The Arc de Triomphe – Unique Art Project

I love to travel and explore the world, and Europe is my favorite place since I was born and raised there. One of the places I wanted to visit was France and I was fortunate to visit Paris in October. In addition to visiting all the main art actions, I was able to visit an usual art project, the wrapped Arc de Triomphe. This project was a long-life dream of Christo.

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He was a Bulgarian refugee who had escaped Soviet occupation like me, but he made his way to Paris in 1958. He went to Paris because he was an artist and that was where he believed the capital of art was located. In 1961, three years after he met his wife in Paris, Christo and Jeanne-Claude began creating works of art in public spaces. One of their projects was to wrap a public building. When he arrived in Paris, Christo rented a small room near the Arc de Triomphe and had been attracted by the monument ever since.

During his career he and his wife did a lot of different projects to transform public spaces. One of his dreams was to wrap the Arc de Triomphe. Even in his early work, he was thinking big, wondering what it would look like to wrap something important and public—like, for instance, the Arc de Triomphe at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. Unfortunately, he passed way before he could achieve this dream. But, per Christo’s wishes, the wrapped L’Arc de Triomphe was completed by his team after his death.

From my hotel window in Paris, I was able to see the giant silver Arch among the golden trees. We decided to go there immediately after we unpacked out luggage and we had a cup of aromatic, double espresso to rejuvenate ourselves.

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After going through the checks of our green certificates, we headed to the tunnel that led to the Arch. The pictures on the walls told the structure’s story. Footsteps filled the tunnel, and it was difficult to read everything under each picture in the dim amber light. My mask made my breathing difficult, and I quickened my pace at the sight of the stream of light at the end of the tunnel. Fresh raindrops fell on my flushed face as I exited, and I removed my mask to take a deep breath of the cold autumn air.

I didn’t have time to think, because my attention was drawn to the arch. It was a splash of silver and gray. Hundreds of people moved around its bold giant columns like an anthill. Camera flashes reflected off of the metallic gray-blue fabric.

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We were in the open air, but it felt like a big gallery that gathered the whole world under its roof.

Squeezing my umbrella that could fly out of my hands at any moment, I slipped between the smiling faces of the people. I smiled in return and walked toward the arch, trying not to interfere with selfie and group photos.

Languages ​​merged into one: German, French, English, Russian, Scandinavian, Arabic, and Slavic, and others creating a sound a music of delight and wonder.

After a few minutes, I crept to the arch and, without waiting for an invitation, went closer to touch it. I shivered at the coldness and roughness of the gray-blue fabric. When I touched it, the threads of the fabric felt like muscle fibers wrapped around the body of the arch. The red threads ran like veins through it, tying it tightly to the body of the arch.

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The arch looked like a great Egyptian mummy to me, wrapped up, veiled, and ready for its next journey. Beneath the heavy material lay the graceful forms of baroque bas-reliefs depicting battles, victories, and triumphs. But in those days, this story was closed, the forms were transformed, and the arch had wrapped its history under a silver veil.

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When I stood in the center below it and looked up, I felt small, lost in space. The light from the spotlights accentuated the folds, the shadows; the glare formed a web of beauty. I felt the power of the silver dome above my head.

It was me and the wind, even the clatter of footsteps on the plates could not disturb this moment.

The wind passed beneath the arch, crashing into the crowd and continuing its way through the veins of Paris.

It was a cold autumn day, but I felt a lot of energy around me, people from all over the world watching, observing and reflecting.

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The art project received positive and negative feedback, but from my perspective, it was an art project that united people during the time of a pandemic, when we are all scared of human interaction and have gone virtual. The sound of cheers, the smiles on people’s faces, the noise of the crowd was like a gift to me, a spark of life. This gave me hope that everything would be fine and people would find the right path again. Cheers, hugs, something we didn’t see often after the start of the pandemic. Art is a temple of the human soul, and it comes in all shapes, colors, media and ideas.

Images copyright Nelly Tonchev and Vesselina Toncheva

Magical Herbs of Love in Bulgarian Folklore

Disclaimer: The information in the article is not a recommendation for treatment, but to acquaint you with interesting old customs and historical facts. You should always consult a medical professional before undertaking any herbal remedies.


Happy New Year! We wish everyone luck, health, and love. We look forward to what the new year will bring even though we don’t know what is in store for us during the days that follow.

In Bulgarian folklore, on December 24, families start the process of forecasting the future with their ritual bread. Inside it are hidden lucky charms – messages for health, love, and success – normally wrapped in foil. Everyone in the household hopes to get one and secure their fortune for the entire year.

In the past, in addition to such rituals and traditions, our grandmothers and great-grandmothers knew the power of each herb and how to keep their home healthy and happy. They used herbs and flowers to cast love spells. And love itself is magic.

In Bulgarian myths and legends, you can find this magic by using herbs. Herbal rituals could fill many books, but with Valentine’s Day swiftly approaching, I’ve selected a few to help you learn how you can use them to attract love into your life and how to keep it.

Herbs for love

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

Based on Bulgarian folklore, if you sprinkle your partner with powdered basil while he or she sleeps, the person won’t cheat. I prefer to use basil for my watermelon and feta cheese salad, but you’re welcome to try this ritual for a little love magic.

Common ivy, English ivy (Hedera helix)

If you know someone who’s getting married, give the bride a branch of ivy. It’s supposed to bring her happiness in marriage.

