[ republished from a 2015 travel account | images © Abigail Doan ]
As the professed birth place of Orpheus, the landscape and open skies of Gela, Bulgaria, are resonant with the primordial overtones and notes of the Rhodope Mountains’ deep agrarian song and mythological roots.
I had traveled to this region a season before to document rural landmarks and the vernacular architecture that sits perched on lush mountainsides and along ancient shepherds’ footpaths. The backroads are windy, but well worth the journey that is close to three hours southeast of the capital city of Sofia.
During the summer of 2015, I returned to Gela in order to travel by day to attend the Rozhen National Folk Festival. This gathering demonstrates every four years that folks, young and old, will still travel great distances to perform traditional village songs and regional dances in heritage dress.
They do so for the simple act of coming together in the open air where spirits co-mingle with mountain breezes, ancient tales, and the scent of Bulgarian food cooking on an open grill or over a shared campfire.
This sort of gathering offers unexpected freedoms (even with the crowds) and does not have a measurable price by other standards.
The past, present, and future all overlap in a manner that speaks to those cultural and environmental threads that extend well beyond modern borders.
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