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Museum of House of Humour and Satire, Gabrovo

‘The World lasts because it laughs.’

As you come into the town of Gabrovo from the north, you’d be forgiven not to realise that the former leather factory you pass is actually the Museum of House of Humour and Satire. A strip of Cubist inspired artwork is the only bit of colour on an otherwise industrial-looking building – a remnant from the Soviet era – that gives you a hint that this is the only museum in the world that is dedicated to humour.

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The exhibitions inside – both permanent and temporary – range from art, sculpture, literature, photography, installations and a host of artifacts all following the same artwork theme with a devotion to humour and satire. Although you might not find everything exhibited hilarious, the contemporary international art work is inspiring – but maybe for the adults more than the kids!

We were the only people to the Museum on the day we visited and as we wandered around galleries the lights would mysteriously turn on and off as we arrived and left each room, which I imagine was down to the lack of funding rather than to remind us of the stotinki-pinching jokes about Gabrovans!

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Spread over four floors, highlights include a Planet Gabrovo area specifically designed for children to get interactive with the displays. The Gabrovo Cat plays a big part here and you can also poke fun at each other with the range of distorted mirrors. My personal favourites include the Long Live the Carnival section which displays large masquerades and authentic carnival exhibits from around the world; and a large Mask area with symbolic ritual pieces from Africa. Both collections trace their historical stories and transofrmaitons through the decades.

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Outside the museum is the Park of Laughter whose sculptures have been built and designed by various Bulgarian artists. It includes a bronze-made Charlie Chaplin and the Tower of Babel constructed with scrap metal – the idea being based on a Gabrovan principle: ‘to make something out of nothing’.

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 The Museum opened on April 1st, 1972 and has successfully built up a reputation of popularising humour through art ever since. On the same date the city celebrates the Museum’s birthday by hosting an bi-annual International Day of Humour and Joking, which puts on children’s events and special exhibitions throughout the day. Back in the 1970’s and 80’s the event gave artists the freedom to travel for the festival despite Communist rules on movement between towns and villages and there are many interesting historical photographs on display from this era.

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More information from the Museum’s website here

Welcome and good riddance!