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“Excellent organization, useful training with a practical focus and a well-chosen theoretical part. ” This is the assessment of the participants in the fifth edition of the educational program “In the world of Stara Planina architecture”. Last August 7-9, people with an interest in traditional construction techniques created structures from stone, clay, wood, and other vegetation. The participants were divided into groups, each of which was involved in the construction of a stone retaining wall with stairs, in the construction of wooden joints and plaster of natural materials.

The program included lecture modules dedicated to the old architecture, and the participants had the opportunity to get acquainted with old houses, a barn, and a mill in the village of Potoka and the Gabrovo district of Etara.
In 2020, a special module was also implemented in which children of parents participating in the program were educated.
The children learned how to knit a fence and how to prepare the materials for it, created wooden houses for birds and pet homes, made molds, and made small adobe bricks in them.

The founders of “In the world of Stara Planina architecture” are the Association “Meshtra – traditional knowledge and crafts” and the Regional Ethnographic Open-Air Museum “Etar”. Since 2017, the Chamber of Architects in Bulgaria (CAB) has been participating as a partner. This year is the fifth-anniversary edition of the program. The main sponsors are joined by CAB – Regional College, Gabrovo, and the company “Riofix” – Bulgaria.



When you have the combination of a retaining wall and stone steps that fit up, it is good to have entered the wall. That way the structure will never move. The master of dry stone masonry Hristo Totsev trains a group of participants in the educational program “In the world of Stara Planina architecture”, which is realized in the museum “Etar”, together with the association Meshtra.
The construction that is made is made entirely of natural materials. Nikolay Velikov is looking for suitable stones to help build the retaining wall and the ladder. As the educational program is realized on the territory of “Etar”, the river Sivek flowing through the museum supports the endeavor. However, the stones must not be smoothed out of the water so that they do not slip – this is one of the things that Nikolai Velikov learned from master Hristo Totsev.
Nikolay is from Gorna Oryahovitsa and is a lawyer. The educational program gives him the opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills to use in a property purchased some time ago. So far, the construction there is modern, he said, but he is convinced that this will change with his participation in the educational program “In the world of Stara Planina architecture.”
Margarita Georgieva from Pleven also intends to put into practice the knowledge she will acquire from her participation in the program. Included for the first year.
“What led me to the decision to join the program?” We own old houses and it turns out that a lot of things you have to do yourself. There are no builders to rely on when it comes to traditional techniques from the past. I am attracted by the Balkans and the wonderful place “Etar”. I realize that it is ambitious to say that I will take part in the restoration of the old buildings and structures, but the other thing is to let them collapse. I don’t think anyone wants to be associated with such things. My husband has a house from his great-grandfather. It feels much better in it than in many modern buildings.
Margarita Georgieva has tried to make a building, like the one she is studying with other participants in the educational program. She is aware that for the time being she is “on the first step”, but she is convinced that the time spent in the Etar Museum will help to acquire new practical skills.
And construction is a game when children are involved!
Simona Gercheva is the youngest participant in the educational program. The six-year-old girl is from Sofia and is studying in the children’s module of the program, while her parents are in one of the adult groups. It is not difficult to find out where in the museum children learn traditional construction. The behavior of the kids is casual, and the game becomes an important means of acquiring knowledge and skills. “No one restricts them, so they calmly trample the mixture of clay, water, and straw with their feet, dig through it with their hands, and do not think about dirty clothes. The small river flowing nearby with clean water makes it possible to wash if someone splashes more.”
Ignat Chenchev is from Varna and loves manual labor. He decided to come to the Etar Museum with his parents as he loves manual labor. He uses to make his own toys in his grandfather’s workshop and he plans to shoot a video to show his grandfather how he is doing during the educational program.
Magdalena Kamenova is from Sofia and actively participates in the preparation of the mixture for the brick. Yesterday she joined the other children in providing the materials for the fence, and on the second day of the program, she weaved on a loom for the first time.
Kalina Aladzhova was born in Luxembourg and has been living in Blagoevgrad for two years. She also weaves on a loom at the Museum Children’s Center in Etar, participates in knitting, and making clay bricks.



