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Etara is a candidate for the best creative destination in the world

Photo: Венета Николова

The only open-air ethnographic museum in Bulgaria will compete with the best creative destinations in the world, and the goal is this year's award of the International Network for Creative Tourism. Opened in 1964, Etara is located near the town of Gabrovo. This is not an ordinary museum, but a real, emotional experience. Some even call it a "time machine", because once you get here, you are imperceptibly transported to another dimension - the time of the Bulgarian Revival Period. Walking along the picturesque cobbled street with the beautiful houses and craftsmen workshops on their ground floor, visitors get a taste of the unique way of life and culture of this era.

"We are applying for the prize with a set of initiatives, including with our busy calendar, including exhibitions, competitions, preparation of traditional foods, tastings, reenactments of Bulgarian customs, etc," says Svetlozar Todorov - Head of Cultural Management of Etara. "We traditionally welcome many foreign guests. In 2019 we had 226 thousand visits. In August this year, due to the pandemic, foreigners declined sharply. However, the number of visitors is almost the same, but we now have only Bulgarian tourists," Todorov says.

What makes an impression is the one-of-a-kind composition of 10 water facilities. "Etara can rightly be proud of them, because in Europe there are very few such collections of the so-called folk technique of water," Todorov explains, adding:

"There is a water facility that is for sharpening knives. There are two mills, there are wooden lathes, on which masters still manufacture various objects. The sawmill is also part of this composition. All of them are activated with water using old technologies. Let's not forget the braid production workshop, which is unique for the whole region. All these facilities are of great interest."

As you can see, Etara is no ordinary open-air museum with frozen exhibits. The ambition of the team is to motivate visitors to try activities related to learning about Bulgarian life and folklore. For this purpose, innovative educational programs are implemented on site. The most interesting are the craft workshops, where tourists can make an object themselves.

"The workshops of the master craftsmen are located in the craft bazaar. They work with traditional materials - clay, wood, metal, leather. And this happens every day throughout the year. The activity of the museum will continue in the winter, regardless of Covid-19! This is one of the advantages of open-air museums. So here everyone can choose exactly which craft he or she wants to practice and agree with some of our craftsmen to guide him”.

The world tourism industry is increasingly emphasizing experiences and cultural routes, at the expense of mass tourism. Today, tourists prefer to think of themselves as travellers or adventurers. That is why the international network for creative tourism encourages initiatives for sustainable tourism, which Etara is also part of.

Photos: Veneta Nikolova
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