Kulmak (Bloodfest)…not for the faint of heart.

I went to Kulmak, in Berat region, to check out Bloodfest. This was where people buy their sheep and slaughter them. It is part of Bektashi, the sect of Islam. My impression was grossed out and was the most intense experience ever. The road to get to Bloodfest was high up in the mountains where dirt roads were narrow, dangerous, and rocky. It was a difficult hour drive. When I got there, the climate was cool and rainy. People were out camping and eating sheep. I walked up the hill with two of my friends and looked for the smallest sheep to slaughter.

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As I walked up, there were sheep everywhere, it smelt like sheep death, a mountainous pile of sheep guts and feces, and running streams of sheep blood. First time I saw this, I felt sick for a few minutes until I got used to it.

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My friend was very tensed and eager to slit the throat of his sheep. It costed about 6000 leke for a sheep. Him and my other friend carried the sheep to the spot where people lined up to slit the sheep’s throat, hung them upside down from a bar, skinned them and cook them with charcoal.

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After he slit the sheep’s throat, he wiped the blood onto his forehead and the other friend’s forehead. It’s traditional. I didn’t kill anything because I was video recording my friend being in the moment. While the sheep was being cooked, we hung out in a tent with other albanians, eating, drinking, dancing and were having a good time.

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We met an albanian family who welcomed us to eat, dance and drink with them for almost 2 hours. Albanians just love to dance and kept getting me to circle dance with them. After that, they offered to drive us down back to Berat. On the way back, there was a small praying building and an RV coffee shop in the middle of nowhere in the mountains. The beautiful scenery wowed me.

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I observed the people touching the tiny building around, and touched the dirt inside the room and then lit up three candles and pray. At first, I wasn’t sure how the process worked until a man asked me if I can speak French. I replied a little so he explained in French. I was surprised that I understood what he meant so I thanked him “Merci” and he responded “De Rien”. I felt awesome and glad that I still know French.

The ride back was excruciating as it was tight and cozy. I felt so uncomfortable and experienced carsickness. Would I go back to Kulmak again? No. I’ve done it once and I’ll never go back again. It’s just something to cross off the list.

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Albanian of the day:

Shyqyr! – Yay!

Marr frymë, nxjerr frymë: Breathe in, breathe out.

Asnjë vend: nowhere

bështy ma (noun)- spit

bështyj (verb) – to spit

Nuk folet duke grënë: Don’t speak while eating!

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