Visiting Zlatograd: Spin the wheel of time
The aroma of coffee
The southernmost city in Bulgaria offers you the opportunity to spend memorable moments back in time. There’s an entire borough in Zlatograd with dozens of monuments restored to their original Bulgarian Renaissance appearance. The first and for the time being the only private ethnographic area complex in Bulgaria is the largest architectural reserve in the Rhodope Mountains.
The ethnographic exhibition is situated in "Aleksandrovi kushti" (Aleksandrovi houses), a specific late 19th century architectural ensemble. You can truly feel the touch of history here: traditional wedding costumes, ancient artifacts, rooms with authentic Rhodope interior, preserved upright loom, “Rhodope chan”(cowbell) collection, etc. Be sure to ask a curator to give you a detailed presentation. You'll learn a lot about Bulgarian daily life in the National Revival and some curious details about the costumes. Custom-made elements of the festive costumes are often incorporated in modern female formal dresses.
Afterwards, you could continue with a visit to the tailor’s workshop where you could enjoy handmade and hand-decorated national costumes from all over the country. This is the only place in Bulgaria where woolen braids are handcrafted, while exquisite embroidery is still created on a 130-year-old treadle sewing machine. Collections of old-fashioned irons, "Singer" sewing machines, vintage “arshin” measurement tools (the equivalent of yardsticks) and nostalgic old photos decorate the shop.
In the braider’s workshop you can see two still functional knit braiding machines of the early 19th century. At the goldsmith workshop, you can choose or order a custom-made piece of jewelry, but do not miss out on the Master jeweler’s personal collection of minerals and crystals from the mines of Zlatograd. The Master Carver, apart from his other works, is famous for his decorative wooden eggs with astonishing adornments.
Make sure to take a “chan” (cowbell) as a souvenir of the saddler’s workshop and have some fun watching the master work : he makes reins, headstalls, bridles, packsaddles and saddles, while sitting on his own "horse".... At the cutler’s – check out the unique souvenir blades - wooden handle knives with goat horn blades, fearsome scimitars, traditional “karakulak” knives , sabers, swords, etc. Give yourself a try at the pottery workshop - make your own clay pot and receive a special certificate.
The vintage water facilities still perform exceptionally well – the so called “velyavitsa”, “tepavitsa” and “karadzheika”(resp.: pre-industrial textile processing and laundry facilities), little watermill at Vuntsovata Mill are the most attractive assets of the complex.
To fully immerse yourself in the authentic renaissance atmosphere, don’t bypass the "Old Town" café at the beginning of the bazaar. It’s the only place where "rotated coffee on sand" is served. The delicious coffee with a thick froth is prepared "in jezve” (a coffee pot) and “on sand”, but the ratio of coffee to rye in the old Zlatograd recipe is a closely guarded secret. The brew’s kept on the sand at a “foaming” stage for as long as possible without letting it come to a boil. Then it’s carefully poured in cups without handles. The master-coffee maker puts 4 cups on a tray and skillfully turns it several times over her head. While the tray turns in the air, the cups remain still and not a drop of coffee is spilled.
Dismayed and intrigued, sipping on their unique coffee, visitors inevitably try to outdo each other in expressing all sorts of suppositions about the role of the rotating tray . For the most part they’re convinced that the ritual makes the coffee grounds settle faster & better to the bottom of the cups. The coffee is irresistible – rich, thick, strong, pleasantly bitter and far from all modern urban coffee shop specials.
Check out the amazing “Old town” collection of vintage coffee grinders, brewing pots and coffee roasting equipment.
Spin the wheel of time…To Zlatograd.