Bulgaria Cultural Heritage Visit, 2015 by Dr Kirsty McAlister

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From 11-19 July 2015 I participated in a Cultural Heritage Visit to Bulgaria. As Cultural Heritage Officer for the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative / RSPB Scotland, I have a vested interest in both built and cultural heritage, particularly how it is conserved, restored and preserved for the future, and how it is interpreted, shared with and made accessible to a diverse range of audiences. As a student Blue Badge guide, the tourism aspects of the trip offered further opportunities for learning, and indeed for sharing my experiences.

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Figure 1: Bulgaria Cultural Heritage Visit Group 2015

I was part of the group pictured above (from left to right): Lorraine Robson, a ceramic artist based in Linlithgow; Eileen Cook, a lecturer in Economics and Sustainable Development at SRUC; Stuart Eydmann, a consultant in built heritage conservation; Elena Trimarchi, now Learning Officer at Culzean Castle; David Martin, a volunteer document assistant at Caithness Horizons; Joe Murray, Learning Officer at Pollock House; and Chris Waddell, Learning Manager at Robert Burns Birthplace and Museum. As individuals, we have diverse interests and specialisms but as a group share a profound interest in built and cultural heritage – tangible and intangible – as well as education, indoor and outdoor museums, landscapes and wildlife, and tourism. As such, we not only found opportunities on this trip to learn about Bulgaria’s rich heritage, but also to learn from and inspire each other. Conversations and ideas flowed, and lasting friendships and working relationships were forged.

The trip to Bulgaria was a structured training event organised and promoted by Comrie-based ARCH, funded by the Erasmus+ programme, and hosted by the Devetaki Plateau Association. Our guide was Velislava Chilingirova, who turned out not only to be eminently knowledgeable and unfailingly skilled at group management, but also patient, generous, warm, funny and full of life; in short, a terrific ambassador not only for Bulgaria but also for the programme. Through Velis’s vast network of contacts, we as a group were privileged to be treated to site and museum visits that covered the full spectrum of Bulgaria’s heritage, all the while learning from practitioners who enthusiastically shared their expertise and experience. In addition, Velis made special arrangements to visit places and people not on the original programme; such as the wonderful atelier of Milko Dachev, where we met the artist himself, viewed some of his work, and heard about his various influences (see Figure 2). Velis also organised meals and accommodation in venues that collectively served to further enhance our understanding of Bulgarian heritage and the way it is woven into and celebrated as part of modern life. The best example of this was the Eco Art guesthouse in the Central Balkans National Park. Belonging to Veli Gankovska and Encho Gankovski, a photographer and ceramic artist respectively, we were treated to spectacular scenery and traditional Bulgarian home-cooking, and had the opportunity to discover more about local arts and crafts, and how they are often inspired by landscape and wildlife.

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Figure 2: Artist’s atelier

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Figure 3: Eco Art Guesthouse

 

DAY 1: Sofia

After landing at Sofia airport, we were met by Velis and Ivo, our driver for the week. They transferred us to a hotel in the heart of Sofia, the perfect location from which to access around the old town. Within only a few minutes’ walk of the hotel we encountered Roman, medieval and modern buildings, religious and secular. I was struck by the proximity of such vastly different architecture, and was interested to hear more about the evolution of the Old Town. Of especial note was the fact that immediately adjacent to Sveti Georgi, the red brick rotunda pictured in Figure 4, lie the remains of a Roman complex that was discovered only as a result of Allied bombings during WWII. Other parts of the Roman town, known as Serdica, lie beneath the surface of the modern city: some parts are accessed via an underpass lined with shops, such as the remains of the Roman walls and East Gate; others are carefully exposed by the artful planning of the modern city, notably the area in front of the National Assembly (the former Community Party HQ), also shown in Figure 4. This demonstrated to me a clear appreciation by the authorities that this part of Sofia’s built heritage is to be valued, shared with passers-by, and preserved for the future, much akin to the work undertaken at home in Scotland by various governmental and non-governmental agencies. It also showcases the fact that, given adequate planning and a willingness to be flexible, old and new can successfully co-exist.

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Figure 4: Central Sofia’s diverse architecture

Day 2: Plovdiv

Leaving Sofia after breakfast, we headed to Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city with a human history spanning some 7000 years. Built on three hills, it has variously been inhabited by Thracians, Romans, Huns, Slavs, Byzantines, Bulgarians and Ottomans, and is one of the chosen European Cities of Culture for 2019. The dominant built heritage of Plovdiv focuses on two main themes: the legacy of the Romans, who named the city Philippopolis after Philip of Macedonia (father of Alexander the Great); and the much more recent National Revivalist period of the 19th century.

