BLG e-Newsletter 1 (2002)
Bulgarian Lepidopterist Group
abadjiev at bgcict.acad.bg
Thu Jan 31 10:17:50 EST 2002
BULGARIAN LEPIDOPTERIST GROUP
No. 1 (31 January 2002)
IN THIS ISSUE
Bulgarian Lepidopterist Group
Just for fun
Expeditions, travels, meetings
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BULGARIAN LEPIDOPTERIST GROUP
Bulgarian Lepidopterist Group (BLG) is a non-profit organization, concerned
exclusively with scientific work in the field of Bulgarian Lepidoptera. The
aims and objects of BLG are:
- Closer collaboration among the lepidopterists with interests in the
- Giving publicity to any work, published or not, concerned the Bulgarian
- Promoting Lepidoptera research in Bulgaria and abroad.
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JUST FOR FUN
Hazards of butterfly collecting. Bulgaria, 1976 -
The Pig is at the Door
Bulgaria is a warmly welcoming country, so welcoming, in fact, that it poses
problems for a visiting entomologist who has not developed robust techniques
for refusing well-meant hospitality in an inoffensive manner.
Our first exposure to this particular hazard came shortly after our arrival
in the country. We were trying to force our way along an atrocious mud road
in the Pirin Mountains, linking little mountain villages of such abject
poverty that it was difficult to believe this was Europe. We had to team up
with another car to push our ancient beetle (it turned 100,000 km on this
trip) and their Polska Fiat through the worst patches.
Shared hardships produce instant friendships, and we were invited for dinner
... once ... twice ... three times. Dinner was already on the table, we
could sleep there, we could go butterfly collecting first thing in the
morning. We finally succumbed.
We were to meet other modes of recruitment later on. The bottle of wine
appearing at our table, courtesy of table 12. The school teacher who wants
you to see the insect collection (insect turning out to just that - one
insect). The engineer who had worked in Algeria and wanted to trade racist
remarks, having seen the Lebanese license plates on our VW.
Once an invitation had been accepted, there was a standard pattern. Dinner
was far from ready. Someone actually had to be detached to scour the village
for good quality meat. Frantic telephoning or messengers invited relatives
and friends to come and inspect "their" westerners; in those days Todor
Zhivkov still ran a Stalinist regime, and foreigners were mainly kept
in well-manicured reserves on the Black Sea coast. Work next day was
cancelled. The stocks of booze were tripled, and the hatches were battened
for a night of serious drinking. Soon twenty to thirty people were
The medium of communication is broken English, mangled German, fractured
French, Kiki's hazy recollections of university Russian, occasional Arabic
phrases (indicating memory overload), and a considerable amount of body
language, the simplest of which gestures is the old Slav tradition of
drinking toasts to anything (butterflies, peace, friendship, Denmark, Queen
Elizabeth, tomorrow - but not Todor Zhivkov or the Bulgarian Communist
By midnight only the closest friends and relatives remain, and dinner can
begin. It is excellent by Bulgarian restaurant standards, no difficult task.
After dinner, wine, coffee, and cognac it is two o'clock, and so much booze
has been consumed that the language barrier has broken down completely, an
advantage counterbalanced only by the fact that language is gradually
ceasing to be an effective medium of communication.
By three o'clock we are shown how to step over the enormous sow which
insists on sleeping in front of the door to the outdoors toilet, and can
finally go to bed.
The next morning, bleary-eyed and hung-over, we are informed that a dozen
people, who missed last night's fun, are coming for lunch. Wriggling out of
commitments, not of one's own making, prove impossible. In the afternoon you
finally go in pursuit of butterflies which, by now, have wisely decided to
bed down for the night, especially since an extra hour is wasted at the
local police station to avoid upsetting the central police computer in Sofia
(two married Danes with different surnames, one domiciled in London, the
other in Beirut, with a London address was already sufficient to make the
computer, and assorted hotel receptionists reporting to it, victims of
incipient nervous breakdown).
It would, at least at the time, have been perfectly possible to spend a
cost-free month touring rural Bulgaria in an alcoholic stupor, but that
would not result in many butterflies. And by European standards Bulgaria is
something of an entomological paradise, with a varied ecology and large
tracts of unspoilt countryside. We got more than 120 species in a month,
from the high altitude Mountain Ringlets (Erebia) and Apollos (Parnassius),
to the wonderful Festoons (Allancastria cerisyi and Zerynthia polyxena) of
the warm gorges around Asenovgrad.
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