Since my last post I have done a little bit of traveling, celebrated my first Christmas overseas and saw my very first kukeri festival in Bulgaria!
|Conor and me|
|Picturesque Medieval gate in Brasov|
Brasov is a gorgeous town and the hotel we stayed in was the highlight of the trip. Upon arrival we were welcome to have a drink and dinner at the owner's home, and even got an invitation to jump in the outdoor pool after warming up in their sauna. We ended up walking around the Old Town and hanging out at a jazz bar instead but that definitely would have been an exhilarating experience.
|The Palace of Parliament, Bucharest|
|Kukeri costumes- these men are dressed as grandmothers|
One week after the New Year and I was in Blagoevgrad, where there was a kukeri festival taking place. Kukeri, also known as mummers, are people who dress in elaborate costumes in the winter months to chase away evil spirits. The tradition goes back to pagan days- it's sort of a carnival meets Halloween kind of thing. I saw a similar event in 2009 in southern Hungary (there it's called busojoras) but the costumes here were much more inventive and diverse. I later found out that Blagoevgrad's festival is a competition for most creative costumes and different neighborhoods compete for prizes. So that's why there were so many crazy costumes on display.
Kukeri are a part of Bulgarian folkloric traditions, and you can find their masks and sheepskin costumes in ethnographic museums across the country. On the last weekend in January there is a big kukeri festival called the "Surva Games" in Pernik. A big group of Fulbrighters is planning to go so hopefully I will make it and post more pictures of surva/kukeri really soon!