Last Saturday Toby and I enjoyed a great day out at Svishtov’s annual historical festival “Eagle on the Danube” which celebrates and recreates many facets of life during the days of the Roman Empire in the ancient military camp of Novae, which is just a few kilometers outside of Svishtov proper.
After a breakfast coffee in our favourite cafe in town we arrived for the middle of the day session and had a good look around the “camp” where the re-enacters had set up some very interesting displays, and many of the fighters were practicing for their performances. We listened to a “famous Bulgarian TV chef” (which was a surprise) and enjoyed a delicious freshly cooked meal made during the morning from a whole pig, butchered and cooked in a massive wok like container over an open fire – I have to say it was the best tasting Bulgarian food I have tasted in 4 years!
The costumes worn by the re-enacters, particularly the Roman soldiers and the the “barbarians”, were really impressive in their detail and construction, and must have been pretty uncomfortable to wear for those involved (let alone the for the “real” Romans). There were also a couple of surprises, like the local winery providing plentiful free samples of their wines (we bought a couple of bottles) and a display by a school for stonemasons, where a team of young apprentices (students) were actually carving – quite fascinating to see how one of the young masons transformed a block of stone into a copy of a antique head during the day – and there was a girl apprentice too!
The Novae historical site has been done really well, with a visitor center, good facilities and plenty of parking – and it’s free! We didn’t go to the visitor center on Saturday but will be going back again for a look I’m sure. The arena area, where the event took place, had also been very tastefully built – next to the remains of the fort that was originally there.
With Svishtov being so close to home (about 20 minutes away) we went back about 3pm to feed our critters. We returned to the event site in time to have a little relax (nearly a snooze for me) and people watch before the evening event which included some presentations of prizes and awards and then performances by all the re-enactment groups from Bulgaria, Italy and Romania, as well as an excellent amateur choir from Svishtov (which included to our complete surprise a lady who runs one of our favourite vegetable stalls in the local market, all dressed up to the nines!).
What struck us most was the relaxed atmosphere of the whole event. There was just one Police car there and two stewards looking after the parking; there was no “hard sell” from the few groups/stalls that were selling hand made items and there were just a few very simple food and drink stalls. It was good to see that tourists had come from Romania, Italy, Poland for the event and there were bus loads of Bulgarian tourists too.
And here’s some pictures taken by Toby – I think he had a blast as he was able to move around the arena completely freely during the activities, hence some of these great shots!
A good gallery can also be seen in a link on the event’s official Facebook page – click the link below:
Gallery of pictures by Jordan Penev
You can visit the official website by clicking the link below: