The town of Kalofer is picturesquely located on the southern slopes of the Central Balkan Range, about 160 km away from Sofia. It is a magnet for tourists during summer months as it is the hometown of Bulgaria’s poet of genius and revolutionary Hristo Botev whop died for Bulgaria’s freedom in 1876.
During the National Revival of 18-19 c. the town prospered as a center of handicrafts and brisk trade. The locally made lace was so very sophisticated that it was known in Bulgaria and abroad alike. The locals lovingly call it “the white magic of Kalofer”, and the methods and patterns of lace making are passed down from generation, so as to protect this precious heritage from the fierce competition of modern technology. During holidays in the town the latest output of lace knitters is always displayed against the background of bag-pipe music performed by enthusiastic amateurs.
With this mood Kalofer will celebrate the traditional Lace Festival on 15 August. It opens with a Holy Liturgy in the local church dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. More about the celebrated Kalofer lace, from the secretary of the local Hristo Botev communal center, Svetla Ioveva:
“The Kalofer lace is an art that has developed for longer than 100 years. The local community cared very much for the status of women, and so in 1909 a talented Kalofer woman was sent to the Industrial School in Sofia to get trained in making Brussels lace. However, she was a very intelligent and gifted person, and created her own style in lace knitting. So, in fact the Kalofer lace originated from Brussels lace patterns and then spread to various parts of Bulgaria. By the way until mid-20 c. lace knitting was an important trade in Kalofer. Women knitted lace that was sold on international markets so the craft was crucial for the small town’s economy. It was also part of the town’s prosperity in the 19 c. On several occasions, during Ottoman rule, it was put to fire by the Turks, but rose from the ashes and was rebuilt as its people had enough money made through lace making. The history of Kalofer lace is alive to the present day”, Svetla Ioveva goes on to say. “In 1998 with the support of a foundation we organized a course for young women wishing to learn how to knit Kalofer lace. Thanks to the project 50 girls were trained in the craft, and for the size of Kalofer this was a major comeback of the sophisticated local lace. It was back then that the Kalofer Lace Festival had its start. The great Christian feast of Assumption, 15 August, was selected for the festival’s timing. Lace knitters from allover Bulgaria and from Scotland have often visited the town during the festival over the years. A special Lace Fund has been set up as well. Its collection is enlarged through donations, as leading lace knitters donate some of their works to it. Today the Fund has hundreds of lace articles that we display every year on 15 August in the halls of the Town Hall.”
Apart from lace knitting Kalofer has preserved other crafts such as weaving traditional rugs. Various souvenirs and copper vessels are made locally. We have to praise the local amateur bag-pipe players. They have revived the bag-pipe outplaying festivities in Kalofer. There are more than 100 amateur bag-pipe players in the town, and the youngest one among them is aged just 4. Recently they were happy to win a distinction from a festival of folk instruments held in France.