The Etar ethnographic and architectural museum is situated in a picturesque locality in the Gabrovo side of Stara Planina, along the Sivek River, a tributary of Yantra River. It lies 8 km south of the town of Gabrovo.
The Etar is the only open-air museum in South-Eastern Europe. Its construction began in 1963 and lasted 13 years. The museum was designed and built by Lazar Donkov who used three methods: restoring original monuments (e.g. the Boichin watermill), bringing authentic items from the outside, and reproducing objects on the basis of photos, sketches, drawings, and replicas.
At the entrance is a mosaic panel featuring two Bulgarian women dressed in national costumes. They welcome the visitors with bread. Behind them is a house from the National Revival period. The Museum occupies an area of 7 hectares. It houses a unique exhibition that includes a street of handicrafts, house interiors, workshops, and a total of 50 other objects. It aims to introduce visitors to the architecture, lifestyle and economic history of Gabrovo and the Gabrovo area during the National Revival, i.e. the second half of the 18th century and the 19th century. During that period over 26 handicrafts were practiced in the town and their products were on the major markets in Bucharest, Marseilles and Anatolia.
The Etar Museum is a replica of the typical Bulgarian artisan town that existed 150 years ago: cobble stone streets, stone fountains, water mills, gas lamps, a clock tower, old houses in the National Revival style etc. The workshops demonstrate over 25 handicrafts. Visitors can watch bakers, hatters, furriers, glass workers, jewelers, potters and weavers, practicing their trades and selling their wares directly to clients. Those interested can get training in the desired activity
The Houses in the Etar Museum are replicas of authentic buildings in Gabrovo. They were built in the period 1967-1973. The typical Gabrovo house is beautiful and comfortable. It is two-storied, made of wood or wattle and daub, with broad gables and spacious balconies. The roofs are covered with stone slates. The facades are painted in white, blue or copper brown.
The Church of the Holy Epiphany is a replica of the church in the village of Radovtsi, Dryanovo municipality, built in 1868. An interesting feature of the building is that it combines elements of a Balkan house, a school and a place of worship. In 1975 the church was declared a cultural monument. Its construction in the Etar (1998-2004) was made possible by private donations. It was designed by Karismira Cholakova, a curator at the history museum in Gabrovo. The iconostasis was made by masters from Tryavna in the late 19th century
The Etar Ethnographic Museum is important because it keeps alive folk traditions by reproducing Bulgarian customs and traditional festivals such as St. George’s Day and Enyovden (the day of the summer solstice). It also hosts the annual fall fair of handicrafts, exhibitions, promotions and other exciting events