Kovachevitsa – a look above the deserted village in the Rhodope mountains, Bulgaria

Тази статия може да я прочетете и на: Български

I walk up the stone street, upwards between the old stone houses. I pass by the first few of them, they look more or less maintained. Some of them have been turned into guest houses, others are private villas. I pass by them and keep walking upwards, towards the end of Kovachevitsa village. I miss the tumult in this large village, now deserted and sad. I miss seeing local people doing their job. The village is somehow lonely, despite there are still people around and it won’t be forgotten. However, the liveliness of the village is now gone.

Kovachevitsa village, Bulgaria
Kovachevitsa village, Bulgaria

Kovachevitsa is a village, located in the embrace of the Rhodope mountains, Bulgaria (location). The only road to Kovachevitsa starts from the village of Garmen, passes through another picturesque village – Leshten, and the very lively village of Gorno Dryanovo (1035 inhabitants).

The old houses of Kovachevitsa
The old houses of Kovachevitsa

I remember that many years ago here we met an old local woman who invited us to her house. Those times there were still living local inhabitants in Kovachevitsa, although just a few. Maybe they were no more than 50 people, but you could still meet on the streets people who had grown up in Kovachevitsa. I don’t remember well the home of the lady but I remember that she offered us apples and walnuts.

An icon at one corner in Kovachevitsa
An icon at one corner in Kovachevitsa

This memory warmed me but also saddened me a bit. I cannot remember neither the house nor the name of the lady. It happened maybe 12 or 13 years ago. Nowadays in the village there are almost no people who have grown up there and you can barely meet any grannies on the street. Indeed, I don’t see anyone on the deserted street I am walking by. At one corner, on the stone fence, is hanged an icon. It is Monday and the village outside the main street is deserted.

The old houses of Kovachevitsa village, Bulgaria
The old houses of Kovachevitsa village, Bulgaria

The past of Kovachevitsa

I keep walking upwards and I pass by two huge 3-4-floor stone houses that have been rising about the narrow street for almost two centuries. Here used to live large and rich families, together with their livestock and servants. Nowadays these houses are abandoned, some of them almost in ruins. It is hard to guess whether the ruined houses were big or small. The first and second floor usually had thick stone walls with small windows or even without any windows. The upper floors were usually made of wood and clay. And the roofs in Kovachevitsa are very typical and recognzable, with grey stone plates (known as tikli). Nowadays, from the ruined houses are left only the stone walls or parts of them.

Kovachevitsa is a village hidden between the slopes of the Rhodope mountains, at 1050 m altitude. The important event for the village occured in rge late 18th century, when in Kovachevitsa arrived several families of Bulgarian master builders, evicted from territories which nowadays belong to Greece and Albania. They kept developing their craft and hand over the craft for the generations ahead. Here was established the Kovachevitsa architecture and building school, producing between 300 and 450 new master builders each year. This continued until 1912 when the school stopped existing.

Between the huge houses of Kovachevitsa village, Bulgaria
Between the huge houses of Kovachevