Coming into the
world on April 1st, 1972, the House of Humour and Satire (HHS) is a
proud successor of the local folklore humour and the merry carnival
traditions of the town of Gabrovo – the Bulgarian capital of humour.
Today it is an international cultural centre that successfully
combines both the features of a museum and those of a busy art
gallery. The House of humour and satire is a place that serves not
only to perpetuate the celebrated Gabrovo anecdotes, but it also is a
meeting ground of examples of contemporary humorous and satirical art
from all over the world.
Its motto is: “The world lasts because it laughs”. The House of humour
and satire traces, preserves and popularizes humour from all nations
and of all genres: painting, drawing, sculpture, literature, film,
theatre, music, photography and etc. It holds international humour
events, exhibitions, concerts, performances, children’s parties and
encourages both young and established artists to create humorous
The building of the HHS rises on the foundations of an old tannery,
and houses 10 exhibition rooms of an overall area of 8,000 sq.m.
Placed in front of it are: the sculpture of Charlie Chaplin who looks
ironically at the world; the figures of the popular characters of
Miguel de Servantes, which are made of Gabrovo metal scrap, and Hitar
Petar (a famous Bulgarian character known for his brightness and wit),
who has mounted his donkey backwards and smiles spitefully at the
Otherwise, the humour
capital of Bulgaria has already secured its future reserving an
extraterrestrial piece of land - just in case. It is GABROVO planet, a
small asteroid discovered on April 1st, 1976 and named after the town
that has become famous for its folklore humour and traditions.
The Carnival of
Humour and Satire
Present day Gabrovo carnival of humour is firmly rooted in
like Oleliynya and the fancy-dress parties of the 1920s. This singular
carnival made possible the integration of Gabrovo town into the large
family of carnival cities and members of the Foundation of European
Carnival Cities. Held annually in May, the carnival procession draws
thousands of guests and participants from Bulgaria and abroad. The
emblematic Gabrovo cat ceremoniously gets its tail cut off thus giving
a start to the procession and leading off the joyous, boisterous and
motley columns of dressed up people along the city streets. In high
spirits and masked, you are welcome to join us on May 16, 2009.
In the past as well as at present to be
born in Gabrovo is next to a privilege.
citizens of Gabrovo are both good at moneysaving and bargaining, for
economy runs in their veins; they know how to get something out of
nothing - an invaluable lesson taught by their ancestors; upon the
very hint of a crisis they set their sense of humour going, for they
are left with no other alternative. Numerous anecdotes are told about
this shrewd and most careful with money part of the Bulgarian
It is said of the Gabrovians that …
… They cut off the tails of their cats so they can close the door
quickly and save heat when letting a cat out; hence, the black cat
with a cut-off tail has turned into a long-lasting symbol of Gabrovo
… They fit taps to the eggs to tap as much as they need and no more
for a soup, for a whole egg seems too much to them;
… At night they stop their clocks to save wear on the cog-wheels;
… They put green spectacles on their donkeys' noses when they feed
them shavings so as to make the poor beasts think that it is hay;
… They sweat both in the smithy and in the market place - when
… When they invite people to tea, they heat the knives so the guests
can't get any butter;
… To save money on sweeps, they let a cat down the chimney;
… When something new is being done somewhere, it has already being
done in Gabrovo.
What to see in the House
THE ROOTS OF THE GABROVO HUMOUR –
THE GABROVO PLANET – children's
ART FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD –
paintings, black and white drawings, caricatures, sculptures,
CARNIVAL MASKS AND COSTUMES
AFRICAN ART – authentic ritual masks
HEAVEN through the eyes of the Adam
and Eve of Gabrovo
HELL – satiric wall paintings from
twenty Bulgarian monasteries
PHOTO-LAUGHTER – smiles from old and
LAUGHTER PARK representing monumental
sculptures of Hitar Petar, Don Quixote and Sancho Pansa, Charles
Chaplin, the Tower of Babel, etc.
Opening 9.00 – 18.00
from 1 April to 31 October: all days of the week, inc.
