by Marcy Huttas, Peace Corps Bulgaria Associate Director 2006-July 2009
Cool, clear water gushing out of a Cheshma (water fountain)… Along a trail during a long hike in most any Bulgarian mountain or along a roadside, Bulgaria is plentifully dotted with these welcoming water fountains for travelers. While we all agree on the importance of water to any life form that hopes to continue living, few countries can profess to have the abundance and availability of water that Bulgaria does.
As an American, the ubiquitous Cheshmi (hope I pluralized that properly) are one of the many wonders of Bulgaria that never cease to charm, amaze, and hydrate me. They are not only functional, but each is unique, and many are works of art in their own right. Most cheshmi have their own story – they were created to honor someone or something or a historical event. Some depict local flowers, some are whimsical, and some are carefully chiseled representations of the lion depicted on the Bulgarian coat of arms.
On recent trip in the US to the Rocky Mountains, the 3 liters of water I packed in quickly reminded me how much I appreciate and worship the Bulgarian Cheshma. I encountered two of the most recent Cheshmi to charm me on a recent hiza in Stara Planina outside of the town of Kalofer to Hiza Rai “Paradise” (a hike that I encourage everyone to make at some point). One of these is targeted towards thirsty humans, while the other is cleverly (and ecologically) designed for 4 legged creatures. Note the resourceful reuse of an old tire in this cheshma and the pennies left by 2 legged passerbys for good luck in the glistening pool of water above.
It could take years to explore the Cheshmi of Bulgaria alone!0