Oriahovo - My Little Danubian Nest

For the first two decades of my life, this time of year was a special one. It's when my hometown Oriahovo celebrates - town fair time! 

Oriahovo is over 800-years old. Yep! In 1985, when I was in high school, we celebrated its eight centennial with elaborate festivities. It has a rich history, a medieval fortress, dating back to the 9th century, a once lively port, and some of the most picturesque vineyards you can imagine. 

The Danube at Oriahovo

The Danube at Oriahovo

The Danube with a view of the ferry crossing from Romania

The Danube with a view of the ferry crossing from Romania

Nearly everyone, no matter what part of the country life had transplanted them to, came home for the town fair that third week in August. There was a ferris wheel, carousels, and a shooting gallery with kitschy prizes!

The 2017 fair starts tomorrow and if I get lucky and align my many projects, I'll be in attendance! This year, they have a hot air balloon trip and I can only imagine what a thrill ti would be to see the stunning scenery - the river Danube, the beaches, the island Esperanto, the vineyards! - from up high.

One thing that never existed during the town fair back in those days was art. But that has changed since then, thanks to the endeavors of two people I've known pretty much forever - the father and son duo behind the Savchevi Gallery.

Neicho Savchev, whom I have a very difficult time thinking of in any way other than uncle Neicho (in Bulgaria, young people often call all adults aunt and uncle as a sign of respect), is a zoologist by training and an artist by heart. He worked with both my parents at what during communist time was called an agrarian-industrial complex. His son, Radi Neichev, despite being an accomplished artist and curator himself, will forever remain in my memory as the baby brother of Maria - one of my closest childhood friends.

Neicho Savchev (far left) and Radi Neichev (far right) with other artists

Neicho Savchev (far left) and Radi Neichev (far right) with other artists

With Radi and Maria at an art exhibit in Sofia

With Radi and Maria at an art exhibit in Sofia

The Savchevi Gallery inhabits an unexpected part of the world. Sadly, my hometown is in what is deemed the poorest part of the European Union - the Bulgarian northwest. But that hasn't prevented them from building a space where beauty and creativity thrive and which attracts artists on a global magnitude for its plein air sessions that have become quite famous over the years. The current one started on August 10 and will continue through August 19. After that, the works will be exhibited in the gallery. I’ve posted some of them below and they are nothing short of remarkable. 

Work of the artist Chung-Hui Chou from a plein air session

Work of the artist Chung-Hui Chou from a plein air session

I recently caught up with Radi and showered him with questions about the gallery, the roots of his love of art and the plein air sessions throughout the years. Here's an excerpt of what he shared with me:

Radi, what inspires you?

I was born in the small town of Oriahovo and my first memories of interactions with art were leafing through the albums with world classics my dad - Neicho Savchev - had been collecting for years. Later on, the art courses in school and getting to know some of the boys who already attended art schools in Sofia and elsewhere. 

The pencil, the process of drawing, the smell of paint, the art studios of my friends..... These have all left their imprint on me. 

I get inspired by nature, by landscapes, by weather patterns, light, shapes, or the minimalist collection of forms that can invoke unexpected richness. 

Lately, I've been trying to tackle the challenge of portrait and human figure - in classical and contemporary interpretation.  

The full interview is coming soon. In the meantime, spread the word and consider visiting this beautiful sliver of land on the right bank of the Danube. I suspect it will surprise you…. 

Scenes from a plein air session

Scenes from a plein air session

Works from a plein air session

Works from a plein air session

The Danube at Oriahovo

The Danube at Oriahovo

The sandy island Esperanto as seen from the vineyards

The sandy island Esperanto as seen from the vineyards

One of Radi's beautiful works

One of Radi's beautiful works