In 2017 Hristo Botev Regional Library - Vratsa implemented a large-scale project in the area of safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage named "Time Travel Map - Digital archive of Vratsa region - 20th century - history, culture, lifestyle and traditions, sights" It is an authentic "picture" (through text, sound, photography) of the life of each of the towns and villages in Vratsa region.
Valuable records, documents and photographs come out of the oblivion in order to be safeguarded and shown - presented in the best generally accessible way, so that they can disclose to the contemporary human the "life" of one of the most colourful and interesting, however at the same time one of the poorest and the most depopulated as of today, regions of Bulgaria. The magic of the word, the song, the tradition is now felt in a new way. The beauty and the healing power of nature acquire new dimensions. The simple and deeply touching human messages in personal stories and narratives based on pictures sound and look differently. A panorama of a world which believes in the life of the community.
Subject of the study was the authentic folklore, valuable documents and photographs from the collections of the community cultural centres in the towns and villages, personal and family collections, collections of local historian, church library collections.
The study embraced 123 towns and villages from the municipalities of: Borovan, Byala Slatina, Vratsa, Kozloduy, Krivodol, Mezdra, Miziya, Oryahovo, Roman, and Hayredin.
The photographs gathered exceed 20,000, from personal archives and photo albums, over 200 hours of field records with invaluable local history information gathered from over 1000 informants at various age from all the populated places. Amongst them - bearers of traditional folklore and crafts (singers, folk and wind instruments players, narrators, folk healers, craftsmen, etc.), people of special statute within the local community - called in many places "the living memory of the village".
It turned out that in many of the villages the people do not remember of any ethnographic or historical study organised by the institutions in the near or in the remote past, and the interest towards us turned out to be considerable and unexpected.
During the year we launched also the web site of the project "Time Travel Map - digital archive of Vratsa region 20th century" - kartanavremeto-vratsa.org. The main goal of this website is to systematise and to present to a large range of users the information and the resources gathered under the project. They are presented in four formats: photographs (there is text with each photograph), audio, text and video.
✔Creating a Digital archive of Vratsa region - 20th century - history, culture, lifestyle and traditions, sights The creation of a Digital archive of Vratsa region - 20th century - history, culture, lifestyle and traditions, sights, provides an authentic "picture" of the life of each of the towns and villages (text, sound, photography) in Vratsa region. Valuable records, documents and photographs come out of the oblivion in order to be safeguarded and shown - presented in the best generally accessible way, so that they can disclose to the contemporary human the "life" of one of the most colourful and interesting, however at the same time one of the poorest and the most depopulated as of today, regions of Bulgaria. The magic of the word, the song, the tradition is now felt in a new way. The beauty and the healing power of nature acquire new dimensions. The simple and deeply touching human messages in personal stories and narratives based on pictures sound and look differently. A panorama of a world which believes in the life of the community. The creation of a digital archive of Vratsa region shall contribute exclusively to the safeguarding and the improvement of the cultural heritage. The discovered, stored and digitalised information support the safeguarding of the authentic character of the intangible cultural heritage of the 123 towns and villages. In Vratsa section, for instance, one can discover selected information on the district town - its history and sights, presented in an easily accessible way, in language that is clear even for non-specialists. The discovered, described and preserved data outline the notion of a rich cultural heritage in the town and the whole region subject of the study. The text says: "In the various historical epochs the town has developed as a significant social, market and cultural centre. The traces of human activity in these places date back as early as the Neolithic Age. Later on, the Thracian tribe tribali developed high material culture, remains of which are still discovered on the territory of Vratsa region. The unique findings discovered during archaeological excavations at the Mogilanska hill in Vratsa, in Bukyovtsi (Miziya) and in Rogozen bring interesting information on a flourishing ancient civilisation. Romans, who have appraised the geographic and the strategic location of the lands around the Iskar river gorge, turned them into inaccessible fortress, that controlled the shortest way from the Danube river southwards and westwards, and towards the rich ore deposits high in the Vratsa mountain. The Middle Age settlement Vratsata, built by the Slavs on the ruins of the