Bulgaria is a country of wonders! It has collected a wealth of extremely beautiful natural landmarks and cultural monuments of world significance on its small territory.
Valley of the Roses
Where the Scent of Roses Meets Ancient History
Bulgaria is famous with its beautiful nature and unique traditions. The popular oil-bearing rose has become an inseperable part of the history and culture of Bulgaria. Kazanlak is the center of rose-oil extraction which is one of the most widely recognizable national symbols. Since the 17th century Bulgaria has established itself as one of the major producers of oil rose. Today it yields near 1 tone of rose oil a year – 70% of the world’s rose oil is produced in Bulgaria, making the country the largest producer of the best – quality rose oil. Bulgaria is one of the very few places in the entire world that can grow this particular rose (Rosa Damascena).
Roman, Byzantine and Medieval Villages
Etar Architectural-Ethnographic Complex
Etar Museum—a living picture of a bygone era! Stepping on the grounds of the open-air ethnographic museum, you enter a world different from the present-day one—the world of Revival Era Bulgarians. Here the water sets in motion the wheel of a centuries-old water-mill, and the cobbles under your feet remind you that genuine beauty in life hides in experiencing the emotion of getting in touch with the craftsmanship of our ancestors. The Craftsman street enables the visitors to experience the atmosphere of the National Revival era (18th—19th centuries) and the true spirit of old crafts. Workshops down here present the most emblematic crafts. Artisans make articles and then sell them – precisely as it used to be in the past. Visitors can observe the ancient technology of the craft and its original tools, talk with the artisans and also to do some apprenticeship as they make their own articles and can take away as mementos objects made by the hand from metal, leather, clay, wood and wool.
Featuring 140 cultural monuments, museums and expositions, the town is famous for its textile industry and typical National Revival architecture, . The village was founded as early as the Thracian Era. However, the first documents of its existence date back to the 12th century. During the period of Bulgarian National Revival, the town was heavily involved in the development of crafts. Houses from this period feature their own architectural design. The ground floors had irregular forms and housed craftsmen and traders. The upper floors featured wooden bow-windows, the roofs were covered with well arranged rocks.
Bozhentsi keeps 600-year history being a small and beautiful architectural reserve that has preserved the spirit of an old Bulgarian village hidden in the Balkan mountains. The village was proclaimed an architectural and historical reserve in 1964 and is part of UNESCO’s cultural monuments. The Prophet Elijah basilica, featuring a nave and two aisles, is a remarkable example of the National Revival style.
The town is an architectural reserve and 96 of its buildings are cultural monuments. With a population of 385, it is the smallest town in Bulgaria, retaining its town status today for historical reasons. It is situated on the foothills of the Pirin mountain range and is overlooked by the Melnik Earth Pyramids. According to archaeological evidence, the first to settle in the area were the Thracian tribe Medi to which the famous rebel Spartacus belonged. Centuries later, the presence of the Romans left the town one of its landmarks — the Ancient Roman bridge, which is still preserved.
The town of Zlatograd retains its characteristic Ottoman-era architecture, with numerous old buildings as well as two 19th-century Orthodox churches. Zlatograd Ethnographic Areal Complex lies in the heart of the town. It is an open-air museum which is also part of the everyday life of local people. The complex comprises an ethnographic museum, workshops and an exhibition of water equipment.
Festivals Traditions & Ethnography
The traditions, festivals, customs, and rituals preserved by Bulgarians through the ages are evidence of the country’s profound spirituality and its dynamic lifestyle and culture.
Bulgarian customs are rooted in antiquity and are closely tied to the country’s history and particular expression of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Dancing on live coals is an ancient Bulgarian ritual still practiced in a few villages. Bulgarians have developed their culture and enriched it over the millennia, and they preserve it and continue to develop it to the present day.
Nestinarstvo (Fire Dancing)
Nestinarstvo, or the ritual fire dancing on live coals, is an ancient Bulgarian custom, which has both Christian and pagan elements. It is believed to originate from the Thracians, and more accurately from their sun worship. Only fire dancers (nestinari) can dance over the coals- people, dedicated to the mystery of the ritual. In some villages the fire dancing has been hereditary. In the past the ritual was common in the region of Aegean Thrace.
On the day of the holiday ritual icons are covered with special decoration and, with a solemn procession, they are brought to a spring and sprayed with holy water. In the evening the dancers, led by the Churchwarden, head to the chapel where they incense, light candles and pray before the icons.
In the village a large fire is set at noon and is maintained until the evening. When it gets dark, the dancers, accompanied by a drummer and a bagpiper, head to the village. The main fire dancer starts the ritual being the first to enter the coal circle and to cross it. The other firedancers follow him. Although the custom is tied to a specific date, restorations of the custom are made throughout the summer in the villages of Strandzha. They attract many Bulgarian and foreign guests.