Roman remains include the excavated East Gate and road (shown in Figure 5) that can be accessed freely and explored at leisure, in-keeping with the Bulgarian policy that important sites should be open to the public. Building materials can be clearly identified: stone, marble and red slate or brick, along with an exceptionally strong mortar often consisting of volcanic materials mixed with lime. The emphasis at this site seems to be revelation rather than reconstruction, with carved stones and marble lying in a seemingly haphazard fashion along the edges of the unearthed road, the undoubted star of the site despite the fact that it has been somewhat truncated by modern construction at each end. The lack of interpretation actually works well here, offering visitors the chance to explore as if they were one of the first to do so. With so much other Roman architecture in the city, Plovdiv can afford to leave this particular site relatively unencumbered with signage.

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Figure 5: Roman road at Plovdiv

Just a few metres from here lies Ancient Plovdiv Architectural Reserve (see Figure 6), perhaps a misnomer given the relative youth of most buildings. This is effectively a conservation area akin to those at home in Scotland. The streets are narrow and cobbled, and the individually stylised buildings are subject to strict regulations that govern exteriors, windows and materials. While this has succeeded in preserving a delightful area, rich in colour and individuality, it has also contributed to a situation whereby some buildings have fallen into disrepair as owners cannot afford to meet renovation costs, as can be seen from the bottom image in Figure 6. Only time will tell how long Plovdiv waits before intervening to prevent further degradation of such buildings and to preserve an otherwise charming area of the city it clearly values for cultural, aesthetic and tourism purposes.

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Figure 6: Ancient Plovdiv Architectural Reserve

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Figure 7: Potter at work in Plovdiv

While exploring the Architectural Reserve we had our first encounter with a traditional craftsperson (see Figure 7). This ceramic artist generously broke off from the task she was originally engaged in to demonstrate how she uses traditional methods and materials – local red clay, engobes and clear glaze – to produce a vast array of wares. Open craft studios, which allow passers-by to see the processes, and experience the sounds and smells of that craft, should certainly be encouraged at home where possible. They help keep heritage alive and relevant, and are an undoubted draw for tourists.

After wandering up the narrow streets of the Old Town, chancing upon an Orthodox wedding en route, we encountered Plovdiv’s finest legacy from the Roman era, the theatre (shown in Figure 8). The theatre was only discovered after a landslide in the 1970s, which means that much of the modern city was already built around it. Notably, there is a busy traffic tunnel that runs directly underneath the theatre, and visitors can clearly hear the vehicles passing below. Built in the 2nd century AD, the theatre could seat an audience of 7,000, and it has been sympathetically conserved with minimal conjecture. We arrived at roughly the same time as a group of Japanese tourists, members of an amateur choir. To our absolute delight, they treated the rest of us visitors to a short impromptu concert, which was utterly brilliant! Despite the obvious physical changes from its heyday in the 2nd century, the acoustics of the theatre were still remarkable. While we Scots and others enjoyed a spontaneous concert by some Japanese tourists in a Roman amphitheatre in Bulgaria, I couldn’t help but ponder the fact that music is one of the many things that easily transcends cultures and is accessible to all. What a fabulous experience!

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Figure 8: Roman theatre at Plovdiv

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Figure 9: Roman stadium and 3D model at Plovdiv

Other impressive Roman remains in Plovdiv include the 2nd-century stadium, which once sat 30,000 spectators. While much of the structure now lies beneath the modern city, a portion has been revealed at Dzhumaya Square, and at the elevated viewing area a superb 3D model of the stadium has been placed to help people visualise the vastness of the original complex (see Figure 9). Aside from the impact of the model, what struck me was how well kept and inviting this area was, and how clear it was that the people of Plovdiv truly value their Roman heritage. At home there might be concern about the vulnerability of such interpretation to vandalism, and how we tackle this is an on-going issue.

 

Day 3: Hissarya and Starosel

Lying to the east of the Sredna Gora Mountains, Hissarya is another Bulgarian town whose human history spans several millennia. Valued for its favourable climate and thermal springs, it was settled by Thracians before the Romans developed it into a spa town, naming it Diocletianopolis after Emperor Diocletian (pictured in Figure 10). The 22 thermal springs, which produce water with temperatures ranging from 37 to 51 degrees, are a continued asset to Hissarya, with its numerous mineral pools and public drinking water fountains.

