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Western Thrace. A number of tourist companies offer a day’s shopping and do organised visits to
the two Bulgarian churches, the Museum of the BalkanWar and the Selimiye Mosque, the symbol
of the town.
The impressions and experience of organised groups or spontaneous individual trips are
often accounted for in forums on travelling and in the sites of tourist agencies. Edirne attracts
Bulgarian tourists not only with its Bulgarian traces but also because of the less expensive goods,
and its hospitality, which gives foreigners the impression that they belong there, that they are at
Wehad to set aside some time to takeawalkaround the streets and themore interesting
places of Edirne. Not so much in order to do shopping as to look around and stop in front of
the colourful shops, a very pleasant experience in itself. The sight of many of their shopping
streets is quite invigorating; the small fountains are interesting, refreshing and beautiful. And
it is impossible to pass by the sweetshops with the celebrated sweet Turkish baklava. It is the
obligatory tasty present that your loved ones would expect. Everywhere they address you with
“komshu” [neighbour] and invite you to try and buy. There is no getting away without it. There
are many places where vendors of nuts welcomed us, bags full of all sorts of titbits. For a long
time I treated my guests to the hazelnuts I got there. In the end, the route of Bulgarian tourists
takes them to Kipa: there you can get Turkish tea or other dainty bits and gifts. Nowhere is
there a problem with the language or the money. You speak Bulgarian and they understand
you; they use Bulgarian themselves. You can even pay in Bulgarian currency. Small proofs of
being neighbours...
(Raikova 2011)
In the discourses of institutions and ordinary people, the functioning of the Bulgarian
churches in Edirne is interpreted as a revival of Orthodox Christianity, multiplying the signs related
to the national history and religion, as a historical achievement, and the activity of Bulgarian
visitors as a debt to patriotism. Keeping a distance from the pathetic expression of attitudes,
the Bulgarian traces in Edirne are attractive sites for Bulgarians because they are Bulgarian and
because the town feels like home: familiar, cosy, colourful, typically Balkan in terms of atmosphere.
The residents of Edirne and the Bulgarian traces.
To what an extent the ‘Bulgarian sites’
are familiar to the residents of Edirne? First, we need to mention that the Bulgarian churches get
visited by the Muslimneighbours. Some of them, long-time friends of father Alexander, assist him
in his activities, take care of the churches and the space around them, meet visitors from Bulgaria.
Others are frequent guests at the important Christian celebrations and share ritual food. The sites
are familiar to other residents as well, Turks from Bulgaria, who have settled in Edirne as a result
of the out-migrant waves. They are actively in contact with father Alexander, and with Bulgaria,
through the network of friends and relatives or through transborder partnerships. The contact
with Bulgarian culture is regular: they are the audience for the performances of the visiting
amateur theatres from the places close to the border, of folk concerts, or of celebrations from