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Shiroka Laka

Shiroka Laka is a village in the very south of Bulgaria, located in Smolyan municipality, Smolyan Province. It is a proclaimed architectural and folklore reserve and lies in the central Rhodope Mountains, 23 northwest of Smolyan, 16 km from Pamporovo and 22 southeast of Devin.

The dominant and traditional religion in the village is Eastern Orthodox Christianity and the population is 573 (as of September 2005). Shiroka Laka lies at 1,206 m above sea level. The mayor is Aleksandar Kavroshilov. The village exists at this place since the 17th century and was founded by Bulgarians fleeing from the forcible Islamization conducted by the Ottoman authorities of the time in the Rhodopes.

Shiroka Laka is famous for its authentic Rhodopean houses set in tiers on both banks of the local river. The old houses were designed in the characteristic architectural style of the Rhodopes by the noted local building masters, and feature two storeys, oriels, built-in cupboards and a small cellar with a hiding place. The thick white walls hide the yard from the outisders' eyes. The yard is small and slab-covered and has a typical stone drinking fountain in the middle. Some of the most famous houses are those of the Zgurov, Uchikov and Grigorov families. The local Church of the Holy Mother of God was constructed in 1834 for 38 days according to the legend. It boasts an authentic iconostasis, possibly painted by apprentices of the brothers Dimitar and Zahari Zograf from Samokov, or even by the brothers themselves. The old school, built in 1835, is located near the church. There is one more church in the village, the Church of St Nicholas.

Shiroka Laka is known not only for its old Bulgarian architecture, but also for its singing tradition and the kaba gaida, a local type of bagpipe. Some of the most prominent singers of Rhodopean music stem from the village, and many of the local families are well familiar with the style. A secondary school for folklore songs and instruments was founded in 1972. On the first Sunday of March, the village also hosts one of the best known kukeri (specific Bulgarian type of carnival) celebrations in the country, Pesponedelnik as it is called. On that day, people dressed as folklore monsters, carrying wooden swords and painted red, dance around the village to drive the evil spirits out of the homes and the peoples' souls. Their costumes are decorated with bulbs of garlic, beans and peppers and they wear a belt with characteristic Rhodope bells attached to it.


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