fortress, grew into a stronghold of great importance also during the Second Bulgarian state. During the Middle Ages it expanded its borders and turned into a big centre with developed crafts and commodity-and-monetary relationships. Numerous monuments of spiritual and material culture remained in heritage from that time. During the yoke in the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century the settlement was an object of assaults both by the Vidin feudal lord Osman Pazvantoglu, and the sultan's troops, being devastated several times. The town is a crafts, commercial and cultural centre. For centuries the famous goldsmiths from Vratsa worked here, and together with the representatives of other crafts in the town - silk producers and merchants, blacksmiths, coppersmiths - they have assisted in the preservation and development of the popular material and spiritual culture. It is enough to mention the achievements of Vratsa school of literature, the Gospels of Banitsa, Vratsa and Cherepish - a true masterpiece of the Middle Age calligraphic and goldsmith art, goldsmith's and coppersmith's stamping workshops in the Monastery of Bistrets St. Ivan Rilski (Pusti) - Kasinets (later on, goldsmith's trade developed in the town itself under its influence). Many times Vratsa was defined by researchers and artists as one of the biggest centres of cultural and economic life during the Bulgarian Revival. In this turbulent epoch the town gave to Bulgaria many bright personalities, that left lasting traces in politics, diplomacy, national liberation movements, in culture and education. Crafts and trade flourished during this period, and in the first year after the Liberation thy turned Vratsa into a modern European town, and left to the descendants original art models in the area of goldsmith's, pottery, cart-wright's trade, weaving. As early as the 18th century Vratsa merchants have established permanent relations with the European markets. Grapes, wine, silk production are among the achievements of the old Vratsa people, and their descendants will always take a pride in them. The activity of the first public figures from Vratsa after the Liberation was an "unachievable paragon of devoted public and society-useful activity". The result of their "colossal and dedicated labour" was the implemented town planning and development of Vratsa, a water-main that was modern at that time, and dozens of public building: the monument of Hristo Botev, Male and Female High Schools, the barracks and the Military Club, the community cultural centre, quarter and economic schools, economic enterprises of the town. "All this was accomplished in the period from 1890 to 1900, with tremendous labour, brains and most of all - with a thought and care for the future." At the beginning of the 20th century Vratsa tourist society "turns the eye" of Vratsa people and visitors towards the natural and cultural sights, which the town is famed with also nowadays - the Vratsata gorge, Ledenika cave, the monasteries located around the town. As early as the beginning of the past century, among the symbols of Vratsa, which appear also permanently on its identification badge (apart from the above mentioned sights) are the two Middle Age towers, erected in the 16-17th centuries by the local town notables (these are the Tower of Kurtpashovs family, and the Tower of the Meshchiis family are the oldest preserved buildings in the town even today), Botev's places, the first monument of the Leader (Hristo Botev), located on the central town square. Gradually, as symbols of the town, one after the other are added also the monument at Okolchitsa peak, the Thracian treasure - after the discovery of the Rogozen treasure, of the treasure at the Mogilanska hill in Vratsa. At the beginning of the 21st century - the plate from Gradeshnitsa, and in the recent years - the archeological discoveries from the village of Ohoden - one of the earliest Neolithic settlements in Europe, and the so called "Todorka" and "Hristo" - one of the oldest skeletons belonging to the culture of the first land cultivators in Europe, which are exposed at Vratsa Regional Historical Museum. Subject to natural and human disasters throughout the whole 20th century (fire - 1923, American bombing - 1944, floods - 1942 and 1966), the town succeeded to preserve a great part of its treasures, which became part of prestigious state and private collections in Bulgaria and abroad, exhibited to the public - peculiar accents of unique national collections in European and world museums and galleries. The most attractive treasures and also artefacts discovered on the territory of the region, to the pride of Vratsa people, can be seen at the Regional Historical Museum with the Art Gallery and the Ethnographic-Revival Complex St. Sofronii Vrachanski". The slogan "A town as the Balkan - ancient and young" reflects the glorious past of Vratsa as an old Bulgarian stronghold and its new new present.". The current example shows how young people's access to the manifestations of cultural heritage on spot is urged forward, with the assistance of modern technologies and social media. Large-scale promotion of little known artefacts, documenting of historical testimonials, and digitalisation of cultural practices that are under threat of disappearing, is accomplished.
