Bulgaria’s 2nd city of Plovdiv takes pride in its credibility for doing things its own method. As quickly as you step off the bus from the capital of Sofia, you can feel the modification in speed of life. Individuals stroll more gradually. They appear to have more time on their hands. The traffic is less stressful. As you stroll to the city centre through the park, where old males collect to play chess and individuals lounge and chat in the shade of the old trees, Plovdiv instantly feels various. There’s a sort of insouciance to Plovdiv, something that is both instantly evident and difficult to put your finger on.
In the downtown Kapana district, individuals spill out of bars and coffee shops into the pedestrian streets. Under vibrantly painted murals on the walls, groups of youths hang out, flirt and inspect their phones. In the coffee shop by the Dzhumaya Mosque in the town centre, individuals sit for hours and drink cups of Turkish coffee. Even the felines in the patched streets of the old town appear more sluggish than in other places. They extend and purr, then they roll over and return to sleep. If you ask individuals here why the city is so unwinded, they will inform you: Plovdiv, they will state, is “ aylyak”
The word “aylyak” is very little utilized beyond Plovdiv, although it appears in Bulgarian dictionaries from the late 19th Century. It is a loan-word from the Turkish “ aylaklık“, which suggests “idleness”, “dawdling” or “vagabondage”, and it’s rooted in the Turkish “ aylık“, indicating “month”.
According to Yana Genova, director of the Sofia Literature and Translation House, the initial significance of aylyak was someone employed to work month-by-month, who subsequently understood what it was to have time on their hands. The verb that chooses aylyak is “ bichim”, a derivative of the verb “ bicha”, which suggests to strike, to whip, or to cut beams and boards from a tree trunk. The concept of striking, whipping or cutting is a pointer that aylyak is something active. If you wish to practice aylyak, you need to slice out pieces of time on your own. You should take the effort to sever yourself from your everyday issues.
However whatever the origins of the word, in modern Plovdiv, aylyak has actually handled its own significance and significance, something not to be equated even lived. When you ask individuals to discuss what it suggests, generally they will inform you a joke. The joke goes like this. A resident of Plovdiv is socializing with a Spanish visitor to the city. “What is aylyak?” the Spaniard asks. The Bulgarian believes for a couple of minutes, and after that states, “It resembles your mañana, mañana, however without all the tension.”
In 2019, Plovdiv shared the title of European Capital of Culture with Matera in Italy. As a part of the City of Culture activities, one organisation– the Fire Theatre Mime Company, headed by Bulgarian star, director and mime artist Plamen Radev Georgiev– ran a series of public assessments to check out aylyak in more depth. He would like to know what aylyak is, what its origins are and how it ended up being so carefully connected with Plovdiv.
I overtook Georgiev in a coffee shop in Sofia. He was born in Stara Zagora, about 80km to the north-east, and when he got here in Plovdiv in 2018, it was as an outsider to the intricacies of aylyak culture. “Our research study was challenging,” he informed me. “Individuals asked why we had an interest in aylyak. They stated it wasn’t a worth at all. It was simply laziness.”
It resembles your mañana, mañana, however without all the tension
However through the general public conversations, a more comprehensive image emerged. Aylyak, individuals stated, had to do with discovering time. It had to do with taking a seat for breakfast with pals and discovering that you were still hanging out by nightfall. It had to do with getting a kick out of your environment. It was connected social status, with a sort of dandyish roaming the streets with absolutely nothing to do. And, on a much deeper level– Georgiev called this “Zen aylyak”– it was to do with liberty of the soul. “Aylyak suggests that you can be engaged with the problems of life, however you stay safe from all life’s issues,” he stated.
In Sofia, lots of people I talked with were sceptical about aylyak, seeing it as absolutely nothing more than Capital of Culture branding or hipster marketing. I, too, was unsure. So, I captured the bus from Sofia to Plovdiv, to invest numerous days in the city and whip some aylyak of my own. In Plovdiv, I spoke with Dr Svetoslava Mancheva, an anthropologist and director of ACEA Mediator, an organisation devoted to connecting neighborhoods and city areas. Initially from Kardzhali in the nation’s south-west, Svetoslava is a self-confessed transform to aylyak. She has actually been residing in Plovdiv for ten years and has no intent of leaving. “Lots of people concern live here particularly due to the fact that it is aylyak,” she stated. Her associate, Elitsa Kapusheva, informed me she was raised in Plovdiv however just recently returned from Berlin. She was happy to be house, she stated: Berlin was great, however it wasn’t aylyak.
