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Name: Partnership agreement
Signing a contract: 21.06.2001
Population: Populaton: 87 000

Pernik, in western Bulgaria, is a town, about 30 km southwest of Sofia, upon the Struma River. It lies between the Lyulin, Vitosha and Golo Bardo Mountains. Originally, evidence of first settlers in the area has been traced back to the Neolithic period (6th millennium BC).
Merchants followed trade routes through the valley of Pernik, defensive strongholds were built for a safe pass. Traces of the Macedonians, Celts, Romans and Goths have been found in the area. Slavs started to build first temples in the vicinity. The name Pernik originates from that of a Slavic god of thunder and lightning – Perun.

Pernik expanded around a fortress built atop Krakra hill in the 4th century BC. Today, the fortress has been partially restored. Artefacts discovered on-site are displayed in the Regional History Museum. These include coins from the times of Ivan Vladislav, inscribed Thracian tombstones, and other architectural elements.

Until the second half of the 19th century, Pernik was mainly a trade and craft town. Coal mining began in 1881. Mines are still in operation till present day, and Bulgaria's first mine (located in Pernik) is the only Underground Mining Museum country-wide. City’s industrial development went hand-in-hand with the makeover of the city’s landscape. New eclectic and neoclassical buildings cropped up with time. These included the theatre, back office buildings and city centre town houses. Built at the beginning of the 20th century, Church of John of Rila (Eastern Orthodox church) draws particular attention. One should not only see medieval Krakra Fortress (Pernik’s main landmark) or the aforementioned Church of John of Rila, but also remains of the 4th century Shrine of Asclepius. When strolling through Pernik, remember to stop by the statue of a feudal lord – Krakra of Pernik. He heroically resisted Byzantine sieges on multiple occasions in the 11th century.

Tourists find contemporary Pernik attractive. A picturesque location and a rich history of the town are Pernik’s assets. Tourism industry makes good use of them. Healing mineral waters and a swim spa with therapy pools are there for you in a nearby village of Rudartsi. Sofia (country’s capital) is close enough and can be easily reached via decent road and rail connections. All this helps tourism to thrive in the area. Pernik offers excellent skiing conditions in winter. Tourists prefer to visit the city in January to attend Surva – International Festival of the Masquerade Games – held in Pernik since 1966. In 1985 the Festival gained an international event status and in 1995 the International Federation of Carnival Cities accepted the town of Pernik as its full member. In June 2009 Pernik was proclaimed the European capital of Surva and Mummers. Surva is thought to be rooted in pagan rituals, when the Thracians and Slavs ruled these lands. The masquerade symbolises nature’s awakening, driving out the devil, scarring off evil spirits. Those who take part in the masquerade are called Survaki. Dressed in colourful masks and costumes, they dance to the rhythm of regional music and to the sound of thousands of cowbells tied to their belts. Also presented is a folk custom – Survak’s wedding – where men play all female roles. Masks from Pernik region are handmade from goat and sheep furs, wings, feathers of domestic birds, and from animal horns. All masks resemble heads of feathered creatures (animals) with scary faces. The masks are crafted by Survaks. Pernik becomes a stage for a big, spectacular show, with masqueraders, cultural events and the like.

Palace of Culture, from its beginning in 1957, facilitates cultural life. It not only houses brass, chamber and folk orchestras, but also provides facilities to the Song and Dance Ensemble ‘Graovska Mladost’ and Ivan Topalov Chamber Choir. An Art School, a technical library, an art gallery, and a city theatre, are also based there.

A visit to Pernik cannot go without tasting local cuisine. The following are highly recommended: Kiopoolu – a Bulgarian eggplant and pepper spread served cold; Snezhanka – a cucumber and yoghurt salad served with garlic and walnuts; or Banitsa – a traditional Bulgarian, oven-baked cheese pastry, stuffed with meat, vegetables and fruit.



Useful address: 
1 St. Ivan Rilski Square
2300 Pernik, Bulgaria
tel. +359 76 60 33 63

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