Arts and Crafts
During the Bulgarian Renaissance in the 19th century Bansko became a major trade and craft centre in the region. Leather-working, carpentry, water-milling, fulling, etc. prospered there. A lot of workshops were built on the banks of the Glazne River. They produced wooden barrels, furniture, wooden cups and bowls, doors and window frames and . the famous Bansko whistles and pipes. Saddling and smithery were also highly developed and later the town became famous for its machine and clock producing workshop. Master Todor Radonov made the clock for the church tower, which is still working. Another masterpiece of his is the clock in Zograph Monastery in Aton, Greece.
Woodcarvings, coulourful handmade woven and fleecy rugs are sold on the market. The masterpieces of crafts work are exhibited at the Ethnography Exhibition Bazaar in the House of Poetry and Arts in Bansko. Some of the old crafts are family tradition such as wood carvings and carpentry with over 60 workshops in the town.
There is a School of Forestry and Carpentry in the town and craftstmen of today preserve and continue the old traditions in these crafts.
Masks - an ancient rite has become a tourist attraction
The town of Pernik situated at 140 km north from Bansko and 25 km west from Sofia and has an occupation of 150 000 inhabitants. An ancient custom has been preserved in this region, the rite of KUKERI. For three days, during the second ten-day in January a fancy-dress parade in colourful costumes marches along the streets. Hidden behind frightful masques, adorned with huge copper bells ringing magic tunes, the participants jump in rhythm and perform strange dances. In front of thousands of spectators scenes of ancient and unknown times are resurrected. The impression is unique, the festival genuine.
These are rituals connected with labour activities. They are performed at the time when nature hints about its revival and when spring sowing is due to start. The aim of this custom is to chase the evil spirits away through dances and magic spells. Men only are allowed to participate in the ceremony. The sinister masques, full man height, and the loud sound of the bells in an artistic way achieve the impression of the ability of human power to destroy the evil. This mood pervades both performers and spectators and they together perform in a triumph and joy.
Experts on folklore and ethnography are unanimous in their conclusion that the kukeri is one of the most ancient customs on Bulgarian lands. It dates eve further back than the festivities celebrating god Dyonisius, the god of wine and mirth.