Gela is an ancient village seattled by the Thracians over 3300 years ago in heart of the Rhodope Mountains. Gela is famous as the birth Place of the mythological Orpheus and for its rural and traditional way of living. The nearby mountain peak has the unique flower of Orpheus which can only be seen there. But maybe most of all, Gela is famous for its annual festival of bagpipes.
Where To Find This Rural Village?
Gela is a village that is located in the Mountains of Rhodope, Close to Perelik, which is the highest peak around the region of Smolyan, but also Close to the peak of Orpheus and Turlata. Pamporovo is a big ski resort about 18 km away, and 30 km away from the Town of Smolyan. This village is very small and rural and have about 98 inhabitants.
History of the Village
The village of Gela was founded more then 3300 years ago and was the settlements of the Thracian tribe Besi and has been inhabited ever since. There is an ancient fortress left from the Thracian Gradishte, 5 km away from the village. The mountain peak Turlata also has a fortress, and the remains from it can be seen even nowadays. Gela played an important role during the Roman Empire as an important cultural, Commercial and defensive center. Around the village there are many roads that were used during the ancient time as they connected the Aegean cities ´with the upper Thracian Plain. During the Ottoman rule they did not force the inhabitants of Gela to convert to Islam which resulted that the two Orthodox Churches and the four Chapels remained intact, and the old way of living and tradition did not change. This makes the village very preserved and even today the inhabitants cultivate the land manually and keep domestic animals graze freely on the meadows around the village.
The Birthplace of Mythological Orpheus
Gela is famous for the legendary Orpheus, it is said that the Orpheus, the Thracian singer and son of the ancient god Apollo, was born in this village. Orpheus is famous around many places in Rhodope, and one of the legend takes place in the cave of the Devil´s Throat, as he went down to the under world and the world of the dead to get his dead wife back (follow the link to read all about the cave and the legend of how Orpheus got down to the underworld; The Devil´s Throat).
The Festival of Bagpipes
The first weekend of August, Gela arrange the annual National Bagpipe Festival. The first festival took place in 2002 and soon became very popular. The regions around Rhodope are famous for their bagpipes and have many songs that include this instrument. The festival opens big on Friday evening with 100 bagpipes players coming down from the hill. The festival includes competitions between the bagpipe players in the categories Junior and Senior, and there are workshops on how to learn to play bagpipe. There is a market where you can buy folklore clothes, traditionally home baked bread as well as other food and you can treat yourself with cheverme (Bulgarian Summer Food). People come from all over Bulgaria to take part of this festival, listen to folk music and dance folk dances. Lately many international bagpipe players from all over the world are coming to join in and play their music on bagpipes. The whole weekend is full of energy and happiness, and many people from the cities are escaping their everyday life to enjoy traditions and the nature.
Sources for this article: