Monday, 4 April 2016

Kukeri in Karlovo, Bulgaria: dances for health, happiness and to scare the bad spirits (Старчовден)




Three weeks ago, on 13 of March 2016 (40 days before the Bulgarian Orthodox Easter for this year) I was lucky to attend and watch the dances on the so called Starchovden (Старчовден), the day of the dancing men. The event consists of different local groups of "kukeri" (кукери) performing their dance for scaring evil spirits away and the cold weather and ensuring a good harvest and good health, while also welcoming the coming spring.

Why has this event been on my to-see-list for almost 10 years? Kukeri are costumed Bulgarian men, always with masks, furry clothing and big bells attached to their belt. Some are representing animals, while others are specific figures (the mayor or simply the village people). When they move the bells make sounds, which defers depending on the size of the bell. In the town of Karlovo and the surrounding villages the word kukeri is not used, but the performers are called "starzi" (старци), old men in Bulgarian. In the last years women have also been allowed to join these groups and to perform, given the fact they have shown enough endurance to dance with the big bells.The masks were often done from wood, nowadays a lot of them are from tissue. They are decorated and covered with lots of different things, such as tiny pieces of tissues, glittery pearls and buttons, anything shiny and catching attention. Some masks have two sides (one side with sweet-nature face, while the other has vicious look), representing the bad and the good in one. The colour red is dominating in the masks and clothing, being symbol of the fruitfulness in nature and fertility of the ground for the next seasons.


As per Wikipedia the custom is generally thought to be related to the Thracian Dionysos cult in the wider area of Thracia. The idea behind was starting the new harvest year fresh and with good energy/ free of bad spirits. Similar rituals can be also found in Greece, Romania, Macedonia and parts of Turkey. Similar tradition and dances are performed even in Sardinia, Italy.

Soak into the colourful atmosphere and these old Bulgarian/ Balkan traditions and let the spring and summer arrive soon!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

From (Zuid-)Holland with love: part 2 of the fabulous flight

De Kaag Aerial view

During the colourful flower fields flight end of April with LionAir we started at Rotterdam airport in a cozy tiny Cessna plane. We flew over Zoetermeer, Leiden, de Kaag before heading to the flower bulb area (Lisse, Voorhout and Noordwijkerhout). Afterwards we did a turn and kept following the coastline (Noordwijk aan Zee and Katwijk followed by Scheveningen, Kijkduin and the Zandmotor plus of course Monster and its greenhouses). At the end a fabulous view above Rotterdam harbour and then city, before landing...However, as I started with the heart of de Kaagse Plassen I edn my blog with the Zandmotor heart too:-)
Zandmotor Kijkduin heart 2015.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Fabulous tulip flight above Bollenstreek, lost in Dutch spring colours 2015

Its difficult to (even try to) describe the magnificent flower-glory one could see this year end of April while flying over the Bollenstreek. Luckily for us, tulips and hyacinths were decorating the fields at the same time  in all possible colours. Add a clear blue sky, nice sunshine and a friendly pilot and you have a great spring experience for years to remember. Enjoy the colour flower-power!!!





Thursday, 30 April 2015

Dutch tulips (and flowers) fields 2015...




This year, as of mid April the Dutch flower fields around Haarlem,Noordwijkerhout and Sassenheim became an amazingly colourful mosaic again! Happily for us, photographers, most of the bulb flowers (daffodils, hyacinths and all sorts of tulips) decided to come out and bloom at the same time. From white to dark purple, from light lavender through yellow and orange till flashy red and romantic blue, the Bollenstreek-area and parts of Flevoland are currently magical places to visit! Have a look for yourself...A lot of my visitors have difficulties to believe that most of the flowers are simply cut as the reason why they are planted is to get the bulb, not to sell the flower themselves.Once you are in the flower field the question comes: how to take the best pictures. Some love to take the lines, otherwise go for close-up/ carpets of colours. This year I tried more exotic positions, such as going down on the ground for a full portrait of flower+blue sky and for some macro fun with my toy (35mm, f 2.8)...





Saturday, 3 January 2015

Yangon: golden beauty and colonial architecture in dust and heat

Yangon Swedagon Pagoda reflectionWelcome to Yangon...a city with over 5-million inhabitants, ex-capital of Myanmar (from 2006) and the place with most colonial buildings in the Asian region, as per Wikipedia! Yangon (known also previously as Rangon) is often referred to as an extremely busy, overly loud, full with (too) many run-down buildings and ugly electricity cable balls (next to shiny golden pagodas) at every third buildings corner! And sometimes the city is simply too hot, humid and sticky (and all this of course at the same time).