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The Texas and American flags by the Riverwalk, San Antonio, TX

After visiting Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana, the next top destination on my list was Texas. I must say, I love the Sudurn (that’s how you pronounce Southern, right?) culture! People are relaxed and negligee. They stroll instead of rush, look at you in the eye when you pass each other in the street, and are keen on starting and carrying on a conversation with strangers.

Cowboy cookbooks at a souvenir shop in San Antonio, TX

What made the strongest impression on me in San Antonio is the abundance of the Texas flag. I have been to many American states but have never before seen such evident display of state pride. Actually, I don’t think I even know what the rest of the state flags look like, other than the Massachusetts one (Massachusetts is probably the only other place where I’ve noticed similar state-patriotism).

The decorations on the Christmas tree in San Antonio, TX include: stars, cacti, cowboy boots, the outlines of the state, horse, longhorn, etc.

You can sense the Texas pride not only from the profusion of lone-star merchandise in the souvenir shops or the ambiance in touristy restaurants; it’s also in the decoration in public places, the flags on many of the private houses, and the way people dress. Yes, everything about the cowboy hats, big buckle belts and the string-like bolo ties is true. It’s as if Texas has its own culture, which is of course influenced by the American and the Mexican culture, but also has its unique features (read my post about the Tejano culture). That’s why the cuisine is predominantly Mexican and you can freely communicate with almost anyone in Spanish (this reminded me of my vacation in Miami).

I was even a little bit surprised at how many times I saw the Texan flag next to the American flag or even the former taking precedence over the latter.  It didn’t exactly become clear to me whether they two were like the two sides of one coin or if they were juxtaposed.

In Texas, I also became aware that each state has its own nickname, license plate, motto, animal, plant, etc.  For example, Texas is the Lone Star State, Massachusetts is the Bay State, Florida – The Sunshine State,  California – the Golden State, New York – the Empire State, etc.

Regional Pride in Bulgaria

The Seven Folklore Regions of Bulgaria

We do have regional pride in Bulgaria, but our regions are cultural rather than administrative, and are in no way semi-autonomous like the American states. There are no such things are regional flags, mottos, or license plates. However, regions are defined by their folklore. Basically our mountains shape the Seven Folklore Regions of Bulgaria.

Counterclockwise from West to East, they are: the Shopski region (around Sofia), the Pirin region (around Blagoevgrad and Melnik), the Rhodope region (around Shiroka Luka and Smolyan), the Thracia region (around Plovidv, Kazanluk and the Rose Valley), Strandjanski region (around Burgas), Dobrudjanski region (around Dobrudja and Varna), and the northern Severnyashki region (around Veliko Turnovo and the Danube river).

National costumes, musical rhythm and dances have some major differences in each of these parts of the country. Other than that, we have some unspoken opinions about the characters of people in each region. My mother is from the Shopski region and my father is from the Pirinski (also known as the Macedonian region), and people say that this is a dangerous combination!

Equipped with my cowboy hat and leather jacket, ready to ride the bull in Corpus Christi, TX

A postcard from the Riverwalk in San Antonio.Can you spot the lone stars?

The Alamo in San Antonio was the site of a battle between the Mexicans and the Texian Army

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Dry cranberry harvest at Flax Pond Farm, Carver, MA

I did the quintessential autumn activity in Massachusetts  – I went apple picking and cranberry collecting! Our day trip was organized by Boston University’s  Sustainability@BU.

The cranberry is an evergreen shrub that gives small red fruit similar to tart blackberries. It is delicious dried like raisins or made into juice and is an integral part of the Thanksgiving dinner in the form of the sweet cranberry sauce that goes with your turkey. There are five major cranberries producing states: Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin, as well as some provinces in Canada.

Sorting dry-picked cranberries

The grower-owned and operated cranberry bog we went to is called Flax Pond in Carver, Massachusetts. The farmer, Jack Angley gave us a compelling overview of the lifecycle of this most typical Massachusetts fruit.

There are two ways to harvest cranberries – wet and dry – and we were lucky enough to see both!

The dry way is far more laborious because it involves a lot of handpicking in addition to using comb-like machines that “comb out” the berries from the thick shrub. Dry harvest produces higher quality cranberries that can be sold fresh and eaten straight away (although they taste way too bitter to me in this way).

The wet harvest, however, looks much more impressive and is what most people associate with cranberry production. The plants are grown on the bottom of a dry bed and once they ripen, the bed is flooded and becomes a bog! Because the berries are hollow inside, they rise up to the surface of what now looks like the Red Sea! Then all you need to do is collect the cranberries with a pump! Because of the water and the bacteria that live in it, the cranberries should be immediately frozen of processed.

Wet cranberry harvest

Up to the knees in cranberries, that's life!

Next, we went  apple picking at Highland Farm in Holliston, MA. Apple picking is also a New England favorite because of the many orchards in the region. We tried Fuji, Gala, Honeycrisp, Mutsu, Golden Delicious, and many more whose scrumptious taste was much more memorable than the name.

Apple picking with Anna!

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