People always get excited for their summer or winter holidays, those bring positive emotions and energy. However, we tend not to think on the damages we cause to nature while being tourists. Experts do talk about sustainable tourism over the past years. They define it as tourism with benefits about local population, but without causing any harms to nature, preserving it for the next generations. This is one of the missions of the DANO tourist center, situated in the Rhodope village of Momchilovtsi.
In fact DANO comes from the first Bulgarian letters of the words voluntary, academic, scientific and educational tourism. The village has turned into an attractive destination for educational tourism for many young Europeans and visitors from other continents. The center also has to attract Bulgarian and foreign researchers, students and pupils that have the chance to survey the nature and authentic traditions of the Rhodope Mountain. The center, a project of the Bulgarian Heritage National Association /BHNA/ opened doors for its initial participants in May 2011.
“We called our center The Norwegian House – practically it is the old school of the village of Momchilovtsi,” Director of BHNA Prof. Rumyana Mihneva says. “The building was abandoned and almost ruined. We decided to implement an idea for sustainable development of tourism, coming from the US George Washington University. Thus we started to build a center for voluntary, academic, scientific and educational tourism. One of the leading American experts in tourism, experienced in consulting Bulgarian alternative tourism projects offered us to work in this direction. The development of the center took place with the financial support of the Kingdom of Norway.”
The voluntary tourism of the DANO center gives opportunities to guests from France, Germany, Italy and other countries to afforest the mountain, to work in local farms, or to participate in historical, ethnographic and archaeological expeditions. The academic tourism attracts Bulgarian and foreign students and PhDs in geography, history, cultural anthropology, ecology… Students or whole families may join the educational tourism groups. They can use the acquaintance with nature and local traditions not only for relaxation, but also for accumulating additional knowledge. One of the programs of the DANO center is called The Road of Milk. It is a part of the Academy for Heritage project of BHNA.
“These will be activities, aimed predominantly at young people and those are related to everything that we know about milk,” Prof. Mihneva explains. “The Rhodope Mountain used to be famous with its big herds. Now everything made of milk, everything made of wool or the different traditions, related to those activities will be demonstrated by local elderly people. Those who want will have the chance to learn how to knit, spin, curdle milk etc. We have another project that will start during the first two weeks of July. The participants will pick up herbs, produce jams and will watch the process of milking. The entire program is very well accepted, the professor says. The young people are usually nervous during the first day by the new environment and the lack of friends. After 24 hours they already play together, sing songs and do everything with joy and pleasure. The conditions in the center’s building are wonderful.”
Expeditions and brigades, related to the idea for preservation of the culture, traditions and the Bulgarian nature are organized within the Academy for Heritage project. Prof. Mihneva gives details on another project that will require a lot of efforts. For the moment it is titled The Mountain, since this is the place where many social problems can be observed – unemployment, demographic issues, destroying of the environment… Scientists and lecturers from the Sofia University show interest towards this project, along with major enterprises from the Rhodope area. Students from different master’s programs have already spent a few days under this project. Prof. Mihneva explains that one of the main rules of such visits is meetings with locals. The activities of the scientists should always reach local people, she says in conclusion.
English version: Zhivko Stanchev