19.09.2014

Author: Лена Кирилова

In the quietness of the old houses

The home of the local people of Dobrogea

The popular construction of residential buildings developed on the basis of the traditions brought by the Slavs and the Bulgars and the legacy of the architectural culture found on the Balkans. The ancient Greek chronicler Strabo described one of the oldest forms of traditional housing in Dobrogea – the earth house / dugout / used by the former inhabitants of the plane – the Thracians. The suitable natural and geographic conditions and the easy way to build determine the long period of existence and the wide spread of this early, primitive type of housing. The loess soil favors the digging of 1.50 - 2 m deep pits, which form the inner space of the earth house. The pit-house is usually binary. Through the wooden door, located in the south, one enters into the first room with the fireplace /odzhak/ called "kushta" (house) where the food is cooked and the people spend most of the day. In the next room – "soba" (room) where they sleep, there is a brick stove for heating. Later, a third room was added to the living space.
 
уземна къща
From the ancient earth houses, with the change of the socioeconomic conditions, the single and binary ground houses arise. Over the next centuries, gradually a number of new design elements and architectural details were added, the building materials and construction techniques were changed, and the outer and inner artistic decorative appearance was changed. The settlers who came to the plane from different parts of Bulgaria built their homes following the traditions of their homeland, transforming in a unique way the inherited building skills, but also taking into consideration the local natural, social and everyday life features to create a specific in its shape, space planning and functional composition Dobroudzha house that gives the unique architectural style of the villages throughout the region.
 
Widespread is the traditional two-room house built of adobe /sun-dried bricks/, stone, wood, with floors of tamped clay or boards with typical four-eaves roof consisting of a room with a fireplace - "kushta" and a bedroom - "soba". The life of the family was centered around the room "kushta", which was the main place to meet the domestic needs. The "soba", whose primary function was only for sleeping, mostly for the younger residents, gradually increased in size and was used for chores and meeting guests. Usually along the front facade there was a covered space – porch, known by different names in different ethnographic groups - sundurma, kyoshk, chardak, etc. 
 
къща с. Крушари        къща с. Безмер       къща с. Красен
 house in the village of Krushari                     house in the village of Bezmer                    house in the village of Krasen
 
The three-room and multi-room houses of the wealthier landlords are notable for their rich architectural and compositional elements in which the main organizational and compositional center is again the room with the fireplace. The projected porch, erected above the ground, gives lightness, elegance and beauty to the house. Stone or wooden stairs, standing out against the symmetry of the façade, lead from the ground floor to the spacious sobi. Wooden ottomans beside the walls await guests. The traditional home is built in a large yard in which there are farm buildings, cattle-sheds, pens, barns, all related to the means of livelihood of the people. High stone, adobe or wooden fences with large gates encircle the home.

The Dobrogea house is characterized by a relatively poor architectural details, but with rich, polychrome decorations with specific mineral paints – ocher, red, blue, yellow, black. Usually externally the house is whitewashed, while the beams, railings, doors and windows are painted in different combinations of colors or pure tones, giving the house special warmth and comfort, which is also a wonderful expression of the original folk art. Against these colorful, vibrant and effective decorations, cleverly combined with the functionality of each one of the rooms, individual items of household goods stand out, meeting the daily needs of the owners.

The traditional Dobrogea house is always clean-kept, well-ordered, it distinguishes by its simplicity and feasibility of the interior, as the various architectural elements and furnishings that form the interior create its specific artistic and decorative look. The basic chores are performed in the room "kushti" in which the symbolic center is the fireplace with the various objects for kindling fire and cooking arranged around it.
 
Essential element of the interior of the house is the corner where the water is stored – "vodnik"/with the copper utensils/ - the place for hanging the carrying pole and the copper water containers. On the white, whitewashed walls notably stand out the dark wooden shelves with the colourful pottery bowls, brightly-coloured pitchers and casseroles, copper cups and large baking tins, spoon stands for storing the wooden spoons and forks. The soft glow of the fire-pot adds coziness to the room. And on the straw-mat covering the floor, around the low round dining table and small, three-legged stools, the whole family gathers.
 
 
In the closet are arranged the chest for storing flour, the bread-trough and the wooden mould for baking the bread, the wooden shovels used in baking the bread, the jars with treacle and boiled fruit juice with pieces of pumpkin, the pots with lard, the pottery containers for vinegar. In the basement are stored the utensils for the preparation of the winter supplies, the barrels of wine and brandy, the animal skins for storing cheese; the wooden clubs for churning butter, the gourds with salt, pitchforks, harrows and small agricultural equipment associated with the agricultural life of Dobroudzhans. Here is the place of the loom, the spinning wheel, the distaffs and other equipment needed for the home crafts.

