Project type: Field school & historic preservation project
Field school started: 2016
About the project: The Workshop on Vernacular Balkan Architecture welcomes students and volunteers to take part in the documentation, conservation & experimental construction of traditional Balkan residential houses dating mainly to 17th - 19th c. in the historic village of Dolen, Rhodope Mountains. The learning experience on environmental friendly techniques and practices from the past will be supplemented by the unique historic and natural ambiance of the mountainous village and visits to many more historic towns & villages and archaeological & natural sites. The field school is targeted for students and young specialists in architecture, engineering and historic preservation as well as artists, but we also welcome anyone interested in traditional masonry, travel and environmental friendly practices of living from the past.
Major field school topics & activities:
The sites: A couple of traditional late medieval/early modern (17th - 19th c.) houses in Dolen, Bulgaria.
Project venue and accommodation: Participants study, receive training, work and stay in the historic village of Dolen amidst the picturesque Rhodope mountains in Southern Bulgaria. Accommodation takes place at the local guest house The Gates. The village is located 240 km (150 mi) south from Sofia and just 86 km (50 mi) north from Kavala on the Mediterranean coast, Greece.
BHF partners in this project: Meshtra Association for Traditional Knowledge and Crafts and New Bulgarian University (Bulgaria)
Director: Lenko Grigorov - PhD candidate in Theory and history of architecture at University for Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy in Sofia. Member of Meshtra – Traditional knowledge and crafts Association. Visiting lecturer at National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts. Former expert in National Institute for Immovable Cultural Heritage/Ministry of Culture, Sofia (2011-6).
Dates: 14 - 28 July, 2018
Application deadline: 25 May, 2018
Minimum length of stay: Two weeks
Minimum age: 18
Number of field school places available: 9
Project language: English
Experience required: No
Academic credits: 6 ECTS credits by New Bulgarian University for an additional tuition fee.
Special considerations: The field school is not recommended for participants suffering from any special condition that might be exacerbated during intensive outdoor activities. Note: Citizens of the EU, EEA, USA, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand are not required a visa for entering Bulgaria and Greece. Citizens of other countries are advised to check in advance whether they will need entry visas for one or both countries. Visa expenses are not included in the field school’s admission fee!
Southeastern Europe, also known as the Balkans, has been a crossroads of human migration and a pivot point of civilizations since the dawn of time. Here, central and eastern Europe have met the Mediterranean and western Asia for many millennia, sometimes resulting in conflict, but above all bringing together a unique blending of cultures, religions, languages, folklore, traditions and crafts. Traditional architecture in Bulgaria is part of the common Balkan heritage. More preserved in the mountain areas, it’s characterized by its harmonic connection with nature, fascinating interior features and picturesque settlement configurations. Bulgarian traditional architecture stems from ancient Thracian and Roman tradition, and has evolved through the centuries within the Byzantine, medieval Bulgarian and later the Ottoman world, coming in contact with many influences in these vast and diverse empires. From the Middle Ages onward, itinerant Bulgarian builders and craftsmen have crisscrossed the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean, spreading their work throughout three continents, but also gathering and exchanging knowledge and techniques as far as Italy to the west, Armenia to the east, Vienna to the north and Egypt to the south. Closely and sustainably interacting with nature, combining functional simplicity, comfort of use and delicate and harmonious aesthetics perfected through the ages, Bulgarian traditional architecture is not only interesting to discover and study, but also very compatible with modern building practices tending toward a sustainable, ecological way of life.
Today, the Rhodope Mountains mark the border between Bulgaria and Greece, but have also acted as an interface as well as a boundary throughout the ages. Here, in Orpheus’ homeland, all the influences that have swept the Balkans over the centuries have accumulated and interwoven rather than wiping away one another, giving birth to a unique amalgamation of architectural traditions and techniques, but also of cultures and beliefs. Here, coexisting with their modern lifestyle, the sturdy mountain people still preserve knowledge and ways of life that have long been forgotten elsewhere. The village of Dolen, an architectural reserve with remarkable authenticity, is a particularly interesting illustration of the rich, multi-layered history of the Rhodopes and the Balkans in general. Within the tiny boundaries of this village, one can discover key elements and processes that have shaped the Bulgarian and Balkan traditional architecture, approach traditions and folklore still carrying the echo of ancient times and feel the magic of the Rhodope Mountains.
The Field School is comprised of:
All participants will receive:
By 7.30 pm - Arrival and check-in at The Gates Guest House, Dolen, Blagoevgrad District, Bulgaria
8.00 - 9.30 pm - Traditional Bulgarian welcome dinner
A shuttle or taxi pick-up may be arranged from the Sofia airport upon request.