Saturday and Sunday
from 1 November to 31 March: all days of the week, excluding
HHS is closed for visitors for the official holidays of the Republic
Derisive Bulgarian Proverbs
“Once, children began to see only on the
40th day of their birth, today’s children begin to see as soon as
they’re born”, claims a piece of popular wisdom, admitting with some
degree of irony the manner in which every new generation gets ahead of
previous ones. The balloon of young people’s excessive self-confidence
in that they know more and better than preceding generations is easily
punctured by proverbs like the following: ”You can’t teach your father
how babies are sired” or ”You can’t teach your granny how to look
after a baby” or ”Don’t preach to the Reverend how to christen
babies”. This eternal young-old confrontation seems to have somehow
been reconciled in pieces of wisdom such as: ”Don’t ask advice of he
who’s old, but of he who’s suffered”, which should mean that it is not
necessarily age but worldly experience that earns man his wisdom.
“Let me be king, though I may go hungry” is a proverb,
arguably ridiculing people nourishing unrealistic ambitions. Man’s
eternal hankering after elevated social status, power and honours
seems to be lurking in the heart and mind of even the poorest of men,
popular wisdom admits tongue-in-cheek, nurturing every man’s illusory
hopes that his moment of success and glory lies ahead. “A regal beard
to a dunce head”, is another merciless commentary on groundless
dreams. Public opinion, especially so in once small rural communities
where everyone knows everyone else, cannot easily be misled. Any
attempt at exaggerating one’s best character assets are made fun of:
“Get me married far away from my mother so that I can blow my own trumpet”.
The proverbial Bulgarian hospitality prescribed that anyone
knocking on one’s door, even a stranger, should be welcomed. But one
would not be expected to outstay one’s hospitality, warn proverbs not
mincing words “Two days are too long for a guest to stay”. There is a
very simple yardstick rule for welcome and unwelcome visitors. “Don’t
visit where you’re hated, don’t visit once too often where you are
welcome”, it says. It seems there have always been the mandatory
sly-boots, seeking to make the best of someone’s hospitality, never
planning to return it. “Let’s go have a drink at your place and a song
at mine”, this is how sponging would be ridiculed. “Doing a wake with
somebody else’s cake” pokes fun at false generosity at someone else’s
expense. Popular wisdom goes a step further to criticize also those
allowing to be used. There is a Bulgarian proverb, common across the
entire country, which sounds like this. “He is not daft who ate the
leek pasty, but he who gave it to him”.
It is only too natural that down-to-earth popular sensibilities
should praise anyone capable of making the best of any situation.
“More will not give you headaches”, the people say and then hasten to
jeer at the utter lack of enterprise and multiplying one’s gains.
Listen to the following saying: “He sold his horse to buy a saddle, he
then sold the saddle to buy reins and then he sold the reins to buy a
tobacco pouch”. This goes in general for the inability to take a
proper view of winning and losing ventures in life. There is an entire
folk story about a fool-of-a-man who exchanged “a horse for a
chicken”. And this has remained as a proverbial line, referred to till
Some More Bulgarian
Proverbs and Sayings - (literal translation)
BETTER the grave than a slave.
IT is easier to fondle lassies, than to cut timbers.
THE SLUGGARD works twice, the niggard pays twice.
NOT EVERY nun becomes Mother Superior.
TOO many barbers would be ready to shave the beard of a beardless man.
IT is easy to be the father of children already born.
WRIGGLING hands like young bride's legs.
WHERE shepherds are lots, sheep are lost.
BAD weather gets better, a bad man never does.
THE BAD tax-collector will sell one of your oxen, the good one - both.
WHY didn't the midwife, who cut your naval string, cut your head
THE SUN shines on mud, but does not get muddy.
WATER washes up everything but shame.
TELL the blind he is eyeless, and he will get mad at you.
THE DOG barks to keep itself, not the village.
IF GOD should listen to rooks, he should send a plague to horses.
HE who undertakes too many jobs does none.
HE that flies high falls low down.
AN HAUGHTY person will not reach down to take his own nose if it had
fallen to the ground.
GIVE me money to buy myself a purse to put my money in.
THEY do not want him in the village, he asks for the priest's house.
THE BLIND hen, when it sees again, wants even to mount the cock.
THE CHICKEN teaches the hen to lay eggs.
THE MEEK lamb sucks from two mothers.
