Little importance to the education of girls

The foreign Powers, too, have shown no very keen anxiety to enforce in Bulgaria their full rights under the Capitulations ; and a certain number of modifications have been introduced without protest on the part of foreign countries into the practical working of this exceptional jurisdiction. All cases to which a Bulgarian is a party are usually tried before the native tribunals ; and a delegate, appointed by the consular representative of any foreigner placed on his trial, though admitted to the court and entitled to inspect all the documents produced in evidence, is not allowed, as he is in Turkey, to be present at the deliberations of the presiding judges. Even forcible entry on the part of the police into the domicile of a foreigner for the purposes of investigation, which is forbidden under the Capitulations, is allowed to pass without more than a formal protest from his official representatives, whenever the Government is able to show reasonable cause for the action of the police. Here, as elsewhere in the Ottoman Empire, the Greeks are the persons who take the most unfair advantage of the privileges accorded by the Capitulations, and whose pretensions are most actively upheld by their own Government. But hitherto the representatives of the Great Powers at Sofia have not supported the various efforts made by Greece to enforce the strict letter of these obsolete conventions. In all right and equity, Bulgaria has as good a right as Servia and Roumania to be set free from the trammels of the Capitulations. But for various reasons, it is not for the present the policy of the Bulgarian Government to press for the redress of a grievance whose removal could hardly be effected without the dissolution of the nominal bond which still unites Bulgaria to the Ottoman Empire. So, for the time being, the peasantry will have to remain overtaxed because the existence of the Capitulations unintentionally prevents any fair share of the national taxation being placed on the trading and shop keeping interests.

This latter view is confirmed by the fact that the Bulgarians attach comparatively little importance to the education of girls.

School house and a school teacher

Be the explanation what it may, the fact remains that since her liberation Bulgaria has succeeded in establishing a very thorough, comprehensive system of popular instruction. By the Constitution it is decreed that public education is to be gratuitous and compulsory; this provision, unlike many others of a similar kind, has been carried substantially into practice. In every town, village, and hamlet throughout the principality there are nowadays a school-house and a school teacher. In the towns the school buildings are generally the handsomest edifice to be seen there, and in the villages the school-house is the cleanest of the cottages. The cost of providing the school-house, of paying the teachers, and of supplying the books and other implements of tuition, is provided partly by the State and partly by the municipalities in the towns, or by the communal authorities in the villages.

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Picture of the Virgin Mary

In the cottages, into whose interior I could catch a glimpse, I could see no sign of the picture of the Virgin Mary, to be found so invariably in the huts of the Russian moujiks. Neither here nor elsewhere in my travels through Bulgaria did I come across any of the roadside shrines and crosses, so frequent in Russia, before which you may any day see crowds of peasants kneeling and praying, even when the snow lies deep upon the ground. Yet, in an odd way of their own, the Bulgarians are devout believers; they are also scrupulous as to observing fasts and going to confession. During Lent squads of the regiments stationed at Sofia were marched down three or four times a day to the church, and after confession received absolution en bloc. In as far as I could calculate from the frequency with which I met these squads going and coming to the church, every soldier in the garrison must have had to confess at least once a week during Lent At this season the peasants absolutely refuse not only to eat meat, poultry, or butter, but in most instances decline to supply them for sale in the towns. The result is, that even for strangers who are not members of the Greek Church, Lent time in Bulgaria becomes more or less of a penitential season. The peasants avowedly attach extreme value to the due celebration of the Church services, and pay the fees demanded by parish popes for baptisms, weddings, and funerals, without any great amount of grumbling. The pope, in the great majority of parishes, is a peasant of the same class as his parishioners, too much occupied with the cares of his family, with looking after his cattle, and above all with the tilling of his plot of land, to be able to trouble himself greatly about spiritual matters. As long as he can get his flock to pay their dues and to attend service on the great festivals of the Church, he considers that he has done his duty. In the same way, when once the peasants have got a church where the ritual of their creed is properly performed by a duly appointed pope, their religious requirements, such as they are, are amply satisfied. Their lives are too hard to allow them to pay much attention to spiritual matters, and I suspect their whole tone of mind would, under any conditions, prove eminently unfavourable to the development of religious fervour.

