Written by Yoana Ivanova
Photos: Yoana Ivanova
Plovdiv got its artisan bazar back just a few months ago but it is already one of the most remarkable places in the Old Town.
Tourists from far and near, but also people of Plovdiv, are crowding in front of the picturesque houses of the masters of Strymna Street in order to knead bread with them, make their own pottery or to find out the secrets of felting and weaving. They go in the craft street in order to teleport to another era. Well, and also to take a selfie.
The path towards the beautiful is steep but it is worth it, the craftspeople who opened their shops and ateliers in the heart of the centuries-old city say. The previously neglected and deserted houses on the narrow cobblestone wynd were repaired and now they live a new life. Today’s proprietors there are master craftspeople who work and create with their hands and hearts, welcome visitors and share the space of the total of four Revival houses.
The first thing you’ll notice when you get close to the Craft Street is the tempting smell of freshly baked bread. It comes from the House of Master Baker where different kinds of bread, cakes, ciabattas, focaccias, cheese breads and whatnot will lure you.
Children can knead their own bread in the bakery and the Master will bake them. You can eat the delicious bread with coffee, compote, dried fruit, ayran or homemade lemonade. You won’t find any soda here. We should note that this is one of the few places where you can enjoy real bread by hand. Only 11 bakers make one in Europe and in Bulgaria – only the Master and his apprentices.
After you eat and freshen up – we recommend you do it in the quiet and cozy garden – you should definitely take a walk among the ateliers of the different craftspeople. They will not only be happy to welcome you but will readily tell you about their craft and will predispose you not only to watch but to also take part in their work.
And the crafts are so varied that there’s no way there isn’t something for you. At the stained glass workshop you can get a beautiful glass vessel or a scented candle decorated with leaves of linden, violet, rose or hollyhock.
Don’t miss the atelier of felting and national puppets, too, in order to get a sense of this old and magical craft. Actually they do felting in three ateliers in Strymna, maybe because of the practicality and broad application of this technique. For wet felting you need only water, soap, wool and imagination, and for dry felting – a needle, but the products can be so varied – carpets, wall panels, shoes, bags, clothes, jewelry and toys.
Go through the atelier for ceramics as well. Few people remain indifferent to how a ball of clay can take on so many different forms and applications. Ceramics existed long before us and today it continues to attract people by reminding us of the persistence and ingenuity of our ancestors.
At Strymna Street you’ll not only snack on delicious bread and get something beautiful to take home – felted scarf or a wall panel with symbolism inspired by Chiprovtsi carpets, a colorful glass, a cheerful toy or beautiful home decoration. In every one of the four houses they will take you to the magical world of hand craft work.
Maybe you’ve always dreamed of some craft but life threw you in another direction. This is what happened to one of the visitors who wanted to do ceramics all his life but became an engineer instead. Or you want to give your kid a day full of creativity and fun. People’s interest in the crafts gives hope to the craftspeople that their art which existed long before them, will continue its life.
Strymna Street will welcome you on your special occasion, too. The place is extremely suitable for a kid’s birthday party and the craftspeople want to host bachelorette parties where, according to an old Bulgarian tradition, women will be able to make their own dowry for the bride.
In this world of mass production and oversatisfaction of the consumer, people increasingly need something authentic, something unique and made not only with the hands but also with the heart. This is exactly what you’ll find at Strymna Street.