At a distance of only ten kilometers outside the suburbs of Sofia or nearly 30 km southwest of the capital city center is located the small town of Pernik. This seemingly ordinary and gray industrial town with a population of 79,736 people is actually home to one of the most exciting events during the winter season in this part of Europe. Surva Festival, which is the largest of its kind on the Balkan Peninsula, is an ancient Bulgarian folklore tradition involving young men, bachelors.
The ritual includes traditional folklore dances in the streets of Pernik. The participants wear creepy masks to scare away the evil and to attract health and fertility. Disguised in this way, the participants, better known as mummers, visit random houses in the town.
Though the mummer’s tradition is very old, the festival is officially held for the first time in 1966, and in 1985 received the status of an international festival.
Today the participants come from different countries in Europe, Africa and Asia. The festival of mummers is traditionally held during the last weekend of January, but over the years it has started at different dates ranging from January 15 to February 4.
Besides the town itself, this tradition is very popular also in the surrounding villages, and the costumes of the participants are just spectacular.
According to the National Geographic Magazine, Pernik and its Mummer Festival “Surva” are among the 15 most exciting winter routes in the world for 2014. Furthermore, there is a real chance for the festival to be added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
Pernik has a temperate climate with hot summers and cold winters. Summers last from June to September, and the average temperature is quite high, reaching over 28°C in the shade in August.
Although sometimes harsh, winters are not very long here. Usually in the middle of the winter season, at the time when the festival is held, the weather in Pernik is quite cold.
In some years there is a thick snow cover but other years are dry and rather mild. However, the temperatures are usually between (-5) and 3°C.
Among the landmarks of Pernik are the Palace of Culture (opened on February 10, 1957), the Museum of Mining (Pernik is a popular mining town in Bulgaria), the church of St. Ivan Rilski (patron of the town), the monastery of St. Panteleimon (located 2 km from the town) and the early ninth century medieval fortress Krakra.
The vicinity of Pernik is very beautiful. The city is surrounded by not very high mountains, which are covered with dense deciduous and coniferous forests.
Amidst the lush vegetation you can find some calm and pleasant hiking and walking trails that can take you to clear mountain streams and quiet ponds. Apart from the mountains, much of the area of Pernik is occupied also by fertile and picturesque farmlands.