Sveta Petka for the outsider is a place for people watching just as Galapagos is for turtle watching. One does not have to be a nosy, gossipy character in order to be unwittingly sucked into eavesdropping and peeking activities. And to the credit of the locals, they surely present a picture of envy for their locally paced life and original milieu. At first glance, not that there are many allowed by the feeling of decency, the women are the guardians of authenticity with the men mostly existing alongside. The youngsters especially, are the pointers to the directions of preference – sticking to the local taste on the side of the girls or allowing outside influences to bud in by the young bucks. Just like in places such as India, Guatemala or Namibia, to name a few, the females are the pylons of local creativity and unswerving respect to the local culture and tradition. It seems as if the deal is that only in this set up the females (homely and demure) can attract the males (worldly and entrepreneurial), to get married and continue the cycle. No need for Britney Spears or Lady Gaga to show the light into the bright future. The cocacolaization of the planet is checked but not exactly stopped. Maybe it is just another round of the boxing match (no match) between the globalization and the true multiculturalism.
Visiting mosques or other places of worship which are not part of the visitor’s religious tradition are pregnant with feelings of intrusion or trespassing. In this case my humble persona was even more embarrassed to enter a mosque since I was brought up in a country of closed-for-ever mosques. Moreover, the “other” religion was a taboo despite the fact that my own (by tradition) was no less of a taboo either. Well, misery needs company, I suppose. With misgivings and prejudice but lots of interest and curiosity I stepped over the door step of the local shrine. Does not sound as a big deal but it was ground-breaking. It was the first mosque I have ever visited in Bulgaria. To my genuine amazement, the “holy” people present there were nice and accommodating. They were willing to talk on trivial and religious themes without a trace of proselytizing. Even photos were allowed – far cry from members-only club atmosphere that was expected. As for the religious details as far as the interior design is concerned, there were the definite Arabic classics with the mihrab, and the carpets but texts were economical and on several occasions translated into Bulgarian. Religion is a flexible matter.
Sveta Petka might be off-the-beaten-track locale but surely it delivers on the originality scale. As pomak village, (pomaks are the people of Bulgarian ethnos but Muslims by faith), it opens doors into Bulgarian reality that are usually closed to visitors. The main stream of tourist visits has the seaside or the major cities as primary focus. Others who would like to see beyond the restaurant manifestation of folklore are lured into the Bulgarian version of a “skansen” – slightly better in the sense that the villages are “real” as opposed to transported from different corners of the country. At the same time the result is pretty much the same since they show a way of life that has been dead for quite a while. In this process, foreigners obtain a bit one sided picture of what Bulgaria is as country. The village of Sveta Petka, unlike its deserted counterparts lets you peek into the life of Bulgarian religious minority that due to self and outside isolation has maintained a separate and fruitful way of life with deep roots into the past and solid base for the future.