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Shiroka Laka

     Shiroka Laka (population 850 inhabitants) is a village-museum, an architectural and ethnographic reserve, well known for its original Rhodope architectural style, musical traditions and history. It is built amphitheatrically in the narrow and steep valley of Shirokolashka River, at the foot of Western Rhodope Mountain and Chernatitsa, 1060 m above the sea level. The village is situated 24 km northwest of Smolyan, 22 km southeast of Devin, and 11 km northwest of the winter resort Pamporovo. The natural conditions, uncertainty prevailing in the centuries of the Ottoman rule, the national identity of the people and their economic prosperity were reflected in the architectural style of the houses that belong to the type of a "large Rhodope house". They are two-storied, with bay windows and high stone chimneys, thick walls, small windows, forged doors, internal wooden staircase and a small cellar with a hiding place. Rooms have cupboards hidden in the walls, closets, etc. Yards are small, stone paved, with an outdoor drinking-fountain. All this is built with exquisite taste in harmony with the environment. Most prominent among these houses are Kalaidzhiyska, Uchikovs', Grigorovs’, Bogdanov’ houses, Zgurov Inn, etc.

     The arched bridges above Shirokolashka River and some of its tributaries add romanticism to the village. The songs of the village are unique, melodious and very lyrical. They are sung to the accompaniment of kaba-bagpipe, flute and rebeck. The legendary Captain Petko Voivoda (the Commander) has visited the village many times. One of the two secondary music schools in Bulgaria is located here. Tourists would find especially fascinating the kukerski (mummers) festival "Pesponedelnik" which takes place every first Sunday of March.



     Coming into this fairy-like village one suddenly finds oneself taken back to the Bulgarian Renaissance period. The numerous old houses, which have preserved the typical Rhodopean architecture, the winding narrow-pebbled streets, the arched bridges at the river, the traditions, songs and speech of the local people give one the opportunity to submerge into the atmosphere of times long gone and to feel the Bulgarian culture and spirit.


     The settlement has exited since the 17th century. It is settled at the time of mass conversion to Mohammedanism of the Rhodopean population during the years of Ottoman Yoke. At first the land was inhabited by the tribe Urutzi, who later moved to the Aegean region. The hamlet of Zaevite was firstly inhabited, but later because of a landslide the population moved to the Valley of Lukovitza River, and then to the present place of Shiroka Laka. The name of the village comes from the wide delta of the river of the same name.


     The village of Shiroka Laka, declared an architectural reserve, has preserved its appearance of the Bulgarian National Revival. 90 sites have been proclaimed monuments of culture. Many of them are houses with a typical for that region architectural style. The oldest of them date back to the beginning of the 19th century. They are two-storied with bay windows and high stone chimneys, thick walls, small windows, forged doors, internal wooden staircase and a small cellar with a hiding place. Most prominent among these houses are: Kalaidzhiyska, Grigorov, and Bogdan.



     The most impressive building is Sgurov Konak (Town hall), which now hosts the Ethnographic Museum. The exposition shows the way of life during the National Revival Period. Very interesting is the church Uspenie Bogorodichno (Holly Assumption) built in 1834. The church has an impressive internal and external architecture. Next to it stands Plamarchovata House, where in 1830 the first local school was established.


     Only 7 km from the village of Shiroka Laka are situated the Mineral baths of Beden, known since the Ancient times. Not far from the village are the rock phenomena Glavata (the Head) and Momata (the Maiden), as well as Lyatnata Gora (Summer Forest). 7 km to the south is located the picturesque village of Stoykite. The village of Shiroka Laka is a part of many tourist routes in the region of Rhodope Mountain. It is a starting point of the routes to the peaks of Turlata, Golyam (Big) and Malak (Small) Perelik, Shirokolashki Snezhnik and others.


     Holidays and Customs

    Every year, during the first week of March, a folk carnival is held in Shiroka Laka, known by the name Pesponedelnik. This traditional ritual has roots in pagan times and represents a symbolic re-enactment of the creation of the world. Dancers, wearing hair-raising masks and monster-like attire, perform different dances and moves, which are believed to scare away the evil spirits of winter and to help bring health and good fortune to the people, as well as fertility to the land. The group of masked dancers, called Koukeri (mummers) gather from over the country to perform their regional types of dances.

     St. Lazarus Day

     This traditional ritual takes place eight days before Easter every year. Young maidens sing special songs to bring health and prosperity to the people while going door to door in the village. The maiden receive small gifts from those they visit. This used to be a popular day to ask for the hand of a woman in marriage for the young men of the villages in the region.