An Esoteric Quest in Bulgaria: At the Crossroads of the Mysteries

In Plovdiv, Bulgaria, the Oldest Living City in Europe
August 22-27, 2019

Join us as we return to our Esoteric Quest roots in Eastern Europe and explore Bulgaria, a land filled with spiritual and esoteric history from the most ancient times to the present.

Our conference will take place in Plovdiv, Europe’s oldest living city, having been inhabited for over 6,000 years. Known as the Pearl of the Balkans, Plovdiv has been named the European Capital of Culture for 2019. Few cities have such an entrancing atmosphere, with vestiges from antiquity of the worship of Orpheus and Dionysus, remnants of the Thracian kings, and an enormous Roman coliseum and theater, dating from the time when Constantine referred to this city as ‘his Rome.’ Reaching back deeper still, Plovdiv’s archeological museums are filled with the region’s most ancient artifacts, including Great Mother figurines from 35,000 years ago and the earliest traces of writing on bone and stone.

A visitor can move in minutes from a Turkish coffee house to the transcendent icons of a beautiful, medieval Bulgarian Orthodox church, to the intricately adorned 19th century Revival houses that sit in the heart of Plovdiv’s Old City. Wherever the eye turns, it falls on something unexpected, fantastical, and deeply absorbing.

In the early Middle Ages, the followers of the Holy Religion of Light, precursors of the Gnostic Cathars in Southern France and Italy, were brought to Plovdiv and its environs in great numbers where they perpetuated the ‘Hidden Tradition in Europe’ developed by the Bogomil communities in the Balkans and especially in Bosnia. Eastern Orthodox
Christianity created and sustained a profound influence with its preservation of the mystical and Platonic traditions within the Church. And then 500 years of domination by the Ottoman Turks brought to Bulgaria yet another level of culture and spirituality with the legacy of the most influential Sufi Orders such as the Mevlevi Dervishes and their places of worship.

Bulgaria continues to have a vibrant, living, folk tradition: masked dances, fire dances, and the magic of Bulgarian choral song with its polyphonic tones and trance-like effects. It is a land of rose valleys, Thracian temples stretching throughout the mysterious Rhodope Mountains (in the caves of which Orpheus is said to have descended into the Underworld in search of Eurydice), and a history of fine wine-making that began in antiquity.

We invite you to join us on our 15th Esoteric Quest, the Open Center’s highly regarded and longest-running program, as we explore this fascinating city and country where so many mystery traditions have crossed paths over the centuries. In returning to the elusive world of Eastern European esotericism for the first time in a dozen years, we are delighted to offer travelers, students and researchers a fresh and inexhaustible vein of spiritual history to mine.

Pre-Conference Experience

Sofia and "The Valley of the Thracian Kings"
August 20-22, 2019
Bulgaria is a land amazingly rich in history and our Pre-Conference experience will offer a graceful introduction into its fascinating culture. We will meet in the capital city of Sofia, and spend our first evening at a traditional Bulgarian restaurant, one imbued with the folkloric vitality so evident in the country’s music, dance, and cuisine.

Post-Conference Journey

From the Cave of Orpheus to the Black Sea in Bulgaria
August 27–September 2, 2019
Our Post-Conference Journey into Bulgaria begins with our traveling deep into the mystical Rhodope Mountains to the majestic Trigrad Gorge. Here we will enter a great cavern, said to be the route by which Orpheus descended into the Underworld in search of his wife, Eurydice. It is filled with the resounding echoes of the highest underground waterfall in the Balkans as it plunges into the earth.

Post-Conference Journey

The Heart of Medieval, Folkloric, Romania
August 27–September 1, 2019
Northern Romania is a place of timeless beauty, and one of the last remaining medieval landscapes in Europe - castles perched on rocky hilltops, pine-forested valleys and villages where centuries-old folk traditions remain strong. We begin our journey with a flight from Sofia to Bucharest, where we will spend the night. The following morning we travel to the town of Sinaia, to visit Peles Castle, with its Gustav Klimt frescoes and stained glass windows.
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