November 24, 2012

0394 BULGARIA - Women in the Rhodopes in traditional clothes

The Rhodope Mountains, located in southern Bulgaria (the most part) and in Greece, is the oldest landmass on the Balkan peninsula and have abundant water reserves, with a dense network of mountain springs and rivers. They were inhabited from the Prehistoric age, but the first known people that lived there were the Thracians, the area being one of the cradles of European civilisation. During the Middle Ages, the Rhodopes were part of the Bulgarian and Byzantine Empires, often changing hands between the two countries, and at the end of the 14th century they were conquered by Ottoman Empire, which had possessed them for five centuries. As a result, the Rhodopes has been a place of ethnic and religious diversity for hundreds of years. Apart from the Eastern Orthodox Bulgarians and Greeks, the mountains are also home to a number of Muslim communities, including the Muslim Bulgarians (Pomaks) and a large concentration of Bulgarian Turks.

The bridge that can be seen in the postcard's background is Dyavolski Most (Devil's Bridge), an arch bridge over the Arda River situated in a narrow gorge, on the ancient road which connecting the lowlands of Thrace with the north Aegean Sea coast, at 10 km from the town of Ardino. Built between 1515 and 1518, it is the largest and best known of its kind in the Rhodopes, having 56 m long and three arches, but also holes with small semicircular arches to read water level.

According to the official figures, 68.2% of the inhabitants of the Ardino municipality are Turks, 16.9% are Bulgarians and 14.9% are others, the overwhelming majority of the people being Muslims, as the women from the picture. They wear an one-apron costume, typical of Bulgarian Muslim women in the Rhodope Mountains till the first quarter of the 20th century, since it was practical and met the requirements of their daily work activities. At the same time, there was a certain desire to make the costume richer, so the outer open garment (anteriya, zaboun, or kaftan) was introduced as part of this dress.

The chief items of the costume include a soukman dress, a chemise, an apron, and a waist-band. Fine embroidery decorates large portions of the sleeves of the chemise. The soukman dress is made from a single piece of woven and felted woollen cloth in black or dark blue (in winter), decorated round the neck, hem and sleeve edges. Strips of the soukman fabric are attached to the sleeve openings forming the so-called "tails", reduced decorative elements of former sleeves having lost their utilitarian function. The ornamentation of this costume is concentrated on the skirts, along the neck and the sleeves' borders. The waist-band is a long piece wound several times round the waist. Characteristic of the women in the Rhodopes region is also their preference for light yellow and orange, as well as grass green shades skillfully combined in the texture of the apron.

About the stamp

The stamp was issued on 1 March 2010, with the occasion of 200th birth anniversary of Frédéric Chopin, a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist, considered one of the greatest Romantic composers. Who hasn't listen at least some of the Chopin's Preludes and Nocturnes? At least as soundtracks.

This is a post for Sunday Stamps #98, run by Viridian from Viridian’s Postcard Blog. The theme of this week is Commemorations. Click on the button to visit Viridian’s blog and all the other participants.

Dyavolski Most - Wikipedia
Municipality Ardino - Guide Bulgaria
Traditional Bulgarian Costumes - OMDA
Bulgarian women's costume - The Eliznik Romania pages
Bulgarian women's closed tunic - Soukman - The Eliznik Romania pages
200th birth anniversary of Frédéric Chopin - Stamps of Bulgaria 

sender: Desislava Eneva (direct swap)
sent from Sofia (Bulgaria), on 05.07.2012
photo: Boyko Kalev, design: Vlado Prangov


  1. I always get engrossed in your posts; so much so that I almost forget the detail of the stamp.

  2. What a stunning bridge. The material in the aprons reminds me of some Scottish tartans, interesting how different cultures take on similar ideas. Nice Chopin stamps.

  3. I like the way the designs of the two stamps fit together.

  4. I know that a lot of countries commemorated Chopin's 200th birth anniversary, but this is the first time i see the Bulgarian issue, and must say i love it!

  5. I love the Bulgarian costumes, and thank you for the links! time just flies for me, looking at these wonderful costumes. And then I love Chopin.
    Thank you for joining in this week!

  6. I was just about to say that the traditional costumes look very like Scottish tartans, but I see Joy has already mentioned that. It's interesting though and I wonder if there's any link.

    I love the Chopin stamps, not least because our holiday home in France is in an area closely linked with Chopin and George Sand.