Bulgaria is a country of many traditions and customs preserved through time. With more than 1300 years of history, the country has been involved in many wars with its Balkan neighbours who left their cultural imprints in the time.
Still the Bulgarians managed to save their traditions and folklore untouched. Visitors and tourists in Bulgaria will be able to take home a slice of this distinctive history by purchasing traditional souvenirs and gifts.
Traditional costumes exist in many varieties and forms depending on the different Bulgarian regions. The main parts of the women’s costumes are long cotton shirt dress (soukman), apron with traditional embroideries, belt, kerchief and the so-called “tsarvuli” – woollen or leather traditional shoes/slippers. The male costumes include white or black traditional trousers, shirt, embroidered vest, wide woollen belt and black or white sheepskin hat (kalpak). The shoes (tsarvuli) are hand made from calf leather and are typical for all Bulgarian regions. Other popular traditional textile products are handmade woollen carpets and rugs. The most popular ones are produced in Chiprovtsi, a small town in North Western Bulgaria. Another major centre of the carpet industry is the southern part of Rodopi Mountain. Very popular carpet patterns are abstract geometric shapes as well as flowers and birds shapes.
“Martenitsa” is traditional decoration from red and white thread which is related to the Bulgarian custom “Baba Marta” (Grandma March). It symbolises the end of the winter and the beginning of the spring. Bulgarians give each other and wear “Martenitsa” during the month of March. The belief is that “Martenitsa” brings good luck. It comes in different varieties, but the typical one is in the form of male from white thread with the name of “Pizjo” and female from red thread with the name of “Penda”. On the last day of March most of the people hang their “Martenitsa” on blossoming fruit trees.
Bulgaria is known as the country of the rose and is the biggest producer in the world of rose oil, which is used in the perfume industry. The Rose Valley is the major rose growing region and is located in southern Bulgaria with town Kazanlak being centre of the rose oil industry. The most popular rose souvenirs are vials of rose oil essence typically around 2ml. They are sold in packs of ten or individually hidden in a wooden traditional doll or carved wooden bottle.
Woodcarving and decorative ceramic pottery are the other areas where the Bulgarian customs are very well preserved. Well-liked souvenirs for tourists and visitors are wood carved boxes, wooden dolls in traditional costumes, wine or water bottles (baklitsa) and decorative wine cask (bure). The most popular pottery souvenirs are plates and bowls from the town Troyan which are brown coloured with beautiful white, black and blue droplet patterns.
The traditional musical instruments of Bulgaria are great choice for tourist gift or memorabilia. They have been used through the centuries and the 500 years Turkish rule to preserve the Bulgarian spirit alive. Typical folk music instruments include goat or sheep bagpipe (caba gaida), flute (kaval), traditional two- headed drum (tapan), rebec (gadulka) as well as bells, clappers and whistles.
The roots of Bulgarians are going back in the time to Slavic’s, Thracians and even the mighty Genghis Khan. Whether you are purchasing for close friend, relative or yourself the traditional Bulgarian souvenirs are great piece of the preserved history of this European country.