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Back to the roots or how to get to know the Rhodopes

БНР Новини

Bulgaria is just a small country but what diversity, what beauty! Take the Rhodopes for example. Even seasoned hikers who have traversed the mountain far and wide say it is full of surprises. This is confirmed by Gavrail Gavrailov and Alexander Karadjov, staunch travelers and lovers of the outdoors. The two decided to share the experiences from their long travels in this magical part of the country. That was how The Rhodopes – back to the roots appeared on the book market. A book full of magnificent photographs that is on its way to becoming an invaluable guide-book for those who carry an undying adventurous spirit.

Gavrail Gavrailov

СнимкаBut to really get to know this mountain you must step off the asphalt roads and the well-trodden routes and have stacks of curiosity and… patience. Because the real treasures of the Rhodopes are to be found in faraway villages, where time seems to have stopped in its tracks and where, in these difficult-of-access but breathtakingly beautiful surroundings, you can take in the wisdom of the ages from the elderly people living up in the mountain. But to reach them, you have to take the winding mountain paths. And before you do that it is a good idea to get as much information as you can – from the Internet, from books and maps… It is in this that the new book about the Rhodopes may prove truly invaluable.

“This is a mountain that is close to my heart. And not just because my own roots are there, in the Rhodopes, but because it is a magical place with incredible people,” says one of the book’s authors Gavrail Gavrailov.

Extreme adventure amidst pristine nature, the Thracian and the Roman heritage, routes to medieval fortresses, guest houses, but most of all – stories about little-known parts of the mountain itself… All this makes for fascinating reading; not to mention the unique photographs by renowned Bulgarian photographers. The guide-book tells us that the Rhodopes are heaven on Earth for gourmands and lovers of fine wine. The book includes the addresses of wineries in the Southern Rhodopes, like Ognyanovo, Vinogradets, Oustina, Brestovitsa…

“The book has pages devoted to wine and bread, to wine tourism but also the symbolism connected with wine and bread in Christian tradition that is widespread in the Rhodopes,” says Gavrail. “We also write about the development of the new so-called bread houses up in the mountain. They are in fact cultural centres, similar to the traditional chitalishta (community culture clubs) where people can get together to perform rituals connected with kneading and baking bread and sharing it with others. There is such a bread house in Smolyan, bread houses will be opened in Chepelare and in other places around the Rhodopes. Another sphere we have included in the book is sheep breeding and its symbols. Once, the mountain resounded with the ringing of hundreds of sheep bells. In our day few people venture into sheep breeding. The symbols we connect the Rhodopes with are the kaba (low-pitched)bagpipe, the barbecued meat, yoghurt and the sheep bells – they were all a natural part of the life of shepherds and of all people who inhabited the mountain. I wish that nowadays these symbols were more than a mere tourist attraction.”

Leafing through the book we find out where the name of the famous Rhodope ski resort Pamporovo comes from and what the word pampor means in the Rhodope dialect. The final pages are a Bulgarian-Rhodope dictionary with words, expressions and proverbs that are still part of the everyday speech of the older people living there.

“When a tourist tries to have a conversation with the local people he will find it difficult to understand what they are saying,” Gavrail goes on to say. “What we are trying to do is provoke readers to make contact with the local people and talk to them about their customs and rituals… Because it is so important to retain your curiosity and the ability of communicating, of wanting to learn interesting things about the Rhodopes not by surfing the Internet but by being there, in direct communication with the villagers, who will always surprise you with what they have to say,” says in conclusion Gavrail Gavrailov.

English version: Milena Daynova

Photos: Mercury Commerce 97 - Dobrich
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