Shiroka Luka (850 inhabitants) is a village–museum, an architectural and ethnographic reserve, well known for its original Rhodope architectural style, musical traditions and history.
It is built amphithetarically in the narrow and steep valley of the Shirokolashka river, at the foot of the Western Rhodope Mountains and Chernatitza, 1060 meters above the sea level. The village is situated 24 km northwest of Smolyan, 22 km southeast of Devin, and 11 km northwest of the winter resort of Pamporovo.
Coming into the village one suddenly finds oneself taken back to the Bulgarian Renaissance period. The numerous old houses, which have preserved the typical Rhodopian architecture, the winding narrow-pebbled streets, the arched bridges on the river, the traditions, songs and speech of the local people give you the opportunity to immerse into the atmosphere of past times and to feel the Bulgarian culture and spirit.
The settlement has existed since the 17 th century. It was founded at the time of mass conversion to Mohammedanism of the Rhodopian population during the years of Ottomane yoke.
At first the land was inhabited by the Urutzi tribe, who later moved to the Aegean region. The hamlet of Zaevite was inhabited at first, but later because of a landslide the population moved to the valley of Lukovitza River, and then to the present place of Shiroka Luka.
The name of the village comes from the wide delta of the river of the same name.
The village of Shiroka Luka, declared an architectural reserve, has preserved its appearance since the Bulgarian National Revival period. 90 sites were proclaimed monuments of culture. Many of them are houses built in the architectural style typical of that region. The oldest of them date back to the beginning of the 19 th century. They are two-storey buildings with bay windows and high stone chimneys, thick walls, small windows, forged doors, internal wooden staircase and a small cellar with a hiding place. Most prominent among these houses are: Kalaidjiiska, Grigorov, and Bogdan houses.
The most impressive building is the Sgurov Konak (Town hall), which now hosts the Ethnographic Museum. The exposition shows the way of life during the National Revival Period.
The church “Uspenie Bogorodichno” (Holly Assumption) built in 1834 is another important landmark. The church has an impressive internal and external architecture. Next to it you can see the Plamarchovata house, where the first local school was established in 1830.
One of the two secondary folk music schools is located here.
The crafts of this region play an important part in the Rhodopian way of life - both in the daily routine and in festivals. The materials used, the musical instruments, and the decorations worn by the beautiful women of the region radiate a warmth that is in harmony with the forms, colors, and sounds of the Rhodope Mountains.
Cattle breeding has been the major means of survival for people from the Rhodopes for many centuries.
Holidays and customs
Every year, during the first week of March, a folk carnival is held in Shiroka Luka, known by the name Pesponedelnik. This traditional ritual has roots in pagan times and represents a symbolic re-enactment of the creation of the world. Dancers, wearing hair-raising masks and monster-like attire, perform different dances and moves, which are believed to scare away the evil spirits of winter and to help bring health and good fortune to the people, as well as fertility to the land. The group of masked dancers called Koukeri gather from all over the country to perform their regional types of dances.
This traditional ritual takes place every year, eight days before Easter. Young maidens sing special songs to bring health and prosperity to the people while going from door to door in the village. The maidens receive small gifts from the people they visit. In the villages in the region this used to be a popular day to ask for the hand of a woman.
Only 7 km from the village of Shiroka Luka the Mineral baths of Beden known since Ancient times are situated . Not far from the village you can see the rock phenomena Glavata ("The Head”) and Momata ("the Maiden"), as well as Liatnata gora ("the Summer Forest"). 7 km to the south the picturesque village of Stoikite is situated. The village of Shiroka Luka is a part of many tourist routes in the region of the Rhodopian Mountain. It is a starting point of the routes to the peaks of Turlata, Goliam (Big) and Malak (Small) Perelik and Shirokolashki snejnik.