Through the project implementation human stories turn into a visible and accessible, distinguishable for the territory, recognized by the public distinctive and sustainable rich value. Digitalisation and on-line access to the cultural content further the presenting and passing on to the generations of the value character of the memory for the cultural traditions. The Time Travel Map project focuses also on the living and creative communication with the resources of intangible testimonies of knowledge, skills, experience and traditions, interwoven in:
✔people's customs and beliefs – for example: Consecrated ground and vow on St. George's Day in the village of Varbeshnitsa - One of the most esteemed saints by the Bulgarians is St. George. His day is celebrated with a rich complex of ancient rituals and customs, of original practices, preserve over the centuries. Early in the morning, at sunrise, the lassies gather at the saint's consecrated ground in Varbeshnitsa - every lassie names and ties her St. George's bunch of flowers with a red thread on the century-old vow tree. This lays the beginning of a common village feast; German and a pray for rain - An old pagan rite to obtain rain by prayer, that is practised even today in many villages. Granny Tseka from Gorni Vadin makes a doll from mud with all the male attributes, which is to be ritually buried near the Danube river. She used to participate in this ritual when she was a child and already at that time she learnt from her mother how to make German from mud; Mumbling incantations against fear - The folk lady-healer and herb-gatherer, Granny Rada from the village of Zverino chases fear with magical ritual acts and infusion of wall-fern and other healing herbs. Many people who were scared of something come to her; many mothers bring their ill children to her place. She has inherited this knowledge as a girl, when she was "immaculate", from her grandmother.
✔folk medicine – for example: Balm for burns - A family from the village of Kravoder prepares an extremely efficient balm for skin burns following an old family recipe, with main ingredients: danewort bast /fibre/, pure bee wax and pine-tree resin. While showing us the stages of preparation, the spouses tell us interesting stories when the balm helped and cured dozens of people; Herb treatment - Gathering, drying and making of different tinctures, infusions and other healing solutions.
✔rituals – ancient practices how human being and wild animals can live together without human showing any aggression towards them - for instance - taking out a snake and mumbling incantations for snake bite is practised even nowadays in many places around the region.
✔personal archives and songs – the song is a part of everyday life and the holidays of the local people. They sing and knead, they sing and gather hay, they sing and harvest, they sing on the square while they play horo (traditional Bulgarian folk dance). They have a song for every labour activity and for every event in the family. Luckily, e succeeded to gather hundreds of magnificent songs, passed on from generations to generations.
✔works of applied arts and folk crafts - for example: Festive kasache - Outer garment without sleeves with rich ornaments – part of festive winter female costume dating back in the second half of the 19th century. It adorns the ethnographic collection in the community cultural centre in the village of Malorad. It is of extremely fine make and impressive ornaments; Woodcarving – one of the crafts of old times is preserved in the area of Byala Slatina; Stone plastic of the monastery gate - Only the stone guardians of the Monastery of Dolna Beshovitsa placed on the gate arch and the old church St. Archangel Michael are preserved from the rich monastery complex that was functioning until the mid 20th century in the beautiful locality near the village of Dolna Beshovitsa. Part of the church plate and valuable icons, work of the distinguished Revival icon-painter Zahariy Zograf, is stored in the historical museum in the town of Vratsa.
✔architectural styles – the Hut – one of the interesting architectural sights of Vratsa. It was built in 1926 with voluntary labour by Vratsa tourists. Over the years, it had many functions until nowadays. Today, it is turned into a park and it is among the favourite places of the people in Vratsa; Mother of God sign – mural painting from the Middle Age church St. Nikola, in the village of Tsarevets - The church is a one-nave, one-apse building, constructed with broken stone and white plaster in the end of the 14th century, strengthened and further built in 1747. The legend says that when the Turks have demolished Orthodox temples /churches/, this one was spared, however, the mural paintings were desecrated - the infidels have pricked out the saints' eyes with swords. Later on, God loving peasants filled them with wax. Today, it is restored and declared monument of culture.