WE had a dog, it helped the wolf.
THE STRONGHOLD is taken from within.
EMBRACE the snake and it will bite you.
HE who gets angry, grows old fast.
BURNING the quilt because of the fleas.
THE HUMP is straightened only by the grave.
THE DONKEY, though it may go to the Holy Land, will still come back a
BURNING the poor man's candles, counting the rich man's money.
FLIES plough the ox' horns.
HE that has a hawk, has three hundred partridges.
HE who gives much, will soon start begging.
YOU only be a sheep, wolves will be found.
THE MOSQUITO weighs 99 kilos on his own scale.
GOOD swimmers are more often drowners.
UNFENCED garden - fenced in desert.
HELL is also made for people.
I GAVE UP smoking, smoking would not give me up.
A SINGLE hand cannot wash itself even in the Danube river.
THE SPARROWS quarrel over somebody's else millet.
WHAT the devil is unable to do, he asks a woman to do.
GO hunting for rabbits - be eaten by wolves.
MANY people wash their hands to have dinner with the bishop, few sit
down to his table.
HE who steals the minaret shall find a case to hide it.
WHEN the sea turned to honey, the poor man lost his spoon.
EVERY tree has its worm to eat it.
HE that sleeps with a dog, should bear its fleas.
THERE is no boneless fish.
HE who lies, hangs from a gallows - he who does not, hangs twice.
ONE learns as long as one lives and still dies a fool.
THE DRUM is large but empty.
WHEN given a kingdom, the gypsy asks: what about bread?
FOR the blind sellers there are blind buyers.
WATCH your step when you walk: you may find nothing but you will not
IF your neighbour's house is on fire, make haste to put out the fire
in your own house.
WITH a king it is the same as with fire - stay neither close by, nor
too far away.
DO not put all eggs in one basket.
DRAW water from the new well, but do not spit in the old one.
IF you are going to drown, do not try it in shallow water.
HE who buys what he does not need, sells what he needs.
HE that wills not to feed a cat, feeds the mice.
THREE hundred ravens are scattered by one stone.
MAN is harder than a stone and more brittle than an egg.
IF you break the fast, better eat pork, not curds.
TO the donkey thorns taste better than hay.
BECAUSE of John hating St. John.
EYES see everything but themselves.
GRAVEDIGGERS have their own gravediggers too.
IF ONLY youth had knowledge and old age ability!
THE OLD man is not asked where he aches, but why he does not ache
A GOOD son needs no inheritance, the bad needs none.
THE OLDER one marries, the longer the nights.
LIFE is a stairway - some are going up, others are going down.
DEATH is closer than the shirt.
HE that believes in dreams, pastures the winds.
BLESSED wine, cursed drinking!
THE FIRST glass is for health, second - for joy, third - for fun, the
fourth - for madness.
IF THE PRIEST is used to get drunk, the people does not sober at all.
THE WEALTHY man has even his crow laying him eggs.
MONEY tempts women, women tempt men.
HUNGER is a bigger master than the king.
HE that feels sorry for the shoe, loses the horse.
HE who keeps his old clothes, gains new ones too.
YOU monk, do you want us to give you in marriage?
THE SEA has decided to drown itself in the river.
BANDAGE your finger, take a walk in the village to see how many
medical people you meet!
A WORD makes no hole, a pinch tears no underskirt.
A JOKE may have children born.
What superstitious Bulgarians
consider to be a SIN ....
1. To give a child a spoon to play with.
2. To give away or sell a loaf of bread without breaking a piece from
3. Not to fumigate with incense the flour when it is brought from the
mill (particularly if the mill be kept by a Turk), in order to prevent
the Devil entering into it.
4. To wash a child before he has come to the (canonical) age of
reason, that is to say, seven years.
5. To sell flour before making a loaf from it.
6. To clean a stable, sell milk, or fetch water from the fountain
7. To allow a dog to sleep on the roof of the house, as this gravely
imperils the soul of any defunct member of the family.
8. Not to throw some water out of every bucket brought from the
fountain, as some elementary spirit might otherwise be floating on the
surface of the water, and, not being thrown out, take up his abode in
the house, or enter into the body of any one who drank from the
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