Thousands of Bulgarians gathered Friday by the seaside to greet the first July sunrise of the year, celebrated since the communist era as a symbol of summer, freedom and a new beginning.
The popular July Morning sunrise ritual, which first emerged in the 1980s, obtained its name from the Uriah Heep song traditionally played at the moment the first sun rays shine over the Black sea.
Starting out as a kind of protest hippie gathering during communism, when rock music was frowned upon by the authorities, the event later turned into an all-night celebration with music and dancing, where everyone was invited.
This year again, some 7,000 people gathered on the rocky Black Sea coast at Kamen bryag, to the northeast, to hear ex-Uriah Heep vocalist John Lawton perform "July morning" in the early morning air.
"July Morning, which is celebrated only in Bulgaria, is a contribution to modern European culture," sociologist Evgeniy Daynov told 24 Hours newspaper Friday.
For Daynov, a regular participant of the event, the feast was a symbol of belonging to intellectual circles not only for Bulgaria's middle-aged generation but also for youngsters.
"Back in the 1980s, July Morning was a hippie hymn to freedom. Today the July Morning culture is a revolt against the primitive music popular among the newly-rich," Daynov said.
Over the past few years, celebrations have spread to towns along the Danube river and also to the central city of Veliko Tarnovo, where students gathered for the second time this year on the banks of the Yantra river.