A few weeks ago I went to visit my friend Barbara in Veliko Turnovo as she was finishing up her Fulbright. It was fun visit her and to walk around the town that was my introduction to Bulgaria in 1982, when I went to a summer seminar there.
As we were walking up the hill in the old part of town near her house, we noticed a few cats on a wall. Then there were a few more.
There must have been some sort of a signal, because cats began to pour down the hill.
The black and white one seems to be the hall monitor, making sure everybody is keeping up. I was glad I had my camera ready.
Here are a couple up close:
All these cats live on the street, finding food where they can (such as at Barbara's door).
This reminds me of a Bulgarian folktale I've told for years, which I call The Village of No Cats.
There was such a village, where the people had never heard of cats, but they certainly had heard of mice. They had mice everywhere: mice in the houses, mice in the barns, mice dipping their tails in people's coffee, mice running across their toes and their noses in the night. It was terrible.
One day Clever Peter was passing through this village and he asked why they didn't have cats.
"Cats? What are cats?"
Clever Peter saw a chance to make a little extra money. He went to a neighboring town and gathered up a sackful of stray cats, which he sold to the village of no cats. The people were pleased to see these creatures make quick work of the mice, but Clever Peter began to worry that he'd be discovered as a cheat. He started to leave town, walking quickly and looking back as he went.
The villagers began to wonder if there was something Clever Peter hadn't told them about the cats
One said, "What do they eat, once the mice are gone?"
They began to follow Clever Peter, to ask this serious question. "Peter! Peter! What do cats eat?"
He walked even faster, but called back to them, "Meat!"
The villagers, though, misheard him. "Me? He said 'Me!' These are man-eaters! We're in danger!"
So they took their brooms and chased the cats out of the village. Of course, the mice came back, but that was certainly better than those bloodthirsty cats.
And now I think I know where the cats went when they were chased out of town: Veliko Turnovo.
Disclaimer: This is not an official Fulbright Program publication. The views expressed here are entirely my own and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.
©2015 Priscilla Howe