Before visiting the town’s Roman ruins, we were given a guided tour of the Archaeological Museum (Figure 10) by Dr Mitko Madzharov, Director of the museum, and Radka Nankina, Curator. In one building are various Neolithic, Bronze Age and Roman domestic and ornamental artefacts, along with a small room devoted to WWI and WWII material. On the other side of the museum are displays of traditional crafts and costume. Information, in the form of textual descriptions and maps, was provided about the objects on display, but little in the way of interpretation that might help illuminate the stories behind the objects. We did, however, hear how the museum staff works alongside the local community centre, the Chitalishte, and with school groups. While the range of activities currently on offer appears to be rather curtailed by the lack of meeting space, the group had a long discussion with Radka about possible ways to engage new audiences through practical activities and social media.

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Figure 10: Hissarya Archaeological Museum

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Figure 11: Roman ruins at Hissarya

Following the museum visit, we toured the considerable Roman archaeological remains in the town (see Figure 11), including parts of the old walls (which reach 10m in height in places), the southern fortress gate, and the bath complex, which is one of the few remaining examples on the Balkan peninsular. There is also a Roman Tomb, located – as was traditional – outside the former city walls; inside the tomb are mosaics and frescoes, the latter providing one of the earliest depictions of roses in Bulgaria, a country long-since famed for its rose-oil production. The tour of the bath complex was especially interesting as we heard not only about Roman building techniques but also the excavation and conservation works undertaken at these sites. While conservation must be carried out by specialist companies, there are a number of unfortunate examples – like at the impressive Kamilite (or southern fortress) Gate – of modern cement being used in past ‘restoration’ processes. That said, the ruins are all presented in ways that allow visitors to see, explore, enjoy and appreciate the town’s Roman heritage, including particularly impressive lighting at night. The ongoing work of those involved in excavation, conservation and protection of the sites is commendable.

From the Roman ruins of Hissarya, we went back in time to the Thracian Cult Complex near Starosel. Only a few of the 120 tombs have been fully excavated, but the proximity of such a number leaves us in no doubt that Starosel was highly sacred to the Thracians. Only two tombs are open to the public, and we visited both. The most impressive was the Chetinyova tomb, the largest thus far discovered in Bulgaria. Probably a re-used temple, it is aligned for the winter solstice and enjoys tremendous views over the local landscape. The tomb itself is surrounded by large, locally quarried granite blocks, some of which form huge steps to lead visitors up to the bee-hive shaped tomb. The tomb is embellished with carvings and was once richly decorated with black, red and blue paint (respectively symbolising the afterlife, real life and heaven), traces of which remain. On-site interpretation is minimal, with images favoured over text (see Figure 12), probably to span language barriers. To get the most out of the visit, I would recommend a guide or guide book, the latter being available at the site in many languages.

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Figure 12: Starosel Thracian Cult Complex

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Figure 13: Winery at Starosel

To round-off Day 3, we visited the winery at Starosel (see Figure 13), which allowed us to see first-hand how local agricultural produce is turned into an internationally marketable commodity, in part by tapping into local heritage. The underground wine cellar is cleverly designed to resemble a Thracian temple or tomb, complete with cleverly engineered acoustics which startled and amazed us all!

 

Day 4: Kazanlak

To complement the previous day’s visit to the winery, we visited another site that combines agriculture with heritage, tourism, and a marketable commodity, namely a rose distillery (see Figure 14). Harvested at dawn between May and June, while the dew is still on the petals to preserve the scent, it takes 3.5 tons of petals to make just 1kg of rose-oil. While interesting in itself, it was the distillery’s clear attempts to invoke Bulgarian heritage that were most remarkable to me. There was a statue of a famous Bulgarian literary character, and collections of musical instruments, craftsmen’s tools and traditional domestic artefacts. Only later did I realise that there was no mention at all of the important Ottoman influence in the development of the Bulgarian rose-oil industry. While there clearly are Turkish influences in Bulgaria (not least in architecture, embroidery, weaponry and musical instruments), visitors are not made overtly aware of it, either in distilleries such as this or in the museums we visited. It is certainly the ancient civilisations of Thrace and Rome, and the much more recent National Revival period of the late 19th and 20th centuries that dominate the cultural heritage of modern Bulgaria.