8.00 am - 12.30 pm - Fieldwork at the sites
12.30 pm - 3.00 pm - Lunch and siesta
3.00 - 4.00 pm - Lectures and instructions
4.00 - 7.30 pm - Fieldwork at the sites
8.00 - 9.00 pm - Dinner
Tour of historic villages of Delchevo located in the Pirin Mountains (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Kovachevitsa – architectural preservation areas.
Guided tour through the mountains surrounding the village of Dolen.
Presentation of project results
9.00/9.30 am - Departure for the optional tour of Philippi (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Kavala, Greece. Participation to the excursion is open to everyone for an additional fee
Regular check-out by 12.00 pm.
A drop-off by taxi can be arranged to the airport in Sofia upon request
Stamov, S. Architecture of the Old Bulgarian Villages, 2006
Stamov, S. Legends of Wood and Stone, 2009
Torraca, G. Lectures on Materials Science for Architectural Conservation, 2009
Gunay, R. Tradition of the Turkish House and Safranbolu Houses, 1998
Georgiev, G. Earthen architecture in Bulgaria
Bulgarian Architectural Reserves
The Cultural Corridors of Eastern Europe – information on vernacular architecture
Balkan Vernacular Architecture
ICOMOS Principles for the recording of monuments, groups of buildings and sites (1996)
Nearest Air Terminal: Sofia (SOF) - don't forget to check the low cost flight options! Sofia (Bulgaria, 240 km/150 mi from Dolen.
How to get there? If participants arrive at either the Sofia airport or bus/train stations, a shuttle transfer to the project venue in Dolen can be arranged by request for an additional fee of 45 EUR. (Please, specify this in your application form.) Details will be included in the information sheet disseminated to all participants approximately a month before the project begins.
Visa requirements: Citizens of EU, EEA, USA, Canada, Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia and New Zealand do not need a visa to visit Bulgaria and Serbia. Citizens of all other countries may need a visa. The Balkan Heritage Foundation can send an official invitation letter that should be used at the relevant embassy to secure a visa to the program. For further details please visit our visa information page.
Accommodation: Participants will stay in comfortable single rooms (shared bathrooms, free Wi-Fi) at “The Gates”- a recently opened guesthouse providing a successful fusion between traditional architecture and modern comfort. Cheap Laundry service is available once a week. The working sites are situated within 5-10 min walking distance from the guesthouse.
Meals: Three meals per day are covered by the admission fee. Meals usually take place in the guest house, except the brown-bag lunches (when on site and during the excursions). Requests for vegetarian food are accepted. Participants will have to pay extra for additional days in the hotel, and for any meals and beverages, services or products outside the project package. The cost of BB accommodation for any extra days is 20 EUR per person.
Free time: The village of Dolen is far from the busy everyday life of Bulgarian cities. You will have the opportunity to explore this small village and get to know the mountains around it. There are several significant sites within a few hours’ walk from the village, which present a good opportunity to appreciate the natural and historical value of the place.
Extra trips and excursions: All participants will take part in the tour of the historic villages of Delchevo located in the Pirin Mountains (UNESCO world natural heritage site) and Kovachevitsa and hikes in the mountains around Dolen. The BHFS participants can take advantage of their stay in the Balkans and take part in the optional follow-up excursion to the ancient Philippi and the Aegean coastal town of Kavala, Greece on 28-29 July, 2018. Participation to the excursion is open to everyone for an additional fee.
Insurance: The admission fee does not cover insurance. It is mandatory to arrange your own health insurance before your trip to Bulgaria. All EU citizens can use Bulgarian medical services, as long as they can provide evidence of their home-country health insurance with a card/certificate, etc.
Weather: A transitional Mediterranean climate influenced by the mountains dominates in the region of Dolen and the area of the study trips. The weather in the summer is typically hot during the day (up to 30-35 C; 86 – 95 F), but cold during the night.
What to bring?
The Admission fee includes: educational and fieldwork activities, full-board accommodation (hotel + 3 meals per day), tools, issue of Certificate of Attendance, excursions/sightseeing tours/entrance fees and administrative costs.
The price in USD is for orientation. Please check current exchange rates!.
The Early bird admission fee is 1349 EUR/ approx.1580
The regular admission fee is 1499 EUR / approx.1755 USD
Admission Fee Transfer Options:
- Bank transfer
- On-line transfers via the Balkan Heritage virtual POS Terminal. VISA, MASTERCARD & MAESTRO cards are accepted.
For further information contact Admissions Office at [email protected]!
* 5% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee available for:
* 10% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee available for:
* 12% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee available for:
* 15% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee is available for:
Note, 7% of every admission fee for this project directly supports the Balkan Heritage Protection Fund's activities!
New Bulgarian University grants 6 ECTS credits to students for attending this field school. Transcripts of Records (ToR) are available upon request for an additional tuition fee starting from 282 EUR for six ECTS credits. For details please read the Regulations for obtaining Transcripts of Records.