Posts Tagged With: Bulgaria

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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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:

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