Kukeri Festival in Pernik, Bulgaria

For the 28th time the annual international kukeri festival “Surva” took place in Pernik, and continued from Feb. 1-3. The festival attracted 94 groups and over 6 thousand masked members, making it the biggest one so far. Ten of the groups were international and 84 from Bulgaria. The audience saw participants from Slovenia, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Spain, Palestine, Aruba, Indonesia, Greece, and Albania.

There was also a big variety of the costumes people wore. The costumes were either made by animal skins or by fabrics. Costumes that resembled animals and mythical beings were made by animal skins.

There were dragons, werewolves, wolves and bears. In order to complete some costumes more than one person was needed. There were costumes which represented the traditional farm, without using any new technologies. People were dressed as an old man and his wife and another two people as the donkey pulled the sled used long time ago to harvest. The audience attention was also captured by a person with Gadulka, a traditional Bulgarian bowed string instrument, and his bear tied on a leash. Many costumes also include big bells, so when the people dance, they ring.

The cotton costumes represented more abstract beings like the phoenix. The participants dressed with that kind of costumes were mostly from the international groups.

“We go to many festivals like this one. We’ve been to the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Spain,” said Iovana and Mija from the Montenegrin group. They have a special team which makes all the clothing. “It takes one to three months for the costumes.” Iovana was dressed in red dress with a red mask. “My costume represents friendship and happiness. We also change the theme of clothing every year,” she said.

The costumes in Bulgaria are mostly made by animal skins. “Animals are not specially slaughtered for the skin,” said Ivan Getsov, 42, participant in the group from Kliuch(Key) village, Petrich municipality.

The meaning of the festival is to chase evil spirits from people’s hearts. Before becoming such an event it was just a tradition. Now, it is a tradition and a festival in Bulgaria. Valeri Stoilov, a repoter for the Informational Culture Center in Pernik, explained that there are three unofficial stages of the festival. “They are unofficial, because no one is obliged to participate in all of them. Usually the first stage is at the beginning of the year in small villages. There people go out with costumes and perform the tradition and have fun while doing it. Then, in the second stage volunteers from the villages go to the regional cities and join the participants there. The third, biggest, and final stage is here in Pernik. People from all over the world and the country gather here for the final stage do the festival,” said Valeri Stoilov. “Participants love the festival. They have it in them. I just love watching it. My daughter, Anastasia Stoilova, was born here in Pernik and she is a participant every year. This year she has a cold, but this cannot stop her from participating,” said Valeri.

All the groups were competing for symbolic prizes. The total prizes awarded this year were in 17 categories. Some of them are for continuing the national tradition, awards for most attractive groups, awards for costumes. There are also individual awards like the Award for individual mask and the Award for soldier. All the awards are in three sub-categories – Gold Mask, Silver Mask, and Bronze Mask. Because of the hard-decision for winners in every category, there are also two or three Bronze Mask awards in some categories.

There is no age limit for the participants.

“I have participated since I was a child. And this year, my 8 year old son, Atanas Getsov, is also a participant. He is dressed like a wolf,” said Ivan Getsov.

Along with the lively atmosphere, people also enjoyed plentiful meals and candies the festival offered. There were the traditional meatballs and kebabches. They were accompanied by deserts, Turkish lokum, candies, doughnuts and cookies.

There were also many souvenirs. Most of them were handmade by their sellers.

“My sister, Elena Boyanova, and me made all the souvenirs I am selling. We receive help from our children and grandchildren. We produce everything from natural materials. We have dolls from corn, we use sunflower seed and beans for eyes and teeth. We also teach children how to make souvenirs. We weave and sew traditional Bulgarian clothing. We go around whole Bulgaria. We have been also in Switzerland and Serbia, in order to sell our handmade gifts. Holidays like this one charge us with positive emotions.” said Magelina Boyanova. She was also dressed in a costume made  and decorated by herself.

