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Pernik

 
     Pernik is situated in a picturesque hollow in the western part of Bulgaria. The total area of the hollow field is about 157 sq km and its altitude is between 700 and 850 m above the sea level. It is surrounded by the mountains of Golo Bardo, to the south, Vitosha, to the east and Lyulin, to the north-east. The town is situated along the upper reaches of Struma River. Its source is south from the highest peak in Vitosha Mountain - Cherni Vrah, and it is one of the longest rivers in the country. Pernik is only 20 km away from the capital Sofia. It has 94 480 inhabitants and is located at 710 m above the sea level. It is the largest town in Southwestern Bulgaria after Sofia, a regional centre and the largest coal output centre in Bulgaria.
     Pernik is known as a fortress, which was defended by the boyar Krakra (from 11th century). It was the only one left unconquered by the Byzantine emperor Basil the Second, called later Bulgarian-killer (Boulgarokhtonos). 
     Tourist sights in the town are the History Museum, Art Gallery, the recovered Krakra Fortress and many monuments. Studena Dam is also near Pernik. The History Museum possesses well-formed collections of prehistoric pottery, marble votive reliefs of Thracian equestrians, culture of the mediaeval town, and ethnographic materials of the traditional Bulgarian culture. The principal exhibit fund has 17,085 exhibits items and 37,833 subsidiary fund items.

     Pernik is an important centre with convenient road and rail connections to Sofia, Blagoevgrad, Kulata and Kyustendil. The E 79 highway traverses the region, as well as one of the oldest trade-routes of the Balkans - Sofia-Skopje. The route Sofia-Thessaloniki is the shortest route connecting the Danube with the Aegean Sea.

 
     History

     Pernik became part of Danubian Bulgaria in the 9th century and soon after that it was turned into a strategic fortress, which guarded the town from the Byzantine invasions towards Sredets (Sofia) and Northwestern Bulgaria. The fortress was completely destroyed by an earthquake in the 11th century. Because of the numerous raids and damages during the Ottoman yoke, its population was scattered and numbered barely 1000 when Bulgaria was liberated. In 1891 Pernik coal output center was declared a state property (first in Bulgaria). In 1929 Pernik was declared a town.

 


     Traditions

     For ages in the last weekend of January the lands of Pernik region have resounded with the ringing of bells, with songs, chanting and blessings for good health, longevity, rich harvest, and good luck. The participants prepare themselves the whole year through for this holiday, known as Surva, and the entire village celebrates the holiday. It is extremely interesting for the participants to find out what preparations their friends of the adjacent village have made, in order to display better and more interesting faces (masks) than theirs - those are the so called Bulgarian "kukeri" (mummers).

 

 


     Since 1966, the City Council has started to organize and to carry out periodically regional and national festivals of the Surva games in which thousands of children, adolescents and adults participate. Pernik Festival was internationally acknowledged by the Foundation of European Carnival Cities – FECC, seated in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Since January 1st 1995 Pernik is the 43rd member of this respected international organization and has the opportunity to be present in the wide network of festival cities around the world. It is a unique festival that represents the entire variety of masquerade games in Bulgaria. It preserves, enriches and exhibits the most vital and stable traditions of the masquerade rites, which the Bulgarian people have kept from ancient times until present day. The festival is a sort of review of the winter and pre-spring masking customs. The masked participants are called survakari, babugeri, dzhamilari, etc. They are dressed in hides with the fur remaining on the outside, or in traditional women's costumes. All participants wear heavy strings of bells, cowbells, and rattles on their waists, and on their heads they wear grotesque masks made of feathers, wings, whole birds, animal heads, etc.