Fearless warriors. Protectors of the weak. And... stealing beautiful girls. We've all heard about the haidut's glorious adventures. Why do we remember them right now ...? Because long time ago when the tyranny and the desire for freedom had entered into a deadly duel, the battle began at this time of the year: between May and October, when the haiduts were going into the Balkan
In the next few lines, we will try to take you back to the glorious and heroic times. To make you feel like those brave men and women (oh yes, there were women-haiduts and their courage often exceeded the men’s) for whom centuries after their heroics, people are still singing songs.
Okay, did you get your rifle? Are you ready for an adventure? For glory, then…
You don‘t think we’ll be walking in the Balkan, right? We need horses. Big and strong so we can be able to move quickly and to run away after the attacks.
Secret pockets in the saddlebags
Usually, in the saddlebags, the haiduts had bread, cured meat and... secret pockets. Since the saddlebags have often been worn on their shoulder as well, a small dagger, knife or revolver had been placed in a special stitched pocket on the inside. This way, the one, looking like a traveler with a lot of luggage quickly turned into a haidut, who could immediately go into battle.
Whirlwind, Balkan, Thunder
These are just some of the names that the haiduts gave to their horses, and they have often been their best friends for days in solitary journeys. Loneliness has not been so severe with a loyal companion, and in the witness notes that have come to us there are quotes like: "Whirlwind was looking at me with these two big brown eyes .... and I'm looking at him as if he would almost talk to me ... but we have to be quiet in the Balkan. That was my Whirlwind."
We all know how important they are to the horses, so the haiduts had good friends which without asking a lot made the horseshoes which were needed.
So ... to look like a haidut while riding, we have to remember 3 things: put a weapon in the saddlebags, call the horse by name and know where the horseshoes are made ... You think it’s complicated? Well, here you can find a great walk on the back of a horse in the beautiful Balkan.
We are haiduts, right? ;) Of course, we must be able to shoot. In addition to the knife, sword, or jatagan, we need a flintlock or revolver.
The curious fact is that the haiduts didn‘t have only one firearm (yes, we all saw our haiduts with two pistols in their belt). The reason is that the rifles and the pistols with a flintlock mechanism had a problem – 15 in a hundred shots didn’t fire. And that fact could be devastating in the fight with an enemy, so you needed a second weapon.
And last, but not least - you have to shoot well. And that's done with a lot of practice. In the stories of the haiduts and their mates, this always happened on wide meadows with firing at targets (usually fruits). That’s how they determined who the best shooter was. The revolver also took a key role in attacking the enemy. We know a way to get ready before we put ourselves into a hero's shoes.
Here comes the more delicious part. Eating. To get through the forests on horseback you have to eat well and we know how many of our traditional dishes are directly related to the haidutes like “Haidut beans” and " Haidut Lamb".
A fact that you may not know is that the haiduts cooked lamb by searing it in a special way, buried in the embers. After a few hours, the meat becomes so lean that it easily separates from the bones (oh, we’re starting to get hungry) and the herbs they put in... In general, the haiduts knew how to cook, and we could also learn how to do it in a way that we just have to lick our fingers afterwards.
Question: Which were the best sommeliers in the XIXth century in Bulgaria? The Answer: The haiduts!
It is a matter of pride and honor to bring a nice wine to the warriors. And the wine also serves as... an exchange. Yes, the exchange of goods was something quite normal at that time. 2 litres of good wine = 1 chicken. The other plus, when bringing good wine with you is that you are usually in a safe place during the battles (afer all next spring someone has to bring wine again, right?). Wine was also a symbol of gratitude from the people during the times of occupation. When the haiduts help protect you from the authorities, you are grateful to them.
We found the good wine. We’ve loaded our rifles, we are already on the horses, and we put our credit cards in the saddlebags. So, let’s head to the forest. And maybe 100 years from now, they will sing about us too.
P.S. We will write more about the stealing of beautiful girls later ;)