NG: Masquerade Games in Bulgaria's Pernik Among Best Winter Trips 2014

Culture | January 13, 2014, Monday // 15:21|  views

Animalistic masks and clanging bells are on display at the annual masquerade games staged in Pernik each January to banish evil spirits and clear the way for a prosperous year. Photo by Vasil Stefanov

The masquerade games in the town of Pernik, close to Bulgaria's capital Sofia, have made it to this year's National Geographic list of best winter trips, a global collection of 15 editor-recommended destinations.

“Western Bulgaria’s rural masquerade rituals are fueled by a primal energy: animalistic masks, beating drums, fire jumping, rhythmic chanting, clanging bells. It’s all on display at the Surva XXIII International Festival of Masquerade Games, staged in Pernik each January to banish evil spirits and clear the way for a prosperous year,“ the National Georgiraphic editors wrote.

Folkloric dancers, musicians, and children’s groups join in the spectacle, but the real competitors are the thousands of masked and costumed kukeri (male mummers) performing mystical routines rooted in ancient pagan traditions.

The Surva XXIII International Festival of Masquerade Games takes place between January 24-26.

The magazine recommends its readers to try a full-immersion Bulgarian cultural experience—traditional cuisine, music, decor— and head up the mountain from Sofia to Restaurant Vodenitzata in Vitosha Park.

“The extensive menu (with English translations) includes regional dishes like tarator (cold yogurt soup) and the go-to Bulgarian comfort food, kavarma, a hearty pork (or chicken) and vegetable stew.”

As for its cultural tip to travelers, NG editors point out that smoking is socially acceptable in Bulgaria.

“Although the government instituted a total ban on indoor smoking in public places in 2012, efforts are under way to permit smoking in specific venues like designated rooms in larger restaurants, and in bars, clubs, and casinos after 10 p.m.“

Before heading for Pernik, travellers are advised to read „Masquerade and Postsocialism: Ritual and Cultural Dispossession in Bulgaria”by Gerald Creed (Indiana University Press, 2011).

“It isn’t light reading, but the expert insights into mumming rituals will enrich your festival experience,” the National Geographic comments.

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Tags: best winter trips, National Geographic, masquerade, rituals, Bulgaria, Pernik


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