, balance, partnership, family devotion and faithfulness. Apart from being gracious and beautiful, they are also a personification of eternal love, for their elegant necks form a heart. Swans live in couples. When one of them dies, the other perishes soon afterwards.

Peacock – symbol of love, devotion, desire and passion.

Butterfly – symbolizes flighty, casual and inconstant love. Its wings adorn the shoulders of love and pleasure. Eros-Cupid was depicted with a butterfly in his hands. The butterfly reminds us that love should be constantly nourished and that it is dangerous to try and know everything about the beloved. Let’s live the bliss of love and not try to know anything more.

Moon – it symbolizes the wife in a family.

Ring – symbol of continuity, eternal love and faithfulness.


Once there were many things we did not have, but we had romance. There were beautiful girls. And men would burn for them like candles.

Nights were the time for serenades… Boys would find an old chair in the garden of their beloved girls and set a gramophone there, playing some love songs like “Love – you’re a poison to my heart”. And when the girl heard the serenade, her heart would skip beats, filled with happiness.

They also used to make serenades with guitars, violin and mandolin. The boy would be anxious about the answer. No sound from the house. But suddenly – such a joy! In the girl’s room a gas lamp flashes. This is the sign that the serenade was heard with appreciation. The pulse of the lover accelerates and his heart beats like a astronaut’s before a takeoff… He goes back home on the cobble streets and his friends pat him on the shoulder saying: “Gusto maina! That's it! Till death!”

Excerpt from “Happy Chronicles of Plovdiv Urban Life” by G. Gavrilov


Love is love! Many girls and boys would go to the “Love Alley” in weekends. Boys carried gramophones, most of them with a funnel. They would put on the record and roll up the spring, and then we would hear the tango: “In the garden of my soul all the roses grow for you alone…”

You invite a girl to dance. If you dare you would stick to her like a stamp. You feel her heart flutter like a she dove captured by a tomcat. You ask her about her name and tell her that her name is the most beautiful. You tell her that she has very beautiful eyes (if you have looked her in the eye at all). Then you ask her whether she has a boyfriend or she is free…

The girl’s lips are dried by your questions… You invite her to a small treat. The “merchants” – small boys in shorts, sell delights. They have also large pitchers with cold water. As a real chevalier you order two delights – for you and for the girl. The boy is shining, the girl – even more…

On the next day she boasts to her friends that she has been to the “Love Alley”.

Excerpt from “Happy Chronicles of Plovdiv Urban Life” by G. Gavrilov


There were several cobble streets in the “Kjutshuk Paris” quarter in Plovdiv. The rest were all mud up to the knees and dust by the ears. But we were bursting with youth…

Yes, but how could we go out on those streets?! Ladies would put on pattens and squish to the bridge at the station. They were accompanied by their smaller brothers. The ceremony was performed at the bridge. Ladies used to put on their polished shoes carried carefully all the way, and they gave the muddy pattens to their smaller brothers to bring them back home. Then young ladies paced gracefully to the center of Plovdiv where their beauty would be seen by young lads.

They did not need their small brothers on their way back. They just took off their shoes and walked barefoot in the mud and dust and they came back home happy. Youth… Ladies would ask each other: “Do you have a brother?” – this was their secret code for the one to carry their dirty shoes.

Excerpt from “Happy Chronicles of Plovdiv Urban Life” by G. Gavrilov


The Scraper had a certain transport route: from Tsar Simeon square, along the main street to the “Mosque” and back. No further, no hither… On the Scraper everyone walked the pavements and there were carriages, phaetons and rare cars on the street…

Another Scraper was Ivan Vazov street but it was dark there. You walk but cannot see the girl you like. It was a real tragedy for young hearts in love!

The Scraper was important back then. You scrape up and down the street for an hour or two in heat and cold but finally you see the girl. Such was the prize.

The maina (Plovdiv people) would always arrange their meetings on the Scraper…

Excerpt from “Happy Chronicles of Plovdiv Urban Life” by G. Gavrilov


During the first years following the Liberation, two new and almost unfamiliar forms of entertainment emerge among the elite of Plovdiv: the ball and the dance soirée.

The first balls were organized by Russian military officials in Plovdiv. They were widely known for their “community involvement”. The yearly balls, organized by the women association “Mother care”, the Civil Club, the Officers Community and the Armenian School Board were celebrated as significant events. Unrivaled in Bulgarian daily life, they were distinguished by their extravagance and vanity, pomposity and pretentiousness. The ball was quickly preferred as the most expensive entertainment for Plovdiv ladies and their daughters. It turned into a real vice dissipating great fortunes. In time the ball implemented a number of public significant functions. It was a club, fashion saloon, business meetings in informal surroundings, entertainment, courting and flirting place altogether.