The making of objects from plant materials has been widespread in the past. Although technical tools are used, the physical work and creative abilities of the masters play a significant role. On August 22-23, in the Etar Museum were presented knitting of mats and other objects made of belenitsa – corn noise; making baskets and ropes.
The participation of Vera Tsaneva, Todor Ivanov and Hristo Marinov in the reconstructions is part of the project “Master, show us your craft”, which the Etar Museum is implementing with the financial support of the National Culture Fund.
The project started in July with a field study, during which settlements from the Central Stara Planina region were visited. In conversations with representatives of local communities were found people who have preserved knowledge and skills in creating objects from plant materials.

– Vera Tsaneva – the woman with golden hands!
Vera Tsaneva’s eyes speak a lot. There is a slight melancholy in them, but no sadness. The woman preserves knowledge and practice skills that people in the distant past acquire because of a difficult life.
Let’s imagine Bulgaria during the wars of the early twentieth century! Men are at the front, women have all the responsibility for supporting the family – often in large numbers. The majority of the population lives in the villages. The work is related to the cultivation of the land and the breeding of animals. Great Bulgarian writers leave unforgettable descriptions of this difficult life, and what is told in their wonderful texts is experienced by Vera Tsaneva’s mother. The language used in the stories is beautiful. The life they describe is very difficult.
From her mother, Vera learns that when you have few resources, everything comes in handy. But the Bulgarian woman is not only practical, she is an artist. The objects she creates with her hands are used in everyday life, and at the same time, they are the decoration of the oxidally furnished home.
Faith grows up in such an environment. The loom on which the mats are made – carpets or rugs from corn noise, is vertical. The same as in the Ether Museum, she says.
Vera Tsaneva studied history, taught at school, became part of the team of the National Museum of Education in Gabrovo. During these years, ethnography was present more theoretically in these stages of her life. It was only when she retired that she discovered that she had preserved what she had seen in her childhood. She decides to try to make an object out of corn noise. It immediately becomes clear to her that her hands remember and guide her.
Vera Tsaneva not only demonstrates but also introduces the visitors to the Etar Museum to the real situation she knows well. She talks about the cultivation of the land, about the sowing, growing, and harvesting of corn, about the peeling of the cobs. Their noise is used for animal feed, for weaving and weaving mats and other household items.
The forest is dried in the sun to prevent mold and stored in bags in a dry place. Before starting work with it, it is immersed in water with normal temperature, from which it softens. The wooden objects with sharp points, which Vera Tsaneva uses as aids, arouse the interest of her observers. Some time ago, a foreigner wanted one of them but insisted not on a new one, but on a used one.
Vera Tsaneva not only remembers what she learned, she not only wants to pass it on to the younger generation. She improves and upgrades her practical skills. A small hammer serves to soften the shapes, to make everything fall into place, to be comfortable, beautiful, and complete.
Vera Tsaneva knits and weaves with corn husk. Makes mats, various utensils, panels for decoration. If what is practiced by her is preserved and followers are found, this occupation could be practiced professionally, as there is interest and there is a market for the realization of the production.
To make a basket of plant materials, your hands have to listen to you!

– Todor Ivanov is a coach in sport shooting. His hands are able not only to hold firearms firmly but also to perform precise actions on weaving baskets of natural materials. When he was young – 6-7 years old, Todor watched Grandpa Tsvyatko, with whom he grazed cows.
“When he found a shade, he started knitting baskets. 37 years later I decided to test if I remember what I learned. I worked as a security guard at a site. There was not much to do and then I tried. It turned out that I remembered everything and I just improved it “, says Todor Ivanov.
Hazel, powdered and dogwood are the plants he uses. The production of the baskets attracts the eyes of visitors to the Etar Museum, where Todor Ivanov demonstrates his skill.
“It is best to take the material in the fall, it is necessary to choose a plant that has grown on a certain slope. The hazelnut should be facing north. It is used to make the sun, which holds the ribs of the basket. They are made of dogwood branches, which shrink in circles and intersect. A bandage is wrapped around them to make the walls. Knit on both sides for proportions.