Mistletoe (Viscum album)

Oh, Mistletoe… I have one in my yard. I never knew how powerful the plant is. Do you know why you need to kiss under the Mistletoe?

Shakespeare calls it ‘the baleful Mistletoe,’ an allusion to the Scandinavian legend that Balder, the god of Peace, was slain with an arrow made of Mistletoe. He was restored to life at the request of the other gods and goddesses, and Mistletoe was afterwards given into the keeping of the goddess of Love, and it was ordained that everyone who passed under it should receive a kiss, to show that the branch had become an emblem of love, and not of hate (from: “Mistletoe”).

In Bulgarian folklore, mistletoe is a sacred and magical herb. In winter, the bushes remain green and fresh on top of the tree host, reminiscent of spring and new birth. If a girl hangs a branch of mistletoe hangs over her bed in the winter, she’ll meet or marry her lover during the year.

Maybe give this one a try if there’s someone you long to be with and see if this ritual works. It’s harmless enough.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

If you worry too much about a loved one who’ll be away on a long business trip, place dandelion flowers and seeds into his pockets or luggage. He won’t even think about infidelity. Dill seeds have the same effect.

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

“Samodivi,” Bulgarian woodland nymphs, rub their arrows with valerian, so that whomever they catch or wound immediately hates a woman or lover for life. The woodland nymphs wanted the men to love them instead.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

If you burn a pinch of ginger in your home, the relationship between you and your partner will improve.

Dill (Anethum graveolens)

If a woman washes her face and hands with a decoction of dill seeds, her partner’s love for her will increase.

Melilot (Melilotus officinalis)

Many songs and folklore tales mention this plant. It helps protect girls from being abducted by the dragon zmey. In Bulgarian folkore, the herb is also used to separate lovers as well as saving someone from zmey’s love.

Lentil (Lens culinaris or Lens esculenta)

In Bulgarian folklore, lentil is used in magic love potions. To do this, you’ll need to collect one lentil from forty different shops. After boiling them, knead them into bread while saying, “As I tried to collect 40 grains from 40 shops, so should my husband work so hard for me and love me forever.” Then, when the bread it done, give it to your spouse to eat (from Lilia Stavreva’s Български магии и гадания [Bulgarian Magic and Foretelling], p. 209).

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)

Beloved calming Lemon Balm. Besides its great aroma, this herb has a calming effect. Give your love tea made with it to calm them and also nourish their love.

Yellow Avens or Common Avens (Geum)

This herb is called an “old herb” (staro bile), probably because it is as old as its love magic. It will not only help you find the love of your life, it’s also used to keep away bad spirits and help you lose weight and get in shape. Stories tell how once pierced yellow avens with his arrows, and then gave it to the fairies so they could enchant and ruin the lives of more than one lover.

If you wear the herb, it will enchant everyone around you. That sounds like the movie “Love Potion No. 9” with Sandra Bullock.

Iris (Iris germanica)

The iris is a magical flower. Whoever takes a bunch of irises and puts them on his belt or hat, his soul will forever remain with the one who wears it.

Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)

Wormwood is another herb used to separate lovers. A girl who doesn’t want to marry an old bachelor picks up “bitter wormwood” in a dewy meadow and rubs her face it it so that the man will not like her.

An Old Love Charm

On St. Luke’s Day, take marigold flowers, a sprig of marjoram, thyme, and a little Wormwood; dry them before a fire, rub them to powder; then sift it through a fine piece of lawn, and simmer it over a slow fire, adding a small quantity of virgin honey and vinegar. Anoint yourself with this when you go to bed, saying the following lines three times, and you will dream of your partner “that is to be”:

“St. Luke, St. Luke, be kind to me,

In dreams let me my true-love see.”

(From, “Wormwoods”).

European wild ginger (Asarum europaeum)

Wild ginger evokes a feeling of love. People use this magic grass to cast spells to unite two young people.


I hope this information helps you spice up your holiday on Valentine’s Day. As you can see, your love life can be improved just by going to your pantry. Many of the spices and herbs in your spice rack can make both your kitchen and your relationship magic. It’s as easy as pie if you know the power of herbs and seasonings. Our mothers and grandmothers understood the power of herb and used them in everyday life for love, health, and great meals, uniting everyone in the kitchen and around the heart.

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I’m working on a new book about the 77 1/2 healing herbs from Bulgarian folklore. It includes information like the above, as well as recipes from Baba Vanga and other famous, trusted healers, as well as more interesting facts about herbs.

Sign up for our newsletter for updates on this book and others.


Epiphany – St. Jordan’s Day

Jordan’s Day is celebrated on January 6.

The old Bulgarians believed that at midnight the rivers stopped flowing and their water became healing. On this day, the holy water from the church service was brought home, where the oldest woman sprinkled it for health. Also, people drank from the water for good health, and the rest was kept for healing throughout the year.

After returning from the church, people put an ax in the middle of the house, with the blade up, and they jumped over to stop diseases.

Divination and magical rituals are also performed on this day.

The leaves of the ivy are used to foretell health. In the evening before the holiday, ivy leaves are strung on a thread, one leaf for each member of the family, and the leaves are left to spend the night outdoors under the moon.

People believe that at night the sky opens, Saint Elijah rides out on a horse, and puts a sign on each leaf. A leaf without a stain means good health!

Be alive and healthy, and happy name day to everyone named after Saint Jordan!

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