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Erasmus+ Structured Training Course Devetaki Plateau Association ‘Understanding the cultural impact of ancient peoples and applying ancient skills’ Bulgaria 11th – 19th July 2015 My first visit to Bulgaria was in late summer 1974 as part of a trip I made through Eastern Europe. I was just about to enter my fourth and final year at Glasgow School of Art but was unsure about what career I wished to pursue. Crossing from the Danube Delta in Romania we spent some time by the Black Sea before heading inland and stopping at the ancient town of Tornovo: This made an immediate impression on me and helped cement my developing interest in smaller historic towns, their history and how they might be conserved and managed. Sofia I found a bit more overwhelming and quite unlike anywhere I had ever visited before: At that time I was also particularly struck by the music we heard as we travelled – Bulgarian folk music was pumped out of speakers on lampposts and played in railway and bus stations. On one occasion I fell asleep to the sound of women walking home past our camp site singing traditional songs in unison. I liked what I heard […]
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;
A report of a NET visit to Bulgaria 2015 Introduction EARLY SATURDAY MORNING 11 July I set off to meet seven other people from similar professional backgrounds to my own, the arts, culture and heritage. All of us, in one way or another, involved in providing interpretation and learning for those who visit or interact with our respective organizations. We were chosen by Archnetwork in Scotland, part of Project NET, for an Erasmus+ funded Staff Education course in Bulgaria. The European Erasmus+ courses are to help transfer ideas and spread knowledge and good practice throughout the continent. It is a worthy ideal, and as a former academic now working in heritage learning, one I fully subscribe to. The aim of this visit is for us to come to understand the cultural impacts of ancient peoples on contemporary societies and how their ancient skills are still applicable today. But first we would have to see for ourselves the legacies of ancient Thracian, Macedonian and Roman cultures on art and architecture by means of the archaeology and ethnography of the places we visited, of which there turned out to be no shortage. We would also look at the history of the local peoples, […]
In July I took part in a structured study visit to Bulgaria visiting a wide range of cultural sites covering the full spectrum of cultural heritage: historic buildings and towns; archaeological sites; museums; traditional crafts and skills; and intangible heritage and traditions. My own profession is in art with an interest in architecture ancient and modern. The study visit offered a great opportunity to observe and learn about Bulgaria’s artistic and cultural heritage dating from the prehistoric finds held in museum collections, from Roman and Thracian archaeological sites visited, right up to current output from working artists in craft and fine art by studio visits (Milko Dachev, painter and Encho Gankovski, Ceramic artist). For me as an artist it was a great privilege to visit artists in their studios especially to find Encho, ceramic artist using similar hand-building techniques as my own albeit with different aesthetic influences. The celebration and preservation of traditional crafts have not been abandoned in Bulgaria. Artists continue to keep traditional craft practice alive in pottery, woodwork, braid, silversmith, etc. near Gabrovo, in the Etara architectural ethnographic complex. This is an open air museum; a recreated working village, with architecture style typical in the Bulgarian Renaissance […]
In July 2015, I took part in the NET funded Cultural and Historical Heritage Exchange in Bulgaria. Having never been so far East previously, I was really looking forward to this trip to discover a new culture and to get inspiration in my own work in heritage and culture. I arrived at the airport to meet my travelling companions. None of us really had any prior knowledge of the country, apart from two of our group who had visited Bulgaria in the 1970s, when it must have been a very different place. Arriving in Sofia in the early evening was a good way to acclimatise to the weather (apparently lots of countries experience consistent summer months – just not Scotland!). We met with our bags, our itineraries and lots of trepidation for the trip ahead. Velis met us at the airport and Ivo drove us to the hotel in Sofia and pretty soon it became apparent that this trip was going to be full of inspiring visits and interesting and welcoming encounters. Velis took us for a walk around the centre of Sofia that night and we visited the church of Sveta Pedka, the statue of Sofia, the old Communist […]
As we entered, a choir struck up in the gallery and the sonorous tones of eastern sacred music filled the colossal space within. A service was on-going. There are no pews in Orthodox churches, the congregation standing or sitting along the wall benches. The air was thick with incense and the priest chanted as the choir sang. This was all very alien to me! The whole atmosphere took on a strangely hypnotic feel which was quite, in my opinion, unsettling. I noticed people; heads bowed and in tears, moved utterly in the midst of devotion to their faith and God. Two women in particular caught my attention; they were dressed very soberly and wore traditional headscarves. They sat on wall benches and rocked back and forwards, eyes closed in what appeared to be a sort of devotional trance. It all began to feel a bit oppressive and I went back out into the air and light. Faith and I have never been easy bedfellows
A special mention must be given to the Troyan Museum of Crafts. This is an excellent museum at all levels. Situated in a building with a long history of its own, it details the history of the folk crafts of the region including textiles, pottery, metalwork and woodturning. The arrangement of the exhibits is chronological and the information detailed and accessible to all age groups. All the exhibits have detailed information about their place in both the geography and history of the region and give a good understanding of the development of land use in the region. Visitors can choose the level of detail they wish to achieve with a selection of ‘apps’ being available to those who wish to see more about how people actually worked in the sector. This facility is particularly attractive for school groups. I would love to be able to take my students to visit, to demonstrate what can be done. The National Exhibition of crafts in Oreshak provided a good complementary visit.
The Bulgarian NET study visit was hosted by the Devetaki Plateau Association with the help of the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation. The objective was to develop our understanding of biodiversity, designated sites, state environmental policies, environmental education and habitat/species management.
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