Basket weaving has been practiced in the past by many people. Today it is little known, but the baskets made definitely arouse interest. They carry almost everything that has room. The bark of the plants peels and if not wet, the basket can last up to 100 years.

Rope-making is a craft that is practiced only with an assistant. In the early 90s of the last century, Hristo Marinov began to learn a new craft – rope knitting. The master needs this skill because the ropes are the main driving force in “mutafchiystvo” – making household products from goat fur.
Hristo Marinov Hristov was born in 1955 in the village of Dobri Dyal in Gorno Oryahovitsa. He has been involved in mutafchiystvo for more than 40 years.
“Some of the masters in my craft in the past also made ropes, which are the main traction in the chakra. There are also ropes on the camp and on the hive. In the 19th century, ropes were made by hand. It was after 1990, the rope reel was in my workshop, a man passed by who had knowledge of how to make it and showed it to me. I can knit hemp and cotton ropes with ready-made material, I have also tried fur, ”says master Hristo Marinov.
Sometime after the Crimean War, hemp became the main raw material for the production of sacks and ropes. In Germany, they even make ship ropes, but not with such an archaic method as household ropes.
The stems of industrial hemp are processed, handfuls are made – bundles of the stems themselves. The hard part – the powder – is removed by hammering. The fine part is softened with more blows, and the combing is done on the pick. This is the most archaic way of processing. Depending on the thickness of the rope we want to achieve, is the number of twisting reels.
During his demonstration at the Etar Museum, Master Hristo Marinov used four reels. Auxiliary tools are swivel and hammer.
“Some craftsmen make their ropes in a meadow to have space and increase the length. I also make ropes with thirty-six threads each. In Italy, for example, in the past, they made swinging bridges using bundles of grass. The whole village is involved. “
The craftsman says that ropes can be made of different plant material, as long as it is strong. It needs to be moisturized to achieve greater strength. There is no way to make a rope without an assistant.


GLASS DAYS 2020 has been organized by RAM Central Stara Planina on the 27 and 28 August. For the first time, the Bulgarian association of municipalities holds the event online.
During the years, RAM Central Stara Planina was delighted to host glass workshops, we found out that China is the largest glassware producer in the world. In 2020 we also learned that the new coronavirus, which came from China, lives longest on a glass surface. Our experience indicates that the GLASS DAYS are an expected, desired and exciting event for traditional and new audiences. Our rationality prompted us to find a new form of realization of the idea so that we can reach even more people. Therefore we decided to bet on a safe environment and safe distance, offering you not quite safe activities (after all, we are talking about glass!), but dangerously exciting and entertaining.
During the days of the event, video materials will be published on the Facebook page of RAM “Central Stara Planina”, with the demonstration of various techniques for processing and decoration of glass, some of which can be practiced at home.
Take your time and have fun while creating, sharing with friends, playing with your children, or just relaxing.
Join the event here!  See you soon online!


