We first read about Dorkovo - a cute little village in the Western Rhodope Mountains, in an article in National Geographic about the paleontological site and the Pliocene museum there. Then we checked with Google and found about the annual International festival for authentic folklore, held in the village during the first days of August. So a plan was formed to visit the village on August the 2nd.
The two hours drive, first along the Trakia highway and then along the winding and a bit scary but very picturesque road, cutting through the Western Rhodope, finally brought us to the village in the height of the festival. I had my fears that all the noise, crowds and loud markets, filled with made in China articles, which usually accompany such festivals, might spoil the experience, but I was wrong. All of the above was present, but accompanied with so much smiles, laughter and good moods that it seemed that nobody could help it but enjoy themselves :)
Even grumpy teenage Alex, who does his best to skip and avoid family outings (because it's so uncool to hang out with your parents (wink) :))) got into the mood of the festival:
During the two festival days folklore ensembles from various places in Bulgaria and several other European countries perform on the stage for 15 to 30 minutes each, building up a 12 hour non-stop program - the variety makes the festival very entertaining.
Only a mile from the village is the Pliocene museum, which features the fossils from mastodons dating to the Early Pliocene, discovered near the village.
The reconstruction of the star of the museum was based on the biggest fossils found in the paleontological site, which are evidently the biggest for this species found so far.
After a very delicious lunch in the village (chicken steaks grilled right in front of us to our own individual preference :)) we went to the second landmark of the area - Tsepina Fortress. The ruins of the medieval fortress, built on a peak some 6 km from the village, are still being excavated. The fortress had a major importance for the defense of the borders from Byzantine and later Ottoman attacks and was destroyed by the Ottoman army after Bulgaria fell under Ottoman rule in the late 14th century.
The panorama view from the fortress to the green pastures and round peaks of the Rhodope Mountains is spectacular and combined with the chime of the cow bells, which was audible as high up the hill, made the experience somewhat surreal. I so love the Rhodopes!