With their unique language form, their Central European customs and their Catholic faith, the Banat Bulgarians might be the most outstanding and curious Bulgarian ethnographic group of all. Having lived in the Austrian and later Hungarian lands beyond the Danube (nowadays in Romania and Serbia) for centuries, some of them returned in 1887 and founded the village of Bardarski Geran in northwestern Bulgaria.
The Banat Bulgarians brought back their remarkable rural architecture and their distinctive folk costumes with them… as well as some of their ethnic German neighbours. Together, the two communities turned Bardarski Geran into a fascinating representation of their former homeland in the Austro-Hungarian Banat – and a true Banat Bulgarian cultural capital!
From the village’s quaint appearance to the unmistakable food and drink and the wild carnival celebrations, kashkaval tourist gives you 5 reasons to visit Bardarski Geran!
1. Keeping the faith: marvel at the two impressive Roman Catholic churches
You’d be hard-pressed to find a Bulgarian village with two Orthodox churches, what’s left for two cathedral-sized Roman Catholic churches! Because the Banat Bulgarians and the ethnic German Banat Swabian colonists didn’t quite feel like mixing and formed two separate communities, they also built two separate church buildings in Bardarski Geran.
The Church of Saint Joseph, the spiritual home of the Banat Bulgarian parish, truly impresses with its size and its sparse but monumental interior decoration. And the Gothic spire of the German Church of the Virgin Mary, unfortunately abandoned after the Swabians left in the 1940s, is quite the sight for a village in the remote Bulgarian Northwest. Peek through the church’s arched gate and spot the mural portraits of the Slavic apostles Cyril and Methodius with their names written in German!
2. Hungarian-style sausages and wine: taste the unique local food and drink
Sure, classic Bulgarian cuisine is a treat in itself. But if you venture to Bardarski Geran, you’ll encounter dishes that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else in Bulgaria. The old recipes from the Banat region show a strong Hungarian influence, and you can get a rare taste of homemade pork paprikash or kalbasa (kolbász) sausages in Bardarski Geran. In fact, after a kalbasa recipe from another Banat Bulgarian village won a nationwide Lidl recipe contest in 2017, the kalbasa sausages have become something of a hit, and will even be offered in Bulgarian Lidl stores.
And what goes with some award-winning Banat sausages better than local red wine from the Danube Plain? As it happens, the Bardarski Geran museum has its own vineyards and red wine they bottle happens to be the perfect pairing to the village’s unique meat specialties!
3. Banat countryside chic: see the architecture of a Central European village
Upon entering Bardarski Geran, you’ll notice that many of the houses don’t look anything like a typical Balkan home. With their elongated design, gable roofs and Baroque-inspired facades, these Banat houses are a standing reminder of the locals’ cultural ties to Central Europe.
Regrettably, many of these curious homes have been abandoned and are in a state of disrepair. But walking on the straight streets of Bardarski Geran, surrounded by such remarkable rural architecture, it’s hard not to imagine what the thriving village looked like in the 1930s.
4. Home sweet home: dive back into Banat Bulgarian history at the museum house
If the distinctive design of the Banat houses has caught your eye, then you must wonder what life in such a home used to be like. Well, thanks to the lovingly maintained museum house in Bardarski Geran, you can step into a quintessential Banat home of old times! Explore the individual rooms, marvel at the incredibly elaborate folk costumes in the wardrobe and check out the age-old Catholic prayer book written in the Banat Bulgarian dialect.
One of the rooms has been refurbished as a tiny museum of Banat Bulgarian history, with authentic items donated by the residents and even exhibits their ancestors brought from the Banat in the 19th century.
5. Costume craziness: experience the Banat Bulgarian carnival Faršángji
What is a good time to visit Bardarski Geran then, you might ask? It’s either the annual Ball at the end of August, when Banat Bulgarians all wearing their folk clothing gather for a big dance… or the Faršángji carnival in February, when the village square turns into a stage for a fascinating celebration. On Faršángji, villagers and guests don their craziest carnival costumes, with men and women often cross-dressing. After the morning parade and typically a concert in the cultural centre, the event quickly turns into a merry village festival.
Locals prepare authentic regional food that they either sell or share with guests, and of course, there’s homemade rakia and wine to be had. And if someone dressed as the Mad Hatter ends up giving you a fascinating impromptu tour of the village, all the better!