Christianity consists in hating Turks and Jews

So far as Christianity consists in hating Turks and Jews, the Bulgarian peasants are sincere Christians; but their religion has hardly progressed, as yet, beyond that somewhat rudimentary stage. This view of mine is derived mainly from what has been told me by every resident in the country to whom I have spoken on the subject But all I have seen myself, here and in other Sclav countries, confirms me in my belief that the Greek Faith is the least spiritual of all the various creeds of Christendom, and that the Bulgarians are the least religious-minded, in a doctrinal sense, of all the races which constitute Christendom after the Eastern rite. It does not follow that because the Bulgarians are for the most part ignorant of, and indifferent to, religious dogma of every kind, they are not attached to their own faith, or still less are not prepared to regard all persons who differ from them as heretics and infidels deserving of extermination. All experience shows that men will fight as hard and die as bravely for the most ceremonial of creeds, as they will for the highest forms of religious belief. All I wish to point out is, that spiritual fervor and doctrinal zeal are not, and cannot be, the same important factors in the daily life of a peasant country, as they are in that of more highly cultivated and more wealthy communities, where large classes have at once the means and the leisure to indulge in religious contemplation. The church—by which I mean the material fabric, not the spiritual body—is a conspicuous object in every Bulgarian village, ranking next in size and importance to^ the village school-house. Both church and school-house are invariably plain white-washed buildings. The best house in Panscherevow is that of the mayor, or rather the kmet, or deputy-mayor, as the place is not deemed important enough to have a full-blown mayor of its own. A sort of barn is attached to the mayor’s dwelling, which serves as the town house of the village, where the Communal Council holds its sittings and where local justice is administered.

Balkans are an intriguing place and always a holiday there means time spent great there. I am from Bulgaria and I’ve been to some of the Balkan countries but it has always been private Balkan holidays. I like travelling with my family or friends only.

 

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Ottoman dominion

The Bulgarians hold their land on a system derived from the days of the Ottoman dominion. In Turkey, as in all Oriental countries, the Sultan is theoretically the absolute owner of all the land, over which he rules by the grace of Allah. In practice, he is a sort of ground landlord, whose tenants, subject to certain specified conditions, have a perpetual lease, which descends as a matter of law to their heirs. In Bulgaria the condition of tenure was that the lessees of the land had to pay one-tenth of the gross produce of their farms to the tax-collectors of the Government. In the event of default of payment of the tithe, or of the lands being left uncultivated for three consecutive years, or of the owner dying without legal heirs, the land reverted to the State. In the old days, this system paved the way for a great amount of abuse. Still in this, as in other matters, the Turks adhered loyally to any contract into which they had entered; and I gather that even under Mahommedan rule the Bulgarian peasantry had practically a good title to their lands.

Bulgaria became independent

When Bulgaria became independent, the State stepped into the place of the Sultan; and the old system of land tenure has not been materially modified. Taxation by tithes is, however, at the best, a very costly, cumbrous, and unsatisfactory arrangement In Turkish days the tithe was mainly paid in kind ; during the last few years, various, more or less successful, attempts have been made to substitute payment in cash for payment in kind. But these reforms have not made so much progress as might have been expected. Owing to the intense conservatism, characteristic of peasant communities, and to their profound distrust of any innovation, even if it can be shown to be conducive to their own advantage, payment in cash is viewed with scanty favour by the mass of the population. The tithe system tends to check improvement in agriculture or the employment of money in the development of the land. The farmer, as it is, pays one-tenth of his gross produce. If he raises crops valued at ten pounds, according to the market rates, he pays one pound as a tax to the treasury. But if he spends twenty pounds on manure or irrigation, and thereby raises the produce of his land to twenty pounds, he has to pay two pounds in the shape of taxes, without any deduction being made for the capital he has invested in the per-manent improvement of his lands. Thus the action of the tithe system actually augments the natural reluctance of an ignorant and thrifty community of peasant proprietors to spend money on improvements. In consequence, the Government are anxious to do away with the present mode of estimating the land-tax in proportion to the produce of each particular year, and to substitute for it a fixed rental, payable in coin, irrespective of the rise and fall in the amount of the year’s production. In other words, if the proposed changes should be carried out, the tenant will become a freehold owner, subject only to the payment of a yearly land-tax to the State, in virtue of a perpetual settlement.