The biggest gift the festival received this year is the unique collection of medals and awards of the president of the foundation of Federal European Carnivals cities, Henry Van der Kroon. The collection includes 148 medals, which Kroon received during the last 30 years from different carnivals around the world and Europe. The awards were exposed on a exhibition in Hotel Struma.

“I am happy to give the city my medals as a recognition of the wonderful deed which Pernik makes every year, in order to preserve it’s cultural heritage,” said Henry Van der Kroon.

“We’ve always seen the festival as a tourist attraction and a way to show our traditions,” said Rositsa Yanakieva, mayor of Pernik.

This year the festival also applied for the World Heritage of UNESCO.

“This and next year, our big ambition is to ‘build a road’ to establish the festival as part of the World Heritage of UNESCO. We are in a procedure to fill all the documents. We play according to the rules and we hope that this will help us with our nomination. But, still the most important thing for us is to preserve the tradition of Surva,” said Yanakieva.

P.S.: This is an article I wrote for my Writing and Reporting class. A short video and photos coming soon.

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Winter Photos from Bulgaria

It’s been long since my last post. Since I haven’t visited new places recently, I wanted to share some winter pictures that I took during my winter break.

Winter Fields

Winter Fields




Winter in Bansko

Winter in Bansko

Winter in Bansko

Winter in Bansko

Panorama picture of fields near Sevlievo

Panorama picture of fields near Sevlievo

Panorama picture of the Stamboliiski Dam

Panorama picture of the Stamboliiski Dam

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What is traveling?

This is an experience valuable for many people. During this semester I managed to visit many places myself and to find out very interesting things through other people. I also learned many new things about journalism and filming. (Remember? This blog is also part of my Multimedia Journalism class. 🙂 )

A place I told you about after my previous summary post is London. London is a major and popular capital city. I listened Boryana talking with pleasure, because I’ve never visited London. She told me about the London Eye.

“It’s really big. When you go on the top, you can see the whole city and it’s really beautiful.”

She also told me about Buckingham Palace and London Sea Life Aquarium.

Another amazing place I visited personally is New York City – The Big Apple. I asked Panayot Apostolov, a friend of mine, to tell me about his impressions from the big city. While listening and editing the video for New York, I remembered all the fun we had there. I remembered everything about the city. The first impression of Central Park:

Panayot said, “It is beautiful. It is like a jungle. You can’t tell that you’re in New York. You go in there and you see so many little animals. It’s like little forest. You can feel it, it is like a big lung in the center. You cannot actually hear a noise there. It is like there is a big bubble, you cannot be distracted by New York within New York.”

I remembered the beautiful sight from the top floor of Empire State Building:

“We went there at dusk and saw the whole city. We saw the transition between dusk going to full darkness of the night. That was something amazing. It was beautiful. The sky was clear. It was something amazing,” said Panayot.

The 9/11 Memorial Park was also a thing I saw for a first time in my life. The park is almost a portal for traveling back in time. The second you enter it, all the noise dies and you feel the sadness there. You feel for all the grieving people.

Panayot described the place, “What they made at Ground Zero is unbelievable. It’s very impressive. There’s waterfalls where the water pours into the ground and that’s why it’s called ground zero.”

Through these amazing experiences I also improved my filming and editing skills I had from the BBC 5-shot video sequence. At the moment I was making the video for NYC I was very glad that I actually shot several videos when I was there.

This semester I learned to be persistent and to ask…to ask a lot.

Will I continue my blog? Yes, I will try to continue it. I may not be able to post every week, but I’ll try to post as much as possible.

Here’s a short video about traveling:

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Travel Photos

Here’s a short post with pictures from around the world made with Storify. Storify is an easy way to find very useful information from different sources.

