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Folk revival

The Photographer’s Story KIT OATES

People dance the Daychovo Horo, a circle dance, round the clock at the festival.

Every August, a folk festival takes place in the forest near Zheravna, an old village of wooden houses in the Balkan Mountains of central Bulgaria. Since the fall of communism, there’s been a real revival of the country’s heritage and folk traditions, and the Zheravna Festival of the National Costume offers a chance to celebrate this almost-lost culture. Bands play folk music, and traditional costume is worn throughout; people bring family heirlooms like dresses, swords and old muskets, passed down through generations. As well as a hotly contested costume competition, there are dance performances and wrestling matches, and food is cooked on open fires and accompanied by beer and the local spirit rakia. People dance in a huge circle in a clearing, revelling in the spiritual ambience of the forest. Bulgarian summers can get very hot, but, because of its altitude, the forest stays lush and cool. Revellers come from across the country to enjoy nature in this intimate setting, and escape from modern life. The festival harks back to simpler, more innocent times, and modern technology is forbidden; I felt a world away from my busy life in London. With everyone in traditional costume, it was like travelling back in time, and there was such a celebratory atmosphere – it was a magical, completely unique experience.

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Lonely Planet - August 2017
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