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Figure 14: Rose distillery

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Figure 15: Open-air photography exhibition at Kazanlak

Following the distillery visit, we had the opportunity to explore the centre of Kazanlak, where there was an open-air photography exhibition showcasing the city’s heritage, surrounding landscape and inhabitants (see Figure 15). I personally found this to be a wonderful way of celebrating the people and places of Kazanlak: it was artistically and interestingly presented, presumably not too expensive to create, relatively mobile and freely available to all. I certainly hope to replicate something similar back home; it would be a terrific way of promoting the diverse natural, built and cultural heritage of the Inner Forth.

After lunch we were given a guided tour of Kazanlak’s ‘Iskra’ Museum of History (see Figure 16) by the Vice-Director, Plaman Stefanov. In addition, he and his colleagues told us about the other sites they manage, including nearby Thracian tombs, an Ethnographic Complex, and a museum based in the house of a noted local musician, Petko Staynov. The Iskra Museum itself is beautifully and artistically presented, with highlights including numerous Thracian objects (or replicas of these, while the originals are displayed elsewhere), not surprising given Kazanlak’s position within the Valley of the Thracian Kings. At the time of our visit, many of the nation’s most prized Thracian objects were on loan to the Louvre in Paris, allowing Bulgaria’s rich heritage to be shared much more widely with international audiences. Objects are displayed in the museum in chronological order, unlike for example in the Early People’s Gallery in National Museums Scotland, and many are not encased in glass, allowing closer interaction between visitors and objects (while inducing a slight panic about dusting!). Much information is provided on the walls, particularly about the archaeological investigations that discovered the key sites and objects. One slight downside from my perspective is that there was very little information about how the various objects would have been used in the past, or about the people who made use of them. Were the numerous pots, for example, used for cooking, cleaning or ritual? Personally, I’d have liked a bit more interpretation to encourage stories to be drawn from the objects on display, and in some small way inject life back into them. That said, I could have happily whiled away a number of hours wandering the many beautifully presented galleries in this museum.

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Figure 16: Kazanlak Museum of History

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Figure 17: Thracian tomb and reconstruction at Kazanlak

After learning about the discovery of various Thracian tombs from the displays in the museum, we had the opportunity to visit the (replica) Kazanlak tomb with Plamen (see Figure 17). The original tomb was discovered only by accident in 1944, when soldiers were digging a trench, and is currently closed to visitors. The rationale for this is entirely understandable: people introduce a greater level of humidity that can be withstood by the structure and decoration of the tomb. To offset the closure of the original tomb, however, an exact replica sits alongside it. This replica is terrific: it is a carefully constructed site, in which considerable resources have been invested, and serves to share the rich Thracian heritage of the area with locals and visitors alike while maintaining the integrity of the original tomb – a commendable achievement.

 

Day 5: Etara Ethnographic Complex

This wonderful open-air museum, designed to preserve and celebrate the rich craft heritage of Bulgaria generally and nearby Gabrovo specifically, was opened in 1964. Beginning with only 3 buildings, the complex has grown over the years to accommodate 50 structures, including a church, craftsmen’s workshops, and water-powered machinery including lathes, saw-mills and washing machines (see Figures 18 and 19). It was the last of these, the washing machines, which I loved the most. Harnessing the power of water channelled from the nearby river through canals and lades, these are not simply ornaments within an open-air museum; they are used by locals who, for a very small fee (just 1 lev) can wash their rugs in natural spring water. I would delight in being able to replicate this principle at home in Scotland, demonstrating as it does that ecologically friendly practices from the past are sometimes hard to beat using modern methods.

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Figure 18: Buildings in Etara Ethnographical Complex

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Figure 19: Washing machine in Etara

The complex at Etara represents most of the 26 traditional crafts formerly found in Gabrovo. There are working potters, bakers, wood workers, confectioners, silversmiths, coppersmiths, leather workers, bell makers, and icon painters, among many others (see Figure 20). The craftspeople rent spaces within the open-air museum and can sell their wares to visitors, who can thus take home items produced by people they have actually met using traditional techniques they have seen in action. Moreover, visitors can learn some of the crafts first-hand: our group learned about natural dyeing techniques, using resources such as quince leaves, onions, garden flowers, yarrow, shells, mosses and lichens, and made our own bracelets using the naturally dyed wool (see Figure 21).