It is delicious, it is sweet, and it is cheap. This is Gabrovo Chocolate. What better product to expect from the thrifty Gabrovians. Pestil, as it is called, is among the symbols of the region, along with the cat without tale and the Gabrovo jokes. The pestil is a kind of jam made from prunes. It is so delicious that even Swiss chocolate makers admire it.
Jokes aside, the product is internationally recognized and participates in various world food exhibitions, including one of the most prestigious- Terra Madre in Turin. Italians are known for creating the Slow Food movement. It aims at preserving the pleasure of eating and preserving the unique food traditions around the world, as opposed to the modern food industry and fast life. The pestil is included in the book “The Ark of Taste”. In it, the supporters of slow food include foods and plant species endangered by extinction.
Fortunately, in Gabrovo the pestil undergoes a real renaissance. So do not worry, the sweet can be found in quite a few places. But if you want to find out more about where you’ll have to read a little further.
True pestil is a pure natural product and there should be no added sugar. Only healthy plums are selected for the preparation. The Central Stara Planina region is known as the main plum production region in the country and there the best sorts are found. The most commonly used for the production are karajeka and mackerel (also known as winter plum). As can be expected from a natural product, the pestil is very healthy for the body. Plums are a natural antioxidant and help to eliminate toxins from the body. The high vitamin C content of the blue plum helps the body fight infections and inflammations. Everyone is also aware of the role of plums in enhancing intestinal peristalsis.
There are many preserved recipes for its production, many of which are collected in the ethnographic open-air museum Etar. According to one of them, in the beginning, the plums are placed on a slow fire, so they can slowly burst and sink into their own juice called “limak”. Then some juice is taken away, which goes for rakia production. The remaining juice, together with the plums, is subjected to further boiling under stronger fire and constant stirring until the mixture becomes black. Then place on boards sprinkled with flour and pass with a stick to make it flat and let it dry in the sun or in an oven. It remains until a white sugar layer forms. The finished product is rolled and stored in a dry and airy place. The pestil also enjoys considerable durability. If well prepared the dry substance in it is over 65% and can last years without losing its taste.
Nowadays, pestil can be found in the sweet shops of Etara all year round.

In 2018 the event was awarded by the Ministry of Tourism in the category “Spirit of Bulgaria”.


September 7, 11: 30–14: 30
Culinary Temptations with Prunes Bazaar

September 5-7, 10: 00-18: 00
Alley of tastes with a bazaar of different types of food and drinks

September 5, 11: 00–16: 00
First national folklore competition “Ritual table”

September 5-7, 11: 00-16: 00
Demonstrations for making a pestle and “Constantinople on a stick”

September 5-7, 10: 00-17: 00  – Thematic play in the Museum Children’s Center

September 5-7, 09: 00–17: 00
Recipe for making pestil in Bulgarka Center

They call savers “Gabrovo chocolate” – a joke with the thrift of Gabrovo people from socialist times.

In 2014, the Gabrovo pestil received worldwide recognition by being included in the World Book of Unique Foods “Arch of Tastes”. Its producer Nikolay Hristov was awarded a certificate for the unique food product, which participated for the first time in a world exhibition in Turin, Italy. According to eyewitnesses, Gabrovo chocolate made even Swiss confectioners lick their fingers.


The technological process of preparation of pestil is long. Healthy, clean, well-ripened, large fleshy plums are selected and poured into large copper trays with a capacity of 200 to 300 kg, called pestildzhiyski. The mixture, cooked and strained through a sieve or sieve, is spread evenly on beech boards. The irrigation of the thick plum pulp, about 7-8 mm thick, is left in the strong sun in the yard. In two or three days it dries and a new porridge is boiled, which is spread on the first mixture. This operation is repeated 7-8 times to obtain the desired thickness of the savings.
Well dried, the pestle is peeled with a rag. For easier peeling and for sweetness, a few handfuls of junk are poured into the first porridge. The finished pestle is rolled up and stored in dry, ventilated places. Around Christmas it is ready for consumption.
Old people from Gabrovo remember that they boiled 20 tons of plums, from which they made 7 tons of savings. Well dried and stored under suitable conditions, the pestle lasted up to 10 years.


Since 2013 ETAR – Ethnographic Open Air Museum / ETAR – Ethnographic Open Air Museum organizes in September a Feast of Savers. On it, its numerous guests get acquainted with the original technology of pestle production, the authentic dishes, and objects that the museum stores, as well as the opportunity to buy pestle from the producers. The museum won the ranking “Annual Awards in Tourism 2018” in the category “Spirit of Bulgaria” with a holiday of savings. 8 organizations competed in the ranking of the Ministry of Tourism. 44.5% of voters supported the Etar Museum.