The ball enforced some rules of behavior and it had its own etiquette. Women could attend it only with their family but there were no restrictions for men. Young ladies were attended by their parents or close relatives. A young damsel should not be left alone in the company of a man for more than a few minutes, even if he was to become her husband. The guests arrived on foot or rent carriages. The ball was opened with a concert presented by the guests attending, not by professional musicians. Famous piano, flute and cello works were played and popular arias were sung. After the improvised concert, the saloons were prepared for dance. The dance music was played by professional orchestras. While the young were dancing, the elderly men spent their time in serious conversations and their wives could enjoy themselves with free worldly conversation.

Almost simultaneously with the ball, the soiree gained popularity in Plovdiv. If the ball was for the elite only, the soirée was preferred by the masses. It allowed modest clothing, with no claim to social manners and etiquette. The atmosphere was different from the formal solemnity of balls. There was present the spirit of young people who came to have fun, to fight with confetti, to enjoy different games, to laugh, to flirt freely and dance. In the beginning of the soirée there were concerts, plays, lectures and discussions. Only after 11 p.m. the real entertainment began and lasts until long after midnight. The “night life” was a new phenomenon in the lives of the citizens of Plovdiv. Dance soirées were the major form of youth entertainment all year round with a break only during the summer season.

The Plovdiv press used to keep a detailed record of all the dancing soirées giving them a detailed analysis.

“On 22nd this Saturday the dance soirée was held by the local Choral Society “Teacher Fellowship”. The 9th Regiment orchestra and the Plovdiv Choral Society took part in the concert. The program was diversified. After the concert part and the declamations, the comedy “Bad date” was performed, and then there were horo and other dances. The beginning was at 9 o’clock. This soirée was one of the most successful.”

“Plovdiv” newspaper, January 24, 1900


The tree is old. It must be about 200-250 years old... Many stories are told about the two crooked branches of this forked mulberry...

One of the legends tells of an envious neighbor who poured nitric acid in the roots of the tree. She wanted it to wither because its broad branches and leaves threw deep shadow on her garden and she could not see the sky from her window. Still the tree survived.


Another legend says that a lightning struck the tree and split it in two. It was a long time ago, at the time of Napoleon Bonaparte. One day the old Diamandi, owner of the house, received a letter from his granddaughter, announcing her arrival. His house was large and wide but empty and dim. When the young woman arrived, she brought life into the house. Everyone in the neighbourhood liked her.

One day her lover Rudolph came from Vienna. They were already engaged. In the midst of June, Diamandi blessed them and Rudolph had to come back to Austria to prepare the wedding. In the evening before his departure, Rudolph and Maria sat under the mulberry to talk in private.

Suddenly a great wind blew, large raindrops fell and such a great thunder was heard, that all the windows clattered. When Diamandi went out with a lantern in his hand to seek the lovers, he was stunned. The mulberry was split down to the very earth and the young were buried beneath its large branches. The thunder left the tree black and lovers it struck in the hearts. Because of their great love, people decided that Maria and Rudolph should be buried together. The bishop Joanikij allowed it and they were both laid in one grave in the court of the small church “St. Taksiari” under the cliffs of Dzhambaztepe.

Years passed. Many people have lived in the house since then, but on great holidays they still light candles by the mulberry. It was already dry but its roots were still alive. One day it sprouted green. Miraculously two intertwined branches sprang from the log. A tradition remained since then: when the priest from “St. Constantine and Elena” church sprinkles holy water in the neighbourhood on the Day of the Holy Cross and on Epiphany after he comes out from Kujumdzhieva house, he always remembers to dip his basil bunch in the white copper pot and  sprinkle the mulberry with holy water. People never forgot Maria and Rudolph. They came and lit the icon lamp on their grave. That was until the second day of Easter in 1886 when a great cliff fell from the high tepe hill and crushed the church and its graveyard.

Many years later when some workers dug the south hillside to make a tunnel, they found an opening with two human skulls and a pile of broken bones…

From “Plovdiv Chronicle” by Nikola Alvadzhiev, 1971

“No man wants to get married and every married man wants a divorce. He seeks and choses a wife. It’s not the case with the woman. She is the one to be chosen and often she has no chance of choosing among several candidates. She cannot often express her preferences and even more rarely can she marry the one she likes. Therefore, most women got married with some resignation, though after the marriage it was often forgotten. Each of the spouses is wondering on whether they made the right choice and sometimes they would feel sorry. The wife should do her best to remain a reverie for her husband, to make him see the happiness only in her. This is the only way both of them to remain proud. Thus the man will know that his wife did not chose him because of his fortune, but because of himself alone. It is necessary to think and request from the man only what he is capable of giving. The spouses should forgive and respect each other.

My marriage is hell, because my wife forgot what she was like when she was a miss, she forgot her love vow. Here I am ready for a divorce. However firm a man looks, his soul undergoes a terrible drama – from the wedding to the moment when he grasps the cards, the rakia bottle, takes the street or the revolver – all the same to kill himself physically and spiritually.

