“An open air museum is a necessity, so that people can easily learn about the past”, says the renowned ethnographer and artist Lazar Donkov. Thanks to his efforts the first Architectural-Ethnographic complex Etara opens doors in 1964. Situated 8 kilometers south of the town of Gabrovo at the foot of Stara Planina Mountain, the complex has been functioning without closing even for a day. People who visit the complex can learn a lot about the architecture, lifestyle and the manufacture during the second half of the 18th and the whole 19th century. During this period people from the town of Gabrovo export many of their handicraft articles to Bucharest, Vienna, Marseille and Anadola. In 1835 the first secular New Bulgarian School was opened in the town of Gabrovo. This is another proof of the cultural uplift in this region.
People who visit Etara can see water-driven machinery as well as many houses and workshops. Some of the buildings went under renovation, others were transported to neighboring villages. In this natural environment the present-day craftsmen use old technologies to make musical instruments, goods and fabrics. Each year in the first week of September the international Crafts Fair takes place in Etara. Its 10th edition will start on September 6. The local traditions will be presented in 3 major lines: a scientific conference, demonstration of handcraft skills and adoption of old technologies.
“In this year’s edition we are expecting guests from Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, England, Croatia, Slovakia, Macedonia and from many other countriesЧр Petya Boneva, who works in the Museum tells us. ЧThe fair will last until September 9 and will be under the auspices of the President of the National Assembly Tsetska Tsacheva. We are expecting a cobbler from Serbia as well as several craftsmen from Romania. They will demonstrate us how to process wood and will show some bead jewelry and pieces of embroidery. Our guests from Slovakia will make flowers out of paper. We expect mainly blacksmiths from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Italians will demonstrate the art of making pastries. For the 8th consecutive year, an International scientific conference will be held at the event. It is entitled the crafts- our past, present and future” Some 50 experts from various countries will take part in scientific discussions. A group from England has been training in Etara over the last few days under the guidance of local craftsmen. The participants are training how to dye fabrics with vegetable paints. After the course they will demonstrate us their skills and will receive certificates from the management of the Etara complex”, says Petya Boneva.
This way of training is also part of the old-time Bulgarian traditions. Once the craftsmen were teaching the young generation and later introduced them into the fellowship of the craftsmen. The rank “journeyman” was given only to the ones who successfully completed their training and successfully demonstrated their skills in public. The journeymen from England are training under the “Leonardo” scheme, initiated by the EU.
The International Crafts Fair envisages performances of various local folklore groups. Among them are: the North Bulgarian Ensemble Pleven, Kapansky Ensemble Razgrad, Folklore ensemble from the town of Kalofer. Etc. Visitors can also enjoy puppet show, dance show and the performance of a brass orchestra. The handicraft show envisages demonstrations of how to dye woolen yam, how to knit woolen braid and make hand baskets as well as how to make souvenirs out of corn leaves.
Translated by: Kostadin Atanasov