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Figure 20: Craftspeople at Etara

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Figure 21: Natural dyeing at Etara

There is a dedicated Kids’ Zone in the complex to encourage children (and adults!) to learn about, enjoy and appreciate traditional crafts (see Figure 22), and there is a formal educational programme too. There is also a robust events programme at the complex, which hosts outdoors plays, musical events and crafting activities, many of which are linked to Bulgarian national holidays. In short, the Etara Ethnographic Complex is an animated and lively museum where Bulgaria’s tangible and intangible heritage remains strong; it was a real inspiration to our whole group and a genuine highlight of the trip. The Director of the museum, Dr Svetlana Dimitrova, and the rest of her staff, including the wonderful Rosi Bineva, Curator, are to be commended on creating such a fabulous, interactive celebration of Bulgarian culture.

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Figure 22: Kids’ zone at Etara

Day 6: Gabrovo and Hotalich

And now for something completely different… Gabrovo’s House of Humour and Satire (see Figure 23). I’ll admit to being a touch sceptical about the very concept of this, but the tour given by the curator Galina Boneva gradually won me round as we ventured through the different galleries. Housed in a socialist-era factory, the museum covers four floors devoted to an important part of the area’s intangible heritage – humour and satire. The stated aims of the museum include to collect and exhibit humour through fine art, literature, photography and posters; to explore manifestations of humour in world folklore and carnivals; to enhance traditions associated with humour; and to promote the well-meant and universal humour that brings people together.

Essentially beginning from a collection of jokes about the Gabrovian approach to frugality, we heard about the development of the museum, the funding situation, the various festivals that have been run in association with the museum, the competitions and other events hosted by the museum, and the concepts underpinning the children’s area. Most interestingly, we also heard that there had once been moves to create links to Aberdeen, but that these came to nothing!

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Figure 23: Gabrovo Museum of Humour

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Figure 24: Hotalich medieval fortress

From here, we visited the medieval fortress of Hotalich, one of the few sites from this period that we visited on this particular trip, and partially reconstructed only in 2014 (see Figure 24). Hotalich was once a settlement of over 90 houses and at least three churches, as well as a strongly fortified citadel at the top of a hill. The spectacular views over the surrounding mountains – the reward for climbing all the way to the citadel in scorching heat! – more than adequately illustrate why this particular site was chosen as a fortress in the first place.

While the majority of the buildings remain only as footprints in the landscape, three dwellings and a church have been basically reconstructed for interpretive purposes. Inside the dwellings there are textual descriptions and a few replica costumes and weapons that visitors can try out. The most interesting feature of the site from my perspective was the church-within-a-church: a 5th-7th century AD Byzantine church remodelled and reused by the Bulgarians in the 14th century. It would appear that the interpretation of the site is an on-going process, with signage being pretty sparse at the moment. What really allowed us to appreciate the various aspects of the site was the fact that we were given a guided tour. Keen to find out if any volunteers helped excavate the site (as this relates strongly to my current role), I was informed that the regional archaeologist was generally assisted by contractors and some student volunteers. This mirrors the situation at Hissarya, where volunteers were student archaeologists. With such a strong push at home to include any and all volunteers, students or not, I couldn’t help but wonder if the situation will change in Bulgaria to allow for wider input from local communities and others. If so, I’d be tempted to volunteer myself!

 

Day 7: Troyan

At the National Exhibition of Arts and Crafts we learned more about various traditional Bulgarian craft styles and techniques, from ceramics to woodwork, and embroidery to icon painting. We even had the chance to try our hands at pyrography (see Figure 25). As the woodworker showed us the ropes, the children attending his summer school activities went outside to scavenge for more wood to use in the mosaic they were creating. What a great way of utilising natural materials in arts and crafts, while mixing outdoor and indoor learning, and encouraging teamwork.

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Figure 25: National Exhibition of Arts and Crafts

Adjacent to the Arts and Crafts exhibition is Troyan Monastery, the largest in the Balkan range. First established in about 1600, the monastery has played an important religious and political role since. It has undergone various phases of construction but the buildings that remain are in the style of the Bulgarian National Revival period. The frescoes, icons and woodwork are beautiful (see Figure 26; it was wonderful to see some of the crafts we have learned about in situ. It was also interesting to note that there is a hostel on site, one of the many examples of cultural tourism being encouraged in Bulgaria.