 

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Aspendos

Turning off the Antalya-Alanya road alter driving 30 km. in the direction of the village of Belkis, one reaches to the best-preserved ancient theater in Turkey. According to Strabo, the city of Aspendos was founded by colonists who migrated from Argos under the leadership of Mopsos. Coins minted in the 4th-5th centuries BC give the city’s name as Estwediya. Aspendos had the distinction of being the only city besides Side that coined its own money at such an early period. For a while, the city was a member of the Athenian maritime alliance known as the Delian Federation.

A naval battle fought off the shores of Aspendos in 469 BC, saw the defeat of the Persian fleet by the forces of the Athenian General Cimon. Despite this, Aspendos was used as a Persian base in 411 BC. With Alexander’s defeat of the Persians in 334 BC, Aspendos was freed of the Persian yoke. It was ruled by various Hellenistic kings following the death of Alexander and like most other Asia Minor cities, it was annexed to Rome in 133 BC. The city flourished particularly in the 2nd-3rd centuries AD. In the 5® century, the city’s name was changed to Primupolis. Aspendos was badly affected by the Arab incursions in the 8® century. The Seljuks, who arrived in the area in the century, appear to have made use of some of the ancient structures, the theater being among them.

The Aspendos Amphitheater was built of regularly dressed blocks of conglomerate stone, while the door and window frames were of a cream-colored limestone. Access to the skene was through five doors, the one in the middle on the east being larger than the other four. The stage building is a two-tiered facade with four rows of windows, each row of which is of a different form and size. The niches once contained decorative statuary. Even today the facade has an attractive appeal. From inscriptions at the amphitheater we know that the structure was Mt by two brothers, Curtins Crispinus and Curtius Auspicatus during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180) and was dedicated to the gods and the emperors. The architect’s name was Zeno. The auditorium is divided in two by a diazoma and there is a gallery of columns surmounting the top row of seats. While the amphitheater appears to have been built on barrel-vaulted substructures, parts of it rest against the hillside. With a seating capacity of 20,000, the Aspendos Amphitheater is still utilized today. The Aspendos Stadion is north of the amphitheater at the same leveL The stadion resembles the one at Perge, with spectator seating also set on vaults. To the south of the theater are the remains of a gymnasion and baths. Ascending up to the acropolis on the hill above the theater along the path connecting the theater and stadion, one passes through the easternmost of the city’s three gates and into the ruins of the city proper. Proceeding west from this gate, one comes upon a basilica, part of which was used for government and civic affairs and as a courthouse. Much of this section is still standing. The triple-nave basilica, extending 105 m. to the west, was a commercial building and the agora lay to its west. The agora was surrounded by public buildings. West of the agora is a covered marketplace, measuring 70 m. long. The front was open and consisted of a row of shops with a stoa in front. North of the agora are the remains of a nymphaion (fountain) of which only the 32.5 m. long, 15 m. high facade still exists today. This elaborately decorated facade has two rows of niches. North west of the fountain are the remains of the bouleuterion, which was used as the city-state’s parliament hall. In the center of the ruins are the traces of the foundations of a monumental arch. At the southern end of the basilica are the remains of exedrae, which served both as pedestals for statues and stone benches for the public. Another of the remains worth mentioning at Aspendos are the city’s magnificent aqueducts, parts of which are in the nearby village and on the site of the ruins.

 

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