Hello, I am Fatma Nur from Turkey and I came to Bulgaria in September 2019 to my project.
This time we are going to speak about Shipka, the place where I am living in the last 3 months. Shipka is a beautiful and small town in Kazanlak, Bulgaria. The location of Shipka is a historical and touristic area with cultural places and amazing nature. Also here, the surrounding nature, mountains and good people make this place a real Paradise.
Why am I here? What’s happening here?
During the quarantine restrictions, I come to visit some friends and I ended up staying in Shipka, where there is a small and beautiful community. There exists an EVS/ESC project where young people joined. It is called Open Mind (website and fb) and promotes sustainable and healthy lifestyle and has also the aim to promote the cultural and social activities in/around Shipka.
The community includes their coordinator Tatyana, the daughter of the coordinator, Boudika, from Czech Republic Michael, from France Ophelie, from Germany Lea, from Portugal Pedro and from Spain Dani (Ophelie and Michael recently finished their 1 year project). They are doing several activities in their project like taking care of a sustainable garden, creating alternatives towards zero waste lifestyle, producing articles about sustainable lifestyle, repairing the community centre and ethnographic museum and helping with the activities there, working with children in Shipka and in an alternative school in Kazanlak (near Shipka), development of Ecotrail and promotion of Erasmus Plus.
Part of the volunteers live with the coordinator and her daughter and the others live in a different house in Shipka, but they meet every work day for the activities and for a shared lunch.
What kind of experience had in this project?
This experience in Shipka teach me a lot. This community follow the next steps towards a better world.
Waste – The community follow the direction of zero waste life style and they try to reduce their waste production in their house. For example, they never take plastic bag in their shopping which is something that l started to be more careful about too.
Sustainable Food – They try to consume only seasonal/local food because in this way you can have a better footprint in the planet and better health.
Garden – They have their own garden and chickens, in this way they can consume a lot of vegetables, fruits, herbs and eggs from their production, reducing their consumption from the markets.
Bread – l ate a lot of delicious handmade bread in their house, because they don’t want to buy bread with plastic packages and in this way you can cook bread at home with better quality and flavour than in the markets. I also tried to cook bread at home here and even my first try was not perfect, in the second time l liked my bread, so, it is very easy actually, you can try by yourself to cook bread in your house.
Homemade Washing Products – I learned how to create washing products for clothes that works very well. The aim for this is to avoid buying artificial detergents from the market which are bad for environment. Also, the water from the washing machine in their house goes to their garden irrigating and giving nutrients to part of their garden. They prepare different kind of products for washing clothes: with the ashes from the fireplace, ivy leaves and with one type of chestnuts, which depends on the seasons to be used. In the beginning, I was not believing how these products would clean the clothes and then l was very surprised and satisfied with the result.
Alternatives for the consumption – In addition, as a person who consumed a lot of stretch film in the kitchen, l learned a good way to change this situation. So, l had a workshop about creating beeswax wrap with other volunteers. If l want to cover some food, this method is very smart and effective for me. Also, they do trash measuring every week to have the idea of their waste production.
Reusing – They try to not produce waste as possible in their house. I also try to reduce waste in my life. I try to reuse jars for putting food inside or for some decorative present.
Handmade products – One useful thing that l learned in this project is that you can knit your own sponge for washing dishes. In my opinion, sponges become old very easily and you have to buy new one regularly but if you learn how you can knit a sponge, you can use strong and natural material for knitting and also you don’t need to buy a sponge every time.
They also created a Zero Waste book where you can learn a lot more things like these.
In the project they follow the permaculture principles in their life and in their gardens, respecting the nature and living in cooperation with the garden and not making it their slave.
So, in this garden one of the aim is to have high biodiversity in order to have balance of living beings for a healthy and efficient production where all the living beings cooperate by themselves.
They have chickens in their garden which helps to create good soil for the plants and give eggs. For giving good conditions for biodiversity they have a pond and insect hotel in the garden.
In the garden I planted seeds and seedlings like, for example, onion, radish, parsnip, parsley and lettuce and l did watering in the garden. Also, they have a greenhouse made by the volunteers and sometimes l take care of the plants there. At the same time, with this experience I learned a lot of new words about gardening, kind of plants and biodiversity and also I painted a mandala in their garden with lovely colours.
In their house, they separate their trash like organic, glass, paper, metal and plastic to recycle the materials, using the organic rests for composting to have rich soil in their garden or for the chickens and, in the garden, there is a dry toilet that if used properly can create rich soil and doesn’t waste water. So, in the house there is a lot of activities happening in a way for a sustainable living.
Normalization process times
When I was in Shipka, in normalization process, we went to a place called Byala Reka. This is an amazing place is full of nature. There is a lot of several animal, fungus and plant species in this place. Also, there is a beautiful river with cold water that makes you energetic if you put your feet in. So, in this peaceful area, we wanted to hiking to explore it and we did camping there to sleep in the night.
After this experience, in another weekend we decided to go to Botev Peak passing through Byala Reka again and we did very big hiking through the mountain to arrive the waterfall (Raysko Praskalo) before the peak. It was very tiring but at the same time very good to be in the middle of the nature during the hiking. Also, when we arrive to the hut before the peak, the view of the nature and seeing the amazing waterfall was impressive.
To Be Together with Kids: Thanks to alternative school in Kazanlak, I met a lot of nice kids and I spend very good time with them there. For those kids, I tried to create some good, stimulating activities and fun games to do with children in the school. Also, l met a lot of children who live in Shipka and we played some games with them in this normalization process.
Personally, I learned lots of interesting things in this Paradise (the volunteers here call it Shipka Paradise) and l had a very good experience that l will never forget in my life. I had piano course and English course from my helpful friend Lea, l learned many different things about cultures, l improved my English and l learned some words from other languages. Most important thing is, I lived with very lovely people in this Paradise and l hope l will see them again in some way.