Bulgarian hippie movement: July Morning

A story of sun worshiping, a sexual revolution, a pirated rock song, some definitely illegal substances, a lot of nature, and a lot of love

Written by Alex Portarev, edited by Scott Green, photo by Unsplash

A celebration of the sun, a sexual revolution, a pirated British rock song, some definitely illegal substances, a lot of nature, and a whole lot of love. These were the ingredients for the first hippie movement in Communist Bulgaria.

July morning is an event where every Bulgarian reacts with surprise when told that nobody else celebrates it in the world. Often associated with grand parties on the seaside in places like Kamen Bryag (Stony beach) and Karadere, these lovely gatherings built themselves into a respected tradition that brings young people together. It’s not only a story of Bulgarians who managed to protest with love in a regime that fought individualism, but also a story of how Bulgarians welcomed the rest of the world, of which they were excluded for so long. 

Hippies of the World 

The first jeans-wearing hippies came in to offer the alternative of war… not having a war. Or love as some called it. Vietnam was one of the biggest topics of its time in the US, which provoked many people to stand up and protest against the atrocities of war. This resulted in major events in Western history such as Woodstock, wearing blue jeans to support worker’s rights, eating natural foods, smoking marijuana, acceptance of gay relationships, dressing up like a birthday cake, cool round glasses, and much more. 

Bulgaria in the 70s 

But what did this new Western culture have to do with Bulgaria? A communist state on the other side of the iron curtain! And how could it possibly influence it when Bulgaria made an extra effort in silencing whatever the world had to say to it? All of the media was controlled and at some point, people were hiding when illegally listening to radio stations from neighboring countries. Particularly Serbia, which led to the turbo-folk obsession that we still see today. 

The government, however, was not omnipresent so people managed to smuggle foreign products, tapes, clothes, movies, etc. One of these items quickly became one of the most pirated rock albums in the whole country.

Before Piratebay was cool 

You know the moments in parties, when somebody hijacks the audio player and turns up AC/DCs “Thunderstruck” or softens it up with “Wonderwall” by Oasis, and just everyone’s into it not respecting what the mood was? This same dopamine recalibration is almost identical once you put Uriah Heep’s “July Morning” in a group of rock fans. One of the most precious moments when celebrating the sunrise is when they turn up this song while the sun is coming up. 

Many theories surround why exactly this song became so enigmatic as it wasn’t the only rock song that people have listened to. Maybe the whole setting with how beautiful the sunrises over the Black Sea are, or maybe it is certain figures and their protest against oppression. One tale tells of a small gathering of friends who started celebrating it in Varna, a particular place in the Sea garden called the July meadow. The occasion? Some of them had vacation days from the military and one of them a birthday, yet it felt so fitting, the moment they were listening to that song until they met the rays of sunlight (a tale documented by Spisanie 8.) 

July Morning today

The history goes far and wide with “old hippies” mainstreaming the holiday in 1989, people calling themselves “juliers” and now we have “neojuliers” who just want to get drunk at the seaside. In truth, there is a lot of discussion over what is authentic, what is real, and what is not, but it never tore people away from the main idea. Celebrations are not centered only around the aforementioned locations, known July morning venues are also Kavarna, Varvara, Tutrakan, Pernik, the Beglk lakes, the Dobrogea planes, among others. The stories and history go on but the best way for you to get to know them is at the tales told by the fire that warms you until July morning. 

It’s a bit difficult to pinpoint where exactly you should go to celebrate the event with the locals. Most would definitely say Kamen Bryag, but if you would like to go the extra mile in the beauty of nature, Karadere is the place to be. You don’t have to limit yourself to the seaside or mountainside, all you need are the people around you and a nice view. You don’t even have to spend the evening drinking, all you need is to witness the sun in the morning. 

“There I was on a July morning

Looking for love…”

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