European youth forum to rural areas

European youth forum to rural areas


Looking for escape from chilly and rainy Latvian summer, I went to Bulgaria ready to see, try and involve in everything it offers to me. Together with young adults from 5 other countries we spent a week in a small town Strelcha, 110 km away from the capital city of Bulgaria, to find out how rural areas could be developed and how different practices sustain them.

From the very first meeting with a member of the organizer team, we got to know Bulgarian friendliness and sense of humor. Although a very few people speak English or Russian there, locals tried to help us in every possible way and showed their hospitality. We learned to collaborate by using skills each of us has got. Thus, we managed to understand what locals said to us and explain our thoughts to them. Now I see how useful it is to be able to speak in several languages. 

The program of the week included various workshops, presentations, visits to local businesses, meeting with a mayor of Strelcha, museum tours and culture evenings. It was inspiring to listen to family’s success story who runs rose and lavender oil production business in the small town Panagyurishte. They started with little and still are at the beginning, yet I noticed their passion and wish to develop. Next to the small factory, a printing house was located. The manager led us through the room with old and new machines, showing the process of printing a newspaper, a poster or a book. Even though the town is small, circulation of a local newspaper reaches 1000 copies per week.

One of the most unforgettable experiences was meeting with a municipality mayor. It was worthwhile to compare accomplished things, future goals and benefits that government offers to locals in order to make them stay in hometown and feel economically secure and happy in the environment with achievements of my local government. I felt very thoughtful after an hour in mayor’s office and even more questions raised. What can we learn from experiences of the other country? How can we implement ideas in our environment? Is one strategy applicable to any other setting? Is fresh air and beautiful nature enough to make youth stay in rural area?

Another useful activity was a workshop called “If I were a mayor”. Two groups had to come up with a business idea for young people in rural area and then present it to the third group – a commission who evaluated these plans. The most important part of this task was to use critical thinking and argumentation. Thus, we not only showed our knowledge in economics and structured planning, but also demonstrated skills to prove and defend our idea and convince the jury.

I think everyone learned something new from culture nights in attractive way when team of each country told about their traditions, history, cuisine etc. Especially interesting evening was conducted by Bulgarians – from traditional welcoming of guests with freshly baked bread with spices to national costumes.

It would not be fair to finish this article without mentioning nature of Bulgaria. I received so long awaited sunrays on my skin, stared in awe at mountains that encircle Pazardzhik District (where Strelcha and Panagyurishte are located), treated my body with a swim in a hot, mineral water filled pool and got vitamins from just picked cherries right from a tree. Bulgaria has rich historical, cultural and natural heritage, therefore it calls for the next visit!


Anete Kalvāne

Participant of youth exchange ''European youth forum to rural areas''


This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.