Representative function has the soba, where the guests are welcomed. A characteristic feature is the tall brick stove - "kyumbe", in front of which in the cold winter months, on a mat on the floor, the whole family sleeps. Babies sleep in a specially prepared swing, made from a folded piece of rug and ropes hanging from the ceiling beam. On a wooden ottoman next to the stove are arranged the mattresses, the rugs, blankets and pillows. The richly decorated "Brashov" chests by the wall keep the trousseau of the bride and memories from her girlhood. The entire north wall is normally filled with built-in cupboards, where the various tissues are folded. The guests sit on clay or wooden benches by the stove.

The decorative fabrics intended for everyday household needs, home decoration or traditional holidays are distinguished by exceptional diversity of their kinds, gorgeous colors and rich ornaments.The different rugs, carpets, pillows, towels and bags are made with a lot of skill, creative imagination and aesthetic taste, they bring freshness and beauty in the home, and show the mastery and exquisite artistic nature of the woman from Dobrogea.

The oldest known rugs are the so-called "pounded" rugs in the natural colour of the wool - white, black, greyish, which after being weaved are pounded at a fulling mill. Later diverse techniques of weaving are observed - weaving over threads, warp-and-weft, "raised plank"; the colourful style is enriched by adding alternating narrow and wide stripes in different colors; the well-known colourful Dobrogea rugs provide comfort and festivity in every home. The rugs and carpets from Kotel stand out with their bright colours, variety of geometric ornaments that fill the entire field or alternate with horizontal colourful stripes.
 
             
 
The creative imagination and high aesthetic criterion of the Dobrogean woman find their wide expression in the making of the cushions - an essential element of the furnishings and the decoration of the home. In fresh red, yellow, blue, orange and green tones are the so called "vadeni" cushions. They are characterized by a rich color and a wide variety of compositional decisions and patterns, vegetable, geometric, animal ornaments – highly stylized suns, stars, crosses and realistically crafted tulips, roses, peacocks, roosters, horses, deer, etc., along the entire field in the middle or in alternating stripes. The bride gives beautiful cushions as presents to her father- and mother-in-law and to her maid of honour to show honour and respect, and as a proof of her weaving skills and craftsmanship. The old technique of decorating using the plank of the loom was known as far as the ancient Slavs. Beautiful are also the "tassel" cushions where against the plain field the colourful rows of tassels stand out like motley rosary.
  
Different in their purpose, size and decorations are the towels. Along with their purely utilitarian / practical / function they also serve for decorating the house - they serve as part of the interior /layout/, they could be a gift to friends and relatives at the calendar and family holidays and they are also an integral and essential part of the trousseau of the bride. With a lot of love and dilligence are made the up to three meters long "engagement" towels that have a specific decoration, symbol of love and fertility – wide openwork band with two birds and a red rose woven within. Anthropomorphic female figures, beautiful zoomorphic elements, vases with flowers, rhythmically alternating motley stripes along the entire length or richly decorated edges with various patterns are just some of the unique ornaments of the Dobroudzhan towels.
                                                                  
An obligatory element of the interior of the house is the wall rug. Made in large sizes covering the entire wall, with various animal and plant patterns set in horizontal stripes, staggered rows or entire carpet compositions, these decorative fabrics are wonderful works of the folk art.
 
          
 
The patterns in the decorative fabrics reveal traces of ancient beliefs and ideas. Ancient astral patterns are the circle, the diamond and the stars. The mythological idea of the cosmic tree, the so called "tree of life" is reflected in its often stylized image in a specific way. Various animal and plant ornaments associated with the reverence to nature and the expression of the harmony in which man lives with the world around him have their beginning in ancient times. According to folk beliefs the different colours possess magical powers. The local folk artist believes that the combination of different ornaments in certain colours makes the embroidery or the decoration of the fabric a kind of sign which can protect one from evil or to provide health and welfare, and through the art passed on from mother to daughter the messages of the ancient ancestors could still be found. Multicoloured for the Dobrogean woman means beautiful. Colourful are the rugs, with which she covers her home, the pillows with which she decorates the house, the wall rugs that she hangs on the walls, the clothes that she wears. Red colour protects against the evil eye and bad luck, it chases away the evil and gives the people power and energy. White colour gives people youth, purity and long life. Green colour fascinates with the breath of eternal life and continuous revival, the serenity of the blue colour approaches man to the heavens and the divine. The golden yellow colour is associated with the sun, the fire and the light, it brings the glamor of eternity and wealth, brown colour is reminiscent of the smell of black earth and the bounty of the earth.

Gathered the centuries-old experience of the Bulgarian woman from the interaction with nature, and turned into thousands of symbols, born from the experience and the strive to understand the surrounding world and to reveal its secrets, the local folk art brings its unique, artistic magic and ancient desire of every person to be healthy, happy and prosperous.

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