Ancient Footpaths and Rural Tones

Abigail Doan | Studio
2 min readAug 4, 2019


The environs of Gela, Bulgaria on a summer’s eve | photo: 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.

The wildflowers and hand-crafted treasures of Gela, Bulgaria | photo: Abigail Doan

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.

Rozhen Folklore Festival 2015 featuring a ‘каракачаните’ nomadic hut | photo: Abigail Doan
‘каракачаните’ dancers and musicians preparing to perform at the Rozhen Festival | photo: Abigail Doan

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.

Rhodope Mountain villagers prepare to perform at the Rozhen Folklore Festival | photo: Abigail Doan

The past, present, and future all overlap in a manner that speaks to those cultural and environmental threads that extend well beyond modern borders.

For more postings/writings on craft, heritage, and travel, visit these links:

Kraftmaking the Future

Ancient Futures

(Re)Fashioning Fiber with the Women of Iran



Abigail Doan | Studio

projects exploring the intersections of site-specific landscape phenomena, art lab/design methodologies, nature-based solutions, and cloth/textiles as metaphor