  1. Bund sightseeing tunnel under the Huangpu river @ #Shanghai #TripInChina
    Sat, Nov 03 2012 03:32:06
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The Big Apple

It has always been a dream for me to go to New York. This summer I was in the United States of America for 3 months. I was approximately 160 miles away from NYC. My first thought before going to the US was that if I don’t go to NYC it would be a waste of the summer for me. I managed to arrange 2 days off in a row for me and my roommate, Panayot Apostolov, so we could go there. For two days we visited many places, but not everything that the city offers.

On the first day off we woke up and just caught the bus to New York. We didn’t have a plan and a room booked for the night, just a map on an iPad. We just knew we wanted to visit certain places. When we got off the bus, the first thing we saw was the editorial office of The New York Times. I’m pretty sure that most of the people know what ‘The New York Times’ is, or at least have heard of it. Anyway, it is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. It’s website is the most popular newspaper website in America.

We started our sightseeing from Fifth Avenue. Firstly we saw the Rockefeller Center. It is a complex of 19 commercial buildings. We also saw the Statue of Atlas. The sculpture depicts the Ancient Greek Titan Atlas holding the heavens. The whole Rockefeller Center is in Art Deco style.

I’m also a big Apple fan. I’ve seen many Apple store online. The first time I saw a picture of the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue, I wanted to go. It impressed me very much with the big glass cube and the apple that’s hanging from the ceiling. So, our next stop was this exact store.

Which is the most visited urban park in the US? I would say Central Park, NY. And why is it so famous? Well, we wanted to find out. We continued walking along Fifth Avenue, and we reached Central Park. After entering the park, you become completely isolated from the surrounding noise. It was very quiet, like we were in a forest in the middle of nowhere or just on an abandoned island. Well, there were people so we were sure it wasn’t an island. As we were in the Big Apple

for only 2 days, we couldn’t walk all the 3.5 sq. km. of Central Park. There were ponds, big rocks, small cute bridges, a zoo in the park.

Panayot said, “It is beautiful. It is like a jungle. You can’t tell that you’re in New York. You go in there and you see so many little animals. It’s like little forest. You can feel it, it is like a big lung in the center. You cannot actually hear a noise there. It is like there is a big bubble, you cannot be distracted by New York within New York.”

It was already 5pm, so we had to find a room for the night. After an hour and a half wandering between the streets and the avenues in downtown Manhattan, we found a hotel. We left our clothes and luggage in the room as fast as possible and went out again.

Our next stop was Empire State Building. This is 102-story skyscraper located in Midtown Manhattan. We visited the tourist area of the building. The highest floor open for tourists was 86th. Empire State Building was the world’s tallest building before the construction of the World Trade Center. After the attacks of September 11 in 2001, Empire State Building was again the tallest building in New York. The skyscraper is also designed in the Art Deco style. After, we entered the building, we passed several security checks and reached the elevators that led us to the 80th floor for less than a minute. From the top floor we were able to see the whole New York area. We went there  before sunset and left after it was already dark. This is a view everyone would like to enjoy.

“We went there at dusk and saw the whole city. We saw the transition between dusk going to full darkness of the night. That was something amazing. It was beautiful. The sky was clear. It was something amazing,” said Panayot.

After spending three or four hours in Empire State Building, we wanted to sit somewhere, take a brake and grab something to eat. We went to McDonalds on Times Square. Times Square is a major commercial intersection. It is situated at the junction of Broadway Avenue and Seventh Avenue. Times Square is the world’s most visited tourist attraction. These were the last several hours of our trip for the day. We went back to the hotel and took our rest.

Times Square during the day

The next day we already had some kind of a plan. We woke up and went to Starbucks for a morning wake up call with coffee. The previous night we realized that with the pass for Empire State Building we also bought a ticket for a boat cruise around New York City. There were buses every several hours which were going to the small boat for the cruise. We went on the earliest one which was at 10am. We got onto the boat and the cruise started. It was amazing to see New York in such an angle as well. On our cruise we saw the Brooklyn Bridge, the Pentagon, small parts of Brooklyn and Queens, and The Statue of Liberty. The statue is gift from French people to the United States. It is a robed figure of a woman, representing the roman goddess of freedom Libertas. In her right hand the woman holds a torch, and in the right hand there is a tablet upon which is inscribed the date of the American Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776. There is also a chain in the figure’s feet. The statue is a symbol of freedom and a welcoming of all the immigrants arriving from abroad.

