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Etar Architectural-Ethnographic Complex – the best way for traveling through the time

Georgi Georgiev, VisitBulgaria.Net

There are several ways to travel trough the time. The astrophysicians suppose the cosmic black holes are the universal gates between the different dimensions. According to the science fiction writers, the time machines are the perfect choice for adventure trips in the future or in the past. But I can heartily recommend you to visit Etar Architectural-Ethnographic Complex located in the Central Balkan Mountain Range in Bulgaria, near the town of Gabrovo. You don’t need any complex machines or special knowledge in the field of astronomy, to have an unforgettable experience in the epoch of the Bulgarian Revival Period. And it is not a fiction, it is the truth.

Etar is an open air ethnographic and architectural museum located 8 km south of Gabrovo. The reserve presents Bulgarian customs, culture and craftsmanship. It spreads over an area of 7 ha and embraces 50 objects, including water installations and houses with craftsmen's workshops attached. The reserve was opened in 1964. Since then on the tourist landmark illustrates the architecture, way of life and economy of Gabrovo region during the Bulgarian National Revival. The crafts workshops and facilities are operating and the craftsmen are still making their masterpieces in the way their forefathers produced them.

It was late autumn when I visited Etar Architectural-Ethnographic Complex. It was drizzling and a tiny mist was floating above the small river valley, where the complex is situated. I walked along the river and the first building I saw was a small water mill. It was looking like a spectral vision in the mist and I was waiting for some friendly ghost, as Casper, to come out of the mill and ask me “Do you want to be my friend?”. But there are no ghosts in Etar, or leastways I didn’t see them, although it is a spiritual site.

A smiling woman came out of the next building instead, and welcomed me heartily. She was the Assure of the museum. She told me that the water mill is called Dolapkinya. She also told me that there is a great number of water-driven machinery in Etar because of the river which runs through the complex. That’s way the water mill wheel became the symbol of Etar Architectural-Ethnographic Complex. The water facilities work in the same way as they did in the past, due to the original mill-strem system dating back from the end of the 18th sentury. The machineries are located on two levels. The machanical grind stone, the fulling mill, the "Karadjeika"water-mill, the nap-raising equipment and the wood-turning lathe are supplied with water from the upper level system. The braid-making room, the Dolapkinia water-mill, the wood-turnig lathe for wine vessels,the saw-mill and the nap-raising equipment are sitaeted on the lower level.

I continued my way to the centre of the architectural reserve and I was fascinated when I found myself in front of a small lovely bridge above the river. It connects the street of the water facilities with the cobblestone craftsmen street where the church, the houses and the workshops are located. The chimneys were fuming and the clock tower at the background was measuring out the time. But anyway – it seemed to me that the time in this place had stopped. I crossed the bridge and I started walking along the crafts street. There are 16 houses on the street presenting the typical house building in Gabrovo region during the Revival period. The craftsman and his family live on the second floor and the workshop is on the ground floor. There the craftsmen are manufacturing different products and selling them directly from the workshops.

I was walking along the street, staring trough the windows and I saw workshops for sandals, a furriery, a coppersmithery, cow-bells workshop, pottery making workshop, workshop for silverware and woodcarving, for producing carts, national folk instruments, a cutlery, bakery and confectionery with a coffee shop. And all these shops were operating and the craftsmen welcomed me gently, telling me about their occupation and revealing me some of their secrets: How the steel becomes hard, how bring into proper correlation between the iron and steel to create the perfect balanced knife, what makes the handmade pottery special and many other tips. But I won’t share them with you because these nice people will do this instead of me when you come to Etar Architectural-Ethnographic Complex.



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