Girl Meets Bulgaria

Musings of an American expat in Bulgaria (with detours in Utah and Alaska)

Shiroka Laka’s Pesponedelnik 2012 (Kukeri Festival)


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!

Group from Turkey

Beautiful detail on traditional costume

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!

Shiroka Laka's jam packed town square

 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!

Kukeri dolls

Colorful textiles for sale

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!


25 thoughts on “Shiroka Laka’s Pesponedelnik 2012 (Kukeri Festival)

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  6. Just stumbled on your blog. I miss pesponedelnik! I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Smolyan and a bunch of us would go to Shiroka Luka for the festival to see the Koukeries. It was so much fun, though we always wondered why – on a day with a zillion people around – all the restaurants would close! LOL! I’m just going through my pictures of our last festival there getting all nostalgic for Bulgaria. You’ve got some wonderful pictures here! I took a couple hundred when I was last here so I totally understand! Vcichko hoobavo!! Heather

    • Isn’t it a fun event?! I love Shiroka Laka anyway, but when there is something like that going on the town is even more awesome. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I always love hearing from people who have been to Smolyan and that area of Bulgaria; I definitely think it is underrated (undeservedly so) in many people’s books. W.

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  8. Wow!!!! That all looks so deliciously weird and wonderful! Love the crazy furry Kukeri costumes. And your photo of the old woman with the wheat is stunning!

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  10. I have always wanted to live in a place where there are traditions and ceremonies. I love reading your blog.

  11. Your blog had been awesome to read! I have been looking into doing some study abroad in BG, so I love reading about life there. I read you couldn’t take your straightener (which worries me about mine, because I have super thick, wavy, crazy hair too), but what about your computer? Will I have problems with my MacBook?

    • Thanks, Taylor! I actually ended up finding a dual-voltage straightener and it works great over here! A few different brands have dual-voltage models, mine is a GHD and came in a set with a hair dryer as well. You computer will be fine. As far as I know, every laptop is already dual-voltage, all you will need to do (and this is true for the straightener too) is buy a plug adapter. My computers have always worked fine overseas with just the adapter. If you have any other questions or concerns, feel free to shoot them my way! Thanks for reading I hope you study in BG, it’s awesome here!

      • I just checked my straightener, and it’s a 120/240V 50-60Hz! Who knew that the me buying that flat iron back when would know I would need that in the future 🙂 And thanks for the info on your computer. I am getting excited, and it’s not even for certain yet! Now I’ll just be waiting to hear about Blagoevgrad, if/when you go!

      • I’ve been to Blagoevgrad! Are you looking into the American University there? We visited that when we were there in 2009. It was a really cool city, definitely a college town. I ate the best dyuner kebab of my life there. GO! 🙂

      • I am! I am just a bit nervous because I have found it hard to get concrete info on the student life. I’ve only seen two pictures of their dorms, and nothing on what the food is like that is included, what the daily schedules are like, etc. I feel like when I was researching other schools the info was a dime a dozen! I did email the admissions office, but in their reply, didn’t answer my specific question! (I asked how much the tuition is for just one semester, not the whole year, and the guy gave me the yearly rate, which I already knew..)

      • Sadly, that is typical Bulgaria. People here aren’t super detail oriented, from what I have experienced. I wish I lived closer to the university, I would totally go and get answers for you! From what I saw, the school itself looked quite nice. I remember seeing the outside of one of the dorm buildings, and it seemed really new.

      • That’s what I felt like in Peru! Super relaxed, not super detail oriented. I must have an affinity for these places. I just keep telling myself that if my University has a direct enrollment agreement with them, it can’t be all that bad, right? 🙂

        P.S… sorry for all the comments! Maybe a personal message will be better next time 🙂

  12. Yeah that’s pretty much the coolest (and, yes, weirdest) thing ever! I think they sorta look like Ewoks. 🙂

  13. Wonderful pictures, and looks like a great tradition. It’s something you just don’t see here in the West (I’m in Canada), the history here is a quiet sort not the kind that dances in the streets.

  14. Yeah! It looks like you had a wonderful time. And I do heart Bulgarian donuts!!

  15. Your pictures and video are incredible Whit… Made me feel like I was there with you. My favorites are the old lady with the wheat and the table of textiles, so bright and colorful… I’d better start saving my $$ so I can make plenty of purchases when I come over!

  16. Wonderful report and wonderful pictures!

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