THE VILLAGE OF BULGARI
It is located within Tsarevo municipality, 17 km from the town of Tsarevo on the main road to Malko Tarnovo. 300 m above sea level
Coordinates: 42°05’15.30” N, 27°43’42.40” E; 293 m above sea level
It was first mentioned in a document from 1454, which comes to prove that it is one of the oldest villages in Strandja, probably founded way back during the First Bulgarian Kingdom. According to Prof. Bojidar Dimitrov, its inhabitants are direct descendants of the Proto-Bulgarian soldiers who were based here by the first khans to guard our southern border. At the end of the nineteenth century, it was the last stronghold of Bulgarian culture in the coastal area of Strandja. The traditional conservatism of the population helped to preserve its Bulgarian character in the hostile environment, where Greek was spoken.
The old name of the village is Urgari and is still used by local people.
Population: 68 inhabitants, according to data of 01.02.2011
The village of Bulgari is located on the flat edge of the mountain ridge and is surrounded by deep valleys. It offers a splendid view of the folded round ridges of the Strandja Mountain.
It is famous for the preserved fire-dancing rituals and the traditional fire-dances held on June 3 to celebrate St. Constantine and Elena (old style). It is included in UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage. The surrounding area is remarkable in terms of preserved nature and ethnographic traditions. Near the village is Silkosia reserve – the first Bulgarian reserve and also Marina Reka Protected Area (a paradise for plant lovers). Here is one of the areas where each year in May you can see the symbol of Strandja – the Pontic Rhododendron of Strandja which forms the undergrowth in the forests around the village. The area around the village of Bulgari is the largest habitat of Pontic Rhododendron of Strandja. There is a museum of fire-dancing (in the City Hall), where old documentaries about fire-dancing from the middle of the last century can be seen. The church St. St. Constantine and Elena is in the village square and is a monument of culture. It was built in the late nineteenth century. In 1903 during the Ilindenensko-Preobrajensko Uprising it was burned down along with the whole village. It was restored in 1910.
Fire-dancing is a pagan ritual handed down from antiquity and interwoven with Christianity through the legend of the two saints St. Constantine and St. Elena. The direct cultural continuity in Strandja is the reason why this Thracian ritual has been preserved almost intact until today.
"Prihvashtaneto" (becoming possessed by supernatural powers) of the dancers and dancing in a trance on live coals under the beat of the drum are unique and nonexistent elsewhere in Europe. Only the dedicated, possessed by the spirit of St. Constantine, who whisper prayers for health and forgiveness, and sometimes prophesy the future of the village and the world, can dance on the live coals. Filled with God’s power the fire-dancers unlock sacred spaces in which they enter in real communion with God.
Near the village fountain in the center of Bulgaria is Konacheto – the fire-dancers’ temple. This is a sacred place where "Prihvashtaneto" usually takes place before the fire-dancers start dancing. Here they "dress" the fire-dancers’ icons and then start the procession to the chapel of "St. Constantine ". On the day of St. Constantine and St. Elenaр in the yard of Konacheto a sacrificial animal is slaughtered to make a "fire-dancing offering". Throughout the year the sacred fire-dancers’ drum is kept in Konacheto.
In the area around the village there are several chapels –St. Constantine, St. Elena, St. Trinity, St. Bogoroditza and St. Iliya. The inhabitants of the village of Bulgari gather together at the chapel "St. Bogoroditza" on August 28 to celebrate the second most important holiday of the village after the fire-dancing.
The private ethnographic collection of Aunt Mara Shonkova attracts the tourists and helps them to become familiar with the life and lifestyle of the local people from the last two centuries. Typical tools, clothes and furniture have preserved the spirit of the village and take you back into the past. The old Strandja house, which is a humble Ethnographic Museum, is located near the village center and is easily accessible for those who are interested.