Women, caress your grown up children – your husbands. Wait for them in your nest and let them take a rest by your side. Take some of their worries and concerns off their shoulders. Comfort them, make them happy – a nice bed, tasty food, comfortable home, care for their bodies. Cry with them. Give them courage. Here is the recipe to happiness. This is one end of the chain, the other end is divorce.”

Happy Loser, “Economy and Household” journal, vol. 10, 1926

“…Kosta got married and had such a wedding that it was long remembered. There were 80 carriages for the guests. Some said there were drunk 800 liters of wine, 100 liters of rakia and so many sheep and lambs were eaten that they could make a herd. So rich were the weddings back then! And the trousseau of the rich brides! They would bring so many things to the man so they could outfit an entire house. Some would not buy a single plateful all their life. The golden coins, the Napoleons and Liras of the grandfather would support the trade of the groom. Such was the case with Jacob Arghiri, who married Mariora, who had reached the age to marry. He received the following gift-dowry: 1 cross with 10 brilliants, 1 golden rose with diamonds, 1 golden bird with diamonds, 2 diamond earrings, 1 pair of golden bracelets with brilliants, 6 rings with diamonds, 1 necklace with 12 strings of pearls, 120 heart shaped golden coins, 1 pocket watch with golden lids, 1 silver tray, 16 fildzhan coffee cups, 2 chandeliers, 1 mirror, sable fur coats, petticoats, silk trousers, embroidered cloths, cutlery sets… All amounting to 66 125 grosh.

…The dowry is a very bad thing. The father and the mother preparing the dowry humiliate themselves and condemn their child to be sold. A man who seeks a wife for her dowry is nothing but a huckster, who deserves the scorn of society. If the father and mother, make a bridal gift – money or property without compulsion – this is an entirely different case…

The man ruined the woman and dug a hole in the family. The virgin must be pure, with her dignity, faithful wife. The man must be pure in his dignity, a faithful.”

T. N. P. Gabrov, “Economy and Household” journal, book 3, 1925


“Young maidens should never be married by mediators. This is most insulting for a young soul. The maiden should have the freedom to make the right choice. She can determine herself the most suitable man. Otherwise there are many tender and good individuals, who have ended in the hands of a bully, who takes every opportunity to remind her that she has been foisted on him by a friend or an aunt. Despise wedding mediation.”

R. R. Dobich, “Economy and Household” magazine, pcs. 6, 1926


In the old town of Plovdiv, the weddings were loud, lavish and shiny. Sometimes a wedding would last an entire week. The atmosphere of elation, joy, demonstrativeness and spectacularity indicated that this was the most anticipated moment in one’s life. Everything should be the best and the most expensive. The idea that “one marries once in a lifetime” let loose for considered, but generous spending. There were large sums spent on long celebration, numerous treatments and all particularities of the ritual. Families who usually did not shop much used to spend fortunes on weddings.

Invitations for the celebration were sent in an exquisite courteous manner and then the preparation for the dear guests could begin. The best chefs and confectioners were invited to cook for the guests and the most expensive flowers would decorate the tables. The ambition of the home side was to amaze and to over satisfy the guests with an exquisite and rich feast. After abundant meals and sorbets were served coffee, fruits and sweets – usually syrup cake. Then they would proceed to conversations about the preparation of the dough for a special pastry, the merchant who sells the best pistachios in town, the Viennese master craftsman who has produced the daughter's wedding dress, the Istanbul jeweler who made the necklace of one of the guests, the brooch of the hostess, etc.

The wedding dress was usually white, made of satin, silk and cashmere. The model was chosen by the bride or it depended of latest fashion and resources. The veil was made of tulle or lace and it was attached to the head with a myrtle blossom wreath. If the bride was a widow and she married for the second time, she was also in a white dress, but she wore no veil and she had a diadem with orange blossoms. Elder brides wore light purple or silvery dress and a diadem. If the bride had lost her virginity before the marriage, she wore not white but black dress and she had no wreath of myrtle on her head.

The civil marriage in Bulgaria dates back to May 12, 1945 when the “State Gazette” published Decree-law for the Marriage, approved by the regents of Bulgaria in the name of His Majesty Tsar Simeon II.


Gifts were the material manifestation of the wedding. The preparation of the gifts started from the moment of the announcement of the engagement and the wedding. Each of the numerous meetings with future relatives was accompanied by gifts.

The groom prepared for his bride a special gift, that depended on a certain set of rules and had to be different from the dowry. It was unacceptable to give the bride cloth for dress or underwear. Everything depended on the social environment and the financial conditions of the young couple. In some social circles only the groom could give the bride a wedding dress, provided that he had her and her parents’ permission. Usually expensive items were given – earrings, brilliant bird with a tail of precious stones, brooch, bracelet, medallion, silk dress, lace or musical box.

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