Bulgaria's old crafts recreatedAdelina Lozanova
Etara, the architecture and ethnography reserve and one-of-a-kind outdoor museum which boasts a live and functioning ethnographic exposition is located near the city of Gabrovo. Its name is derived from the ancient name of the Yantra River over whose banks the museum spans. Every visitor of the Etara complex has a chance to travel back in time, share the folk traditions, feel the breath of the olden times and learn more about old Bulgarians' way of life.
There are 50 sites within the museum complex which depict the authentic Bulgarian culture, home life and crafts during the National Revival period (19th century). The museum's development started in 1962 as three approaches were implemented: restoration of the existing sites, relocation of original constructions from other regions and reproduction of buildings according to previously made photos and measurements.
The first view that captures the attention of visitors as soon as they enter the museum are the romantic cobble-stoned narrow streets and an array of authentic constructions. Etara boasts the only collection of original water-powered machinery in Bulgaria, comprising 10 functional workshops: a saw-mill, two nap-raising shops, two different kinds of water-mills, braids-makers room, two lathes, fulling and grinding mills. That was the reason why the watermill was chosen as an emblem of the complex. Initially, the original watermill was reconstructed and other sites were built later.
At the craftsmen's market, 16 samples of authentic Bulgarian architecture illustrate the separate identity of the Revival period builders. The buildings are replicas of houses that once existed in Gabrovo and its vicinity. The most popular crafts thriving during the Revival period are shown: pottery, furriery, copper- and gold-smiths, makers of goat's wool rugs and bags, confectionary and pastry makers, woodcarvers and others. The museum's guests can see in real time how masters are working and get acquainted with the old technologies used in the manufacture of traditional products.
Apart from the unique functional workshops, Etara recreates customs and traditions typical of the folk calendar that Bulgarians abided by. The visitors can enjoy songs, dances and folklore performances, part of Bulgaria's spiritual heritage. The international fair of folk crafts is held at the Etara ethnographic complex every summer. During the fair days, artisans from all over Bulgaria as well as from other countries, exhibit the goods they make and present the crafts they master.
On the territory of the complex there is a hotel where visitors can stay, there are also restaurants and cafes where they can savour traditional Bulgarian dishes and coffee made to old local recipes. Within four kilometres to the south of the Etara complex is located the Sokolski Monastery. It is a working nunnery built in the early 19th century.