On our way to Wall Street and the Wall Street Bull, we saw the 9/11 Memorial Park, so we stopped to get tickets, and we continued to the famous business street. In front of the statue of the Charging Bull there was a long queue and a police officer. We lined up and waited for a few minutes. The bull symbolizes aggressive financial optimism and prosperity. It depicts the business as unpredictable. As it is going the right way and profiting, it could collapse the next second. Just like a bull, it could be good and  calm, and the next second it can turn everything into a massacre. It is said that if you hold the Charging Bull by the balls it is for luck and prosperity.

Then, we headed to the 9/11 Memorial Park. Because it was still under construction there were many security checks and we had to wait for an hour to get to the park. It memorizes the awful events from September 11, 2001. On this date two of the tower of the World Trade Center were attacked with planes and ruined. Many people died in the attacks. On the place of the two tower there are artificial waterfalls. The water goes down in a small square in the center of each waterfall and disappears as in an abyss. The waterfalls are surrounded by marble plates. On the plates are inscribed the names of all the people from the two flights and the people who were in the buildings at the time of the attacks. The park is really beautiful and at the same time there is sadness all over it.

Panayot described the place, “What they made at Ground Zero is unbelievable. It’s very impressive. There’s waterfalls where the water pours into the ground and that’s why it’s called ground zero.”

After visiting the park we were already running out of time we had only 45 minutes to get to the Bus Station, so we experienced the New York subway. Actually, it was not as bad as it is being described everywhere. We got to the bus station and waited for our bus to go back home.

“The subway is nothing special. It’s not that dirty,” said Panayot.

New York is a very big city. It surely is overcrowded, but it is also very impressive and just amazing. There are so many sights to be seen, and we were only able to visit just a handful of these.

Here’s a video with several of our adventures in New York City:

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London – You can feel the history there

London is a very popular tourist destination recently. It’s famous for the many historical museums and buildings. Boryana Kaisheva is a classmate and friend of mine. She went to London in March 2012, and recently she told me about her experience there in details.

She went there to visit a friend. Her friend took her sightseeing around the city.

A big impression left the London Eye. It is a grand Ferris wheel situated near the River Thames. It is 135 meters tall. It is the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe. It was opened only 12 years ago and now it is visited by over 3.5 million people every year.

“It’s really big. When you get on the top, you can see the whole city and it’s really beautiful.”

Bobi continued visiting other famous places like Buckingham Palace. Buckingham Palace is the official London residence and principal workplace of the British monarch. It was built in 1705. Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms. Unfortunately:

“You can’t go in there, because the queen is there.”

A place she liked the most is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London. It is governed by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster.

“The style is different and more complex.”

She also visited London Sea Life Aquarium. The aquarium includes two classrooms, which host up to 40,000 school children each year and are open to the public when not in use by education programs. It is involved in several breeding programs including the Cuban crocodile, seahorses, butterfly goodeids, and jellyfish. The aquarium works with many conservation organizations including Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, Save Our Seas, Shark Trust, Rainforest Concern, Earth Sea Sky, and South Pacific Projects. It is separated in different parts. There are parts for the sharks and other big sea fish. There is also a park with penguins and a park with reptiles, like crocodiles, different kind of lizards, etc.

You can see Boryana talking about London in this video:

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Wildwood, New Jersey

During the summer of 2012 I was in the USA on a Work and Travel program. Most of the time I was busy at work, but I was still able to travel a bit. I was in Wildwood, New Jersey. New Jersey is not the most beautiful place in the USA, but with friends and some free time one can have a great time there.