For Mancheva, aylyak is rooted in Plovdiv’s long history of multiculturalism. The historian Mary C Neuberger explains how the city was a successful industrial center in the 19th Century. Of all the cities in the Ottoman Empire, it was 2nd just to Istanbul, and was house to Jews, Greeks, Bulgarians, Roma, Armenians and Slavs, crowded together in the streets and kafenes, or coffeehouses. Mancheva states that aylyak was a reaction to the obstacles of living together with complete strangers. “It has to do with discovering an area of your own in the city,” she stated. “For me, the ground of aylyak is interaction. You do not require to like each other. What matters is the will to talk, the desire to comprehend.”
Historic accounts of Plovdiv’s coffeehouses in the 19th Century explain them as locations where craftsmens and merchants socialized and where time passed gradually. The 19th-Century Bulgarian poet Hristo Danov composed disapprovingly of how individuals invested all the time in kafenes. Individuals go to the kafene, he composed, to smoke, talk, consume coffee, and “impatiently await the sun to set so they can carry on to plum brandy”. Outsiders likewise detected Plovdiv’s distinctively unwinded feel. In his 1906 travel account, the British visitor John Foster Fraser was mesmerized by the speed of life in Plovdiv (then called Philippopolis):
” Image the scene. A garden, lit with numerous lights. Below the trees countless tables. At the tables sat ‘all Philippopolis,’ drinking coffee, drinking beer, toasting one another in litres of red wine. At one end of the garden was a little phase. There was a Hungarian band which played rhapsodically … It was Sunday night and Philippopolis was enjoying itself.“
As I talked to Mancheva and Kapusheva about aylyak, they returned once again and once again to one concept. Aylyak has to do with discovering area. It has to do with discovering area in a hectic day to consume coffee. It has to do with discovering nooks and crevices in the city– alleys, little parks, benches– where you can socialize with pals, play music, beverage beer or chat. It has to do with making area for others when you interact. And, as Georgiev informed me, it has to do with discovering an area of liberty in the middle of life’s problems. For those who have actually established the propensity, like Mancheva and Kapusheva, there is no much better lifestyle.
Aylyak suggests that you can be engaged with the problems of life, however you stay safe from all life’s issues
After numerous days in Plovdiv, I lost my scepticism and found out how to bichim aylyak. I walked the streets. I relaxed. And oddly, I discovered I got no less done, just whatever was made with less tension. Towards completion of my stay, I questioned whether Plovdiv has something to use the remainder of the world. I emailed the Bulgarian author Filip Gyurov, who investigated aylyak as a philosophy of life and as an alternative to economic growth as part of his MSc thesis at Lund University. “It is not everything about the pressure of the huge city, the requirement to purchase the most recent tech toy, the requirement to constantly climb up the social ladder,” Gyurov composed to me. “Individuals, particularly youths, have actually experienced the dreadful negative effects of burnout. Thus the requirement to decrease, to de-grow, to live more in sync with nature and ourselves.”
On my last afternoon in Plovdiv, I beinged in the coffee shop outside the Dzhumaya Mosque. I purchased a Turkish coffee and a part of kyunefe, a dessert that came from the Middle East which, in a stroke of cooking sparkle, integrates baklava and cheese. The coffee got here with a little glass of sweet rosewater syrup that alleviated the bitterness. Next to the mosque, beneath the rose bushes, a ginger and white feline dozed peaceably. I didn’t have my watch. I felt no requirement to inspect my phone. I had no visits to keep. I consumed my coffee and let the afternoon unfold, understanding that I had all the time in the world.
Soul of the City is a series from BBC Travel that welcomes you to discover the distinct attributes of cities around the globe through the stories of individuals who live there.
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