In the Rhodope Mountains, you can find small villages where the men gather in those tucked away pubs above tourist restaurants, shuffling cards and cigarettes as weekday dusk turns to night. Shiroka Lŭka is one such mountain village, located not far from the popular ski resort town of Pamporovo along the road to Devin. As I have mentioned before, it is also the home of a folk arts high school. Late last week, I made the trip south to visit the kaval teacher there for a lesson.
The village itself has only about 500 residents, plus the 100 or so students at the school. Only five of those students study kaval; apparently, gaida is much more popular in the region. The main road runs alongside a small river, which might be more appropriately labeled a stream or creek, on one side of which the houses climb the hillside. Walking up the weaving stone streets and braving the aggressive dogs that most homes seem to have, eventually you encounter the smell of sheep and chickens in the small barns along the village edge, before the buildings are replaced by evergreens.