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Figure 26: Troyan Monastery

In the afternoon we enjoyed a wonderful tour of Troyan Museum, courtesy of Desislava Vutova, curator of metals and jewellery. Desi spent a considerable time guiding us through the various galleries, and explaining the rationale behind the choice and layout of displays, which are diverse in nature and very artistically presented (see Figure 27). The museum houses galleries devoted to – among other things – ceramics, textiles and wood processing, and contains a re-created 19th-century Troyan house, thus offering a wonderful flavour of local life to visitors. Our group was particularly impressed with the innovative ways the museum has interpreted exhibits. Labels and descriptive text is available in English as well as Bulgarian throughout, and provides superb context for the artefacts and displays. The additional interpretative methods are first-rate too, most especially the touch-screen displays and the mobile application that allows visitors to access several short films that show craftspeople at work (see Figure 28). This brilliantly illustrates the work that goes into each of the items on display, and the particular skills each craft demands. We were delighted to hear that the museum staff offer a tailored education programme for children, and especially that they have incorporated an idea they learned on a trip to Scotland, namely to have a travelling suitcase of objects they can take off-site. The Troyan Museum was most impressive, and a firm favourite among the group.

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Figure 27: Displays at Troyan Museum

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Figure 28: Interpretation at Troyan Museum

 

Day 8: Sofia

Our last full day in Bulgaria was spent visiting the National Polytechnic Museum in Sofia (see Figure 29). We were given a comprehensive tour of the museum by the Vice-Director, Svetozara, and saw the vast number of exhibits related to technology, mechanics and energy, many of which highlight Bulgaria’s role in innovation and production. Exhibits mainly relate to the last century and include cars, motorcycles and push bikes, clocks and watches, calculators, cameras and film projectors, car and space technology, telephones and televisions. While labels are in Bulgarian and English, the longer interpretive text is unfortunately only in Bulgarian. The guidebook kindly given to us by Svetozara, however, provides excellent information about the museum’s exhibits. Probably the best area within the museum was that dedicated to learning about physics through experimentation. While clearly aimed mainly at children, this area nonetheless provided endless entertainment for us adults! It was great to hear that the museum tailors its education programme to suit the curriculum, thus enabling children to supplement their class-based theory with practical learning.

With a little free time before dinner, most of the group headed to the Museum of Socialist Art, Bulgaria’s first dedicated to its socialist past (see Figure 30). The grounds are filled with statues from the socialist era, many of which were state-commissioned. They include the statue of Lenin that stood for more than 40 years in the centre of Sofia, and the huge red star that once graced the Communist Party HQ. Inside the museum are paintings and busts that depict famous figures or events. It will be interesting to see what (if any) further steps are taken to commemorate Bulgaria’s socialist past.

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Figure 29: National Polytechnic Museum, Sofia

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Figure 30: Museum of Socialist Art

The stated learning outcomes of the visit to Bulgaria include that we would better understand Classical buildings, engineering and art; learn about the marketing of local products through historical associations; see cultural tourism in action; and appreciate the place of crafts and food in Bulgarian heritage and tourism. This was certainly achieved. But we gained so much more on this fascinating and inspiring trip. Most importantly, we made a new network of contacts at home and abroad. We saw a range of different approaches to the interpretation of built and cultural heritage, from basic textual descriptions through to 3D models, interactive touch-screen displays, mobile applications, workshops and plays. We toured the best and most inspiring example of an open-air museum that I personally have ever visited. We marvelled at the glorious fields of sunflowers (see Figure 31) and abundant wildlife, some of which – like the frogs living in the Roman baths at Hissarya and the fireflies at Etara – treated us to wonderful, unscripted moments of delight. We enjoyed terrific food and drink in a range of environments (see Figure 32): we sipped Kamenitza beer in the Kapana / Craft Quarter of Plovdiv; sampled the produce of the winery at Starosel; feasted in taverns and guesthouses; and ate ice cream at midnight while soaking up the atmosphere in Central Sofia. We listened to traditional music, collected drinking water from a mineral spring in Hissarya, swam in a mineral pool, and saw a car chase being filmed on the streets of Sofia for a forthcoming Bollywood blockbuster. Bulgaria, its heritage and people have made a lasting impression upon me, and I will enthusiastically share and apply the knowledge learned and ideas forged for a long time to come.

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Figure 31: Field of sunflowers

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Figure 32: Traditional Bulgarian food

 

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