There are three amusement parks in Wildwood. Mostly foreigners worked there. A good thing is that many Bulgarians had a job at the Morey’s Piers parks, so I was able to try some of the attractions without paying, because I was there to save money. The attractions vary from ones for kids to ones for brave people. One of the scary attractions was ‘The Skyscraper.’ This is a bar, which is attached to a motor in the middle. At the two ends of the bars there are cabins. They are attached in a way that allows them to turn. The whole thing is around 50 meters tall and it rotates with up to 55 mph. Because of the freely moving cabins it turns you upside down in every possible way.

I also like going just for a walk in the nature. Adam is a friend of mine who I met there and he showed me many beautiful places in the nature. One of them was Delaware Bay. We went there at sunset. The view was amazing. The blue in the sky was turning orange and red and it was merging with the greenish color of the ocean. There was no one there except for us. And while watching this beautiful view, the waves from the ocean were crashing at the little beach there.

On our way back to Wildwood, we saw falcon nests and we stopped in order to take some photos. These birds are very beautiful, but after stopping and getting a bit closer they got annoyed. They even became hostile, because they were afraid for their nests. They started flying around as a sign of protection of their territory. That way they showed that they are prone to attacking us if we go any closer. It was a really nice sight.

It was almost the end of the summer and Adam told me about a trip with a boat that goes deep into the ocean to watch dolphins. I have seen dolphins many times, but this was the first time I saw dolphins in their natural environment. They were afraid to jump out of the water, but still they were swimming around the boat and I was able to make some photos and I had a great time.

Because of Adam, I was able to see some really nice places in Wildwood and to have a great time there. Thank you. 🙂

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A New Kind of a Journey

I love traveling, seeing new places, learning more and more about different countries. However, I am a student. This means that I don’t have the time and the money to travel every week. This can’t stop me! Everyone of my friends and relatives has visited a country, city, village, or just a place that is impressive for them. I started interviewing them since I was curious to hear about those places.

At first I was not that encouraged. After I published my first post I was really excited from what I heard and read about Denmark. Then I started preparing every new post right after the publishing of the previous one. When I was writing my third and forth posts I was already thinking how amazing were these stories. I really want to go to all the places I wrote about. I want to visit the amazing Viking Ship Museum. I feel like going on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. I’d love to see the Great Toronto Area from the CN Tower.

I felt like I was visiting all the places just from listening and writing about them. When I saw the pictures of the gingerbread houses in Martha’s Vineyard I played the interview with Yana talking about them. I realized I shared Yana’s opinion. I thought

“Martha’s Vineyard is not America, it’s a little piece of heaven in America,” just like she said.

I visited Spain several years ago. I decided to share my experience with the readers of my blog. I didn’t think that Spain is such an adventure before writing about the country. I want to go back there and see even more.

To be honest, it was never my dream to go to Canada…until my brother told me about his trip.

“It was very shocking the first time,”

he said after going to the CN Tower. Later, when I saw his pictures, I was astonished just by looking at the photos. It completely changed my mind about not going to Canada.

The post after Canada was for Bulgaria. Bulgaria is my home country and I love it very much. It also has so much to offer to all the travelers and tourists. After I learned about the 5-shot video sequence in my journalism class, I decided my video to be about something that happened on my sightseeing trip in Bulgaria. The video is of a friend of mine tasting wine in Melnik. Melnik is famous for the most delicious and exquisite red wine. I also decided to tell my readers about Rila Monastery. It is one of the oldest monasteries in Bulgaria.

“The monastery looks majestic.”

I think this every time I see picture of the place or think about it. Furthermore, next week I’ll visit it again.

It is already the middle of the semester for me. For two months I have “visited” so many beautiful places through the eyes of other people. I learned so many things about the places I visited as well as many things about journalism and my major as a whole. It’s been an incredible new kind of a journey for me.

