Every year, on the first Sunday in March, one of the largest Kukeri festivals in Bulgaria is held in the lovely little village of Shiroka Laka.
I already adore the village, so when I found out that they had a festival and that I would be here when it was held, I knew right away that we would be going.
And I am SO glad that we did! It was truly one of the weirdest but most amazing things I have ever seen.
Kukeri is a traditional event where men (and women, from what I saw) dress up in costumes with hanging bells and perform dances and other rituals to scare away evil spirits. I also heard it is to scare away winter as well–if so, they did a fantastic job, March is beautiful so far!
Here is one of the videos I took of the event:
In addition to the masked and costumed Kukeri figures, which came from all over the country, there were also other folk groups from all over Bulgaria and even Turkey!
It was a soul-stirring and exciting display of Bulgarian heritage and pride at its best. I was totally caught up in the energy of the event and toe-tapped and clapped my way through Shiroka Laka’s tiny cobbled streets, just soaking it all up.
There were probably 2,000 or so people in attendance, not including the Kukeri and folk groups. The tiny village was bursting at the seams with people hanging from every window and sitting on every balcony to see the parade of Kukeri with their cacophony of bells. There also seemed to be a lot of what I would call “dirty hippies” there. I don’t mean to offend anyone, I just did not expect to see so many dreadlock sporting, tye-dye wearing, backpackers in attendance. I heard a dozen or so different languages being spoken. It was great!
Vince and I wandered down to where the dozens of vendors had set up their tables. I spotted some cool Kukeri dolls that I wanted, but they were a bit pricey, so we passed. We did not, however, pass on the homemade fresh donuts! They were warm out of the fryer and covered in sweet powdered sugar and caramel sauce. Heaven!
After all the Kukeri and folk groups had had their turn dancing, singing, and doing their thing in the town square, a band and some famous (from what Vince tells me) folk singers started up. The next thing I knew, hundreds of people spontaneously joined hands in a circle and began to dance in the town square. Everyone from toddlers to grandparents was in the line just dancing, laughing, and having a great time. It was an incredible sight.
Vince asked me if I wanted to dance, but I was too shy. I am regretting it now!
It is events like these that make me realize just how special and interesting Bulgaria and its people truly are.
Between Vince and I, we probably took around 600 photos and dozens of videos. But I think I should stop here or my WordPress account is going to explode! I’ll be putting up a bunch more photos on my Flickr account, so check there if you want to see more!
Until next year!