Lucky, lucky us! This past weekend, literally 5 minutes from where we are staying was the venue for a huge festival. It has not been held in 9 years so it is a big deal for the local people (well for people all over Bulgaria actually). In fact, this deserted little ski area that we have been staying in this past month welcomed 250,000 to 300,000 festival revelers! Suddenly there were cars on the roads—EVERYWHERE! I expected chaos, drunkenness and disorder…instead it was an exciting, happy and joyful celebration for people of all ages and all walks of life.
It really was a lot like a cross between the Calgary Stampede: livestock, midway, food stalls, souvenirs…and a Welsh Eisteddfodd with 4 stages of singing, dancing and bag piping competitions. What struck us was the pride Bulgarians took in their culture. A single note from a bagpipe would have them jumping to their feet, hands in the air, flags waving, singing along and particularly dancing and dancing and dancing! Young, old and in between…some of the performers hobbled onto the stage on walking sticks. We were told that, for some, coming here was very likely the first time they had been out of their village in their lifetime. For many of them, they will not live to see another one.
People arrived by the busloads, or by car—parking shiny Mercedes up steep banks and rutted roads—and then many gypsies arriving by horse or mule drawn wagon filled with wares to sell. It was free to all (even the parking) and all competitors received a certificate to say they had participated in this momentous occasion. And awards for the winners on the last day! Not commercial like the Calgary Stampede…just a lot of fun for everyone! Next weekend is another festival, which we won’t miss!