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  • Writer's pictureStefan Ivanov

Architectural-ethnographic complex and open-air museum ETAR

Updated: Aug 30, 2023

Dear friends of "Photo Moments", I greet you most solemnly with a welcome to the most beautiful architectural and ethnographic complex (AEK) and open-air museum - Etar!


Architectural-ethnographic complex and open-air museum Etar

It is cool and very pleasant here - in the bosom of the Balkans! He is old and wise. He hid many treasures from the vault of mother Bulgaria, and this is another jewel that I present to you with great pleasure now.


The mosaic panel that greets me at the entrance to this unique architectural-ethnographic complex and open-air museum in Bulgaria is composed of river pebbles arranged over a 54 square meter vertical area and it looks like this.


The mosaic panel at the entrance to Etar - an open-air ethnographic museum

It is built from more than 120,000 multi-colored blocks - there are only five shades of gray and four shades of green.

Two women are stylized on the panel - one holding a blessed loaf, the other a home.

Above it all, the golden rays of the sun illuminate the world.


The panel is the work of the artists Angel Angelov, who is known by the stage name Count Angelotti, and Ivan Donkov, son of the museum's creator, Lazar Donkov.


Here I am on the old cobblestones - I walk and an old cheerful folk tune presses in my chest, probably awakened by all the beauty around me.


Architectural-ethnographic complex and open-air museum Etar

And as it says on the official website of AEK Etar - be prepared, because you will find yourself in a world very different from the modern one - the world of the renaissance Bulgarians!


The clock tower in Etar - an open-air ethnographic museum

In front of me stands a beautiful clock tower - a copy of the Dryanovska clock tower, built in 1778.


Krastnik-Kolchovia Inn in Etar - open-air ethnographic museum

The imposing white building opposite me across the river is the Krastnik-Kolchovia inn – of the several operating inns in Gabrovo in the 19th century, the liveliest was the Krastnik-Kolchovia, named after its owner Kolcho Krastnikov.

In the winter of 1869, even Vasil Levski stayed at the inn.


The double-arched stone bridge in Etar - an open-air ethnographic museum

Two stone bridges have been built in the museum - one-arched and double-arched, as characteristic varieties of the bridges that existed in the 19th century in Gabrovo. They are examples of craftsmanship of stonemasons and builders.

I soon cross the first and stop to look at the proud stone inscription.


Plaque with the motto of G. S. Rakovski in Etar - an open-air ethnographic museum

In the middle of the parapet of the double vault is a plaque with the motto of G. S. Rakovski from the first Bulgarian methodology for collecting folklore artifacts:


Do not leave your father's fireplace, do not despise old customs!


The idea for the creation of the "Eter" museum belongs to Mr. Lazar Donkov from Gabrovo.

Architectural-ethnographic complex and open-air museum "Eter" was built way back in 1963.


The double-arched stone bridge in Etar - an open-air ethnographic museum

Here in this place - along the river Sivek, there were a tepavitsa*, a valyavitsa and a Karadzeika mill. The process of building a new architectural complex begins with the restoration of the existing facilities here.


*The tepavitsa, or batan, sometimes synonymously with the rolling pin, is a traditional craft facility for the final processing of finished textiles.

Its working part is a wooden trough formed by large beams hollowed out from the inside - filled with water, where the material, most often made of wool or cotton (belts, shayaks, rovings, cords, goats), is placed for quilting. Large wooden hammers, each of which weighs over 200 kg, beat in the trough. The equipment in the tepavitsa is driven with the help of an overhead water wheel - a cabinet, with wooden cages - buckets that are filled with water.

Tepaviks on the Bulgarian lands arose with the rise of textile production. From the middle of the 19th century, the processing of pigtails after the first and second dyeing began in the tepaviks.

The beating of finished wool and cotton products is the last, finishing stage of textile production. It aims to compact and strengthen the manufactured finished products by quilting.


Etar – an open-air ethnographic museum

The "Pop Georgi" fountain dates from 1870 and is preserved in the yard of Ilia pop Stefanov, from where it was brought here. The relief decoration consists of rosettes, a dove and an inscription:


Pope George 1870


Etar – an open-air ethnographic museum

In the meantime, a water mill and a knife workshop** were delivered from neighboring villages.


**Cutlery is a craft for making different types of knives, daggers, scimitars, razors, sabers, scissors.

The development of the craft in the Bulgarian lands is related to the abajiism, terziism, fur-dressing and animal husbandry in the period XVIII-XIX centuries.

The main centers are Asenovgrad, Gabrovo, Gotse Delchev, Karlovo, Kostenets, Madan, Plovdiv, Sliven, etc.

The manufactured goods were sold in the markets of the entire Ottoman Empire.

After the Liberation, swordsmanship continued its existence, although after the Crimean War it began to decline.


The museum officially opened its doors the following year.


New sites are gradually being created, which are architectural examples of buildings, craft workshops and facilities, revealing the revival techniques, livelihood, life and spiritual culture of the population living in the central parts of Stara Planina from the end of the XVIII to the beginning of the XX century. This population, called the Balkans, is one of the seven ethnographic groups in Bulgaria.


Etar houses Bulgaria's only collection of still working folk water techniques.