Here a small video summarizing my experience:

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Sightseeing in Bulgaria

On my last trip I went sightseeing in Bulgaria. I traveled with friends from high school and from my university. We visited several very popular and interesting places. My friends helped me write this post.

I’ll start with Rila Monastery. It’s situated around 40 kilometers from my college city, Blagoevgrad, and 117 km from the capital city of Bulgaria, Sofia. Rila Monastery is in the southwestern part of Rila Mountains. The monastery is named after its founder, the hermit Ivan of Rila (876 – 946 AD). It was founded in the 10th century and is regarded as one of Bulgaria’s most important cultural, historical and architectural monuments. It is also a key tourist attraction for Bulgaria and Southern Europe. In 2008 the monastery attracted almost 1 million visitors. Rila Monastery was depicted on bulgarian 1 lev banknote issued in 1999, when it was in circulation. The Monastery is a big building in old architectural style. It is with a form similar to a square. Inside there is a museum, a church and other monuments. It is considered very sacred. Although it’s more of a tourist attraction now and is used just for earning money, one can feel the different energy in the monastery. The first time I was in the church I wanted to take a photo of it from the inside. It was forbidden, but still I did it. The next day my camera wasn’t working and I had to take it for repairing.

The monastery looks majestic.

The buildings are painted with black and white from the outside. There are many manuscripts all over the walls, as well as religious icons. The view form the monastery is unique. You can see the big and beautiful mountains around. Behind the monastery there is a river, Rilska river. When you go near the river you feel like this is the most amazing place in the world. And for the tourists there are little shops and bakeries where you can buy souvenirs or grab something to eat. The last time I was there with my friends, we wanted to grap something for breakfast. There are these awesome “Mekitsi” there. Tom, a friend of mine went to buy Mekitsi for all of us. He ordered 50, and the woman that was selling them was completely shocked.

We continued our trip to Sandanski, where we spent the night. The city is named after Yane Sandanski. It is located at the foot of Pirin Mountain. There are also many mineral water springs in Sandanski. Sandanski has the warmest climate in Bulgaria. The city center is very beautiful during the night, because of the fountains in front of the municipality. The fountains have lights inside and change their pattern every few minutes.

It just looks beautiful.

The next morning we left for Rupite. This is a village surrounded by the mountains. It is best known from people as the home of the famous Bulgarian psychic Baba Vanga. She is famous with the many predictions she made. All of which came true. She lived in Rupee most of her live and died there. Her wish was to be buried there. Her grave is 20 meters away from her house, which is now a museum open for tourists. There is also a church right next to Baba Vanga’s grave. The place for the church was chosen by her, before her death. Another curious thing for Rupite is that it is situated over the crater of an extinct volcano. That is the reason for the hot mineral water springs there.

On the way back home, we stopped in Rozhen Monastery and Melnik. Rozhen Monastery is situated high in the mountain. It is the biggest monastery in Pirin Mountains. It was destroyed and put on fire many times, but always reconstructed. The grave of Yane Sandanski is situated very close to the monastery.

Melnik is the smallest city in Bulgaria. It’s population is around 400 people. Many of the buildings there are in old architectural style. In fact 96 are cultural monuments. The town is well knows for the impressive natural sand pyramids.

The pyramids have different forms like mushrooms. It’s something unique!

It is also famous for the wine cellars there. The most famous one is Kordopulova House. The top floors of the house are turned into a historical museum with very interesting artifacts. The wine cellar there is dug into the rock to form a tunnel. Melnik is a very nice place for tourists.

This is a friend of mine, Rali, tasting wine.

Those places are situated in a little part in southwestern Bulgaria. I’m looking forward to tell you about more sights in my home country Bulgaria.

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You can hear some impressions from Kaloyan, Tom, Dani and Katya here:

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This is Bulgaria

Several days ago I came across a very interesting video and I liked it a lot, so I decided to post it here. This video is closely related to my next post. Hope you enjoy it.

Official website: http://www.tovae.bg/

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