Lonely Planet Writer

In Pictures: the Surva International Festival of Masquerade Games 2017

Incredible pictures have been released from this year’s Surva International Festival of Masquerade Games in Pernik, Bulgaria that highlight the vibrant energy and sense of community spirit of the traditional event.

The Surva International Festival of Masquerade Games
Performing Mummers arrive at the start of the second day of the annual Surva International Festival of the Masquerade Games. Image by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
The Surva International Festival of Masquerade Games
A Performer lines up in a colourful mask for the parade. Image by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
The Surva International Festival of Masquerade
A Kukeri group enter the town square to be judged on the second day of the festival. Image by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The two-day event was held last weekend, and is the oldest festival of its kind in Bulgaria, dating back to the winter of 1966. It is also the largest in scale throughout the Balkan Islands, and is included in UNESCO’s list of protected non-material cultural heritages. The festival promotes variations of ancient Bulgarian customs that are still alive today, as well as celebrating folklore tradition and performances. The event saw approximately 6000 people from different regions of the country taking part. Crowds gathered to watch a parade of Kukeri, people dressed in colourful masks and folk outfits designed to scare off evil spirits. It also included Survakari dancers, as well as light shows and bonfires.

The Surva International Festival of Masquerade
Performers bang their bells together as they make their way to the town square. Image by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
The Surva International Festival of Masquerade
Costumed performers gather around a bonfire in the town. Image by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
The Surva International Festival of Masquerade
A performer looks on in costume during the festival. Image by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

In June 2009, Pernik was proclaimed as the European capital of Mummers, and each year The International Festival of the Masquerade attracts visitors from countries all over the world who gather watch or take part in the energetic street performances. People often touch the masks for good luck and to promote health and rejuvenation for the New Year.

The Surva International Festival of Masquerade
Performers entertain the crowds in the town square on the first day of the annual Surva International Festival of the Masquerade Games. Image by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
The Surva International Festival of Masquerade
A young boy has his costume prepared ahead of the parade. Image by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
The Surva International Festival of Masquerade
Performers wearing Survakari costumes perform around a fire during the opening ceremony of the festival. Image by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The festival included a range of food and drink options, as well as unique ornaments and souvenirs available for visitors to pick up as mementos. An array of diverse parade outfits were on display, including multi-coloured masks with floral crowns, animal horned head dresses and bulky, fur covered suits.

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