Etar – an open-air ethnographic museum

It contains ten exhibits and is one of the richest and best organized technical collections among European open-air museums.


Thanks to a drainage system that existed in the past, later corrected and shaped, the water drives mechanisms that wash, sharpen knives, grind wheat, beat woolen cloth, cut wooden vessels or weave woolen threads.


This is the reason why the water wheel became a symbol of Etar.

The most important feature of the gathering is that all objects are in action, as it was in the past.


Etar – an open-air ethnographic museum

The architectural ensemble "Craft Bazaar" presents a main city street with buildings from the 19th century, in which there are active craft workshops, shops, a cafe and homes of craftsmen and merchants. The ensemble of houses includes a recreation of original architectural examples that existed in Gabrovo and its surroundings.


"Craftsman Bazaar" presents 16 examples of Balkan architecture, revealing the original talent of the Renaissance builders.


"Holy Epiphany" Church with a school in Etar - an open-air ethnographic museum

The "Holy Epiphany" church with a school is a prototype of the church built in 1868 in the village of Radovtsi, Dryanovo municipality.


It is different from the classical type of cross-domed churches. The architecture of the building impresses with the appearance of a Balkan house, later adapted for a temple of God with the construction of an external apse for an altar, combined with a school on the second floor.


"Holy Epiphany" Church with a school in "Eter" - an open-air ethnographic museum

The construction from 1998 to 2004 was carried out with the funds of the museum, donations of the ether masters, citizens and the Metropolitanate of Veliko Tarnovo. The exhibits are original, and some of them (four icons, banners, candlesticks) are from the church in the village of Radovtsi.


"Holy Epiphany" Church with a school in "Eter" - an open-air ethnographic museum

The iconostasis with the Holy Doors is the work of Trevna craftsmen from the end of the 19th century.


On June 24, 2006, the "Holy Epiphany" church was consecrated by His Eminence Grigory, Metropolitan of Veliko Tarnovo.


On the second floor of the building is presented a reconstruction of a school from the end of the 19th century.


Architectural-ethnographic complex and open-air museum Etar is site number 19 of the 100 national tourist sites.


How do you get to Etar?

Архитектурно-етнографски комплекс и музей на открито "Етър" е разположен в квартал "Етъра" в град Габрово.



How do you get to the town of Gabrovo?

Gabrovo is a city in central Bulgaria, the administrative and economic center of the Gabrovo municipality and Gabrovo district.

It is located along the Yantra River in the northern foothills of the Shipchen region of Stara planina.

In the immediate vicinity of it, in the area of Uzana, is the geographical center of Bulgaria.


The people of Gabrovo are known for their love of humor, for their annual humorous carnival of humor and satire, for their engineering, for their numerous monuments and bridges, and for their long streets.


Gabrovo is the longest town in Bulgaria with its 25 kilometers from the "Yabalka" quarter to the "Smirnenski" dam.


Gabrovo stands at:

  • 202 kilometers (about 2 hours and 37 minutes by car) from the capital

  • 148 kilometers (about 2 hours and 34 minutes by car) from the city of Plovdiv

  • 263 kilometers (about 3 hours and 16 minutes by car) from the city of Varna

  • 229 kilometers (about 2 hours and 57 minutes by car) from the city of Burgas



What can be visited nearby?

Just 16 kilometers from the town of Gabrovo (about 26 minutes by car) you will find the charming jewel of Bozhentsi, which you must visit.


The village of Bozhentsite
The village of Bozhentsite

Only 21 kilometers from Gabrovo (about 22 minutes by car) you will find the town of Dryanovo.

In Dryanovo, visit an authentic bridge built by master Kolyu Ficheto.


A stone bridge built by the master Kolyu Ficheto
A stone bridge built by the master Kolyu Ficheto

Just 22 kilometers east of Gabrovo (about 34 minutes by car) is the beautiful Tryavna, which I recommend you must visit.


Beautiful Tryavna
Beautiful Tryavna

About 23 kilometers south of the town of Gabrovo (about 34 minutes by car) is the Freedom Monument known as the Shipka Monument.


Freedom Monument (Shipka Monument)
Freedom Monument (Shipka Monument)

About 48 kilometers south of the town of Gabrovo (about 58 minutes by car) is the town of Kazanlak.


In Kazanlak, you can visit the rose museum.


Rose Museum in Kazanlak
Rose Museum in Kazanlak

After viewing the museum's rich exposition, I suggest you take a relaxing walk through the wonderful alleys of Rosarium Park in the city of Kazanlak.


Park "Rosarium" in Kazanlak
Park "Rosarium" in Kazanlak

In the city of Kazanlak, I suggest you also visit the church "Saint Ilia", also known as the Kulen church.


The Kulenska Church in Kazanlak
The Kulenska Church in Kazanlak

Only 5 kilometers south of the town of Kazanlak (about 8 minutes by car) is the village of Buzovgrad, from where the wonderful eco-trail adventure "Path through the Ages" begins.

You shouldn't miss it for anything in the world!


Ecopath "Path through the ages: natural landmark Megalith
Ecopath "Path through the ages: natural landmark Megalith

And as a finale, my dear friends,

you shouldn't miss a look

the special album with photo moments –

discovered, experienced, captured and shared with you!



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