So after all that celebrating it was time to have another one on March 4th! Me and several of my friends took a bus up into the Rhodopi mountains to the picture perfect town of Devin. It's actually famous for their mineral water that they ship all over the country and the Balkan region. Sunday morning we arose to find that the scheduled bus wasn't running to the famous village of Shiroka Luka that we needed to get to. This would totally be a case of Bulgarska Rabota! Why the bus that runs everyday to this village would not be running on the day of a gigantic festival is beyond me. But no worries, we took a couple of taxis and made it there. The roads are very curvy and my stomach was ready to be out of that car in the 1/2 hr it took to get there.
Finally we had made it to the most famous Kukerie festival in Bulgaria. Before the festivities started we got ready by drinking some dancing green apple spirits and taking pictures. Here's Carin, Rachel and Kellen with a little Kukerche :-) Right before this picture a guy wearing Kukerie came up to Rachel and just followed her around for a while as she proceeded to be scared and tried to hide behind Kellen. We all laughed and expressed how impressed we were that the guy found the person in our group who would scare the most easily and provide the highest level of entertainment. Then we found a great spot to watch the upcoming show. No sooner did we grab our spot and they announced that there was a car parked in the center that needed to be moved. Seeing that it wasnt our car, we paid no attention. Then a lone dancing gypsy man started dancing inside the roped off circle. He danced until the old Babas came out to Horo (dancing in a big circle). During this whole time we saw another group of pcvs. We waved to them but they didnt actually come over b/c they were looking for a good spot. It was too bad that they didnt come over by us b/c we had a great spot and there was still a lot of room for them. They ended up getting spots in the back of the crowd and only the tallest of them could see well. Maybe the most wild thing they missed was the parked car. No one came to move it and so a bunch of men came by and PICKED UP THE CAR and moved it! Soon after this, the Kukerie came out. It was totally awesome. Kukerie are traditionally men wearing costumes made of goat hair and gigantic bells attached to them. They are supposed to be scary to make the ghosts and bad spirits leave. This is all tied up in spring, planting, and the cycle of life. At one point they had a scene where a woman died and then in her place a baby came to life. The whole them reminded me of what I studied in undergrad. There's a history of traditions that involve blood shed, death, rebirth, and then spring can come out to play. We all were wearing our Martinitsi which has red to symbolize blood and then the kukerie who in a way symbolize death and ward off all the bad spirits so that we have have a good harvest this year. Kukerie come in all differnt shapes, costumes, and sizes. Villages from all over Bulgaria sent groups of Kukerie to dance in the big show. Plus the town of Karlovo donated free wine for all the dancers to drink during the day. One village has brought a priest with him who blessed Rakia, bread, meat and cheese. They passed the Rakia around to all the Kukerie in the circle which they all took a drink from. It was very strange to see a priest (Popa) blessing what is clearly a Pagen ritual but eh, who cares. My favorite were the little Kukerche. Little kids dressed in the costumes! It was all around awesome.
There were people from all over the world and a ton of hippies. I usually have a firm stance against hippies but it somehow seemed appropriate and we had a fantastic time. After all the dancing by the Kukerie there was a gigantic Horo that went on for who knows how long. We danced for a while. For a very short time, I was leading the Horo. So of course I had to yell out "Look at the Amerikanka leading the Horo! I am a Bulgarka!" Every where people were smiling and slinging back spirits. We laughed ate, drank, and were merry until the moment we left. The horo was still going on and by this time it had been going on about 3 or 4 hours. I have no idea when they actually stopped. Bulgarians can horo like nobodies business! It was a really great day to be in Bulgaria.
More pictures can be found at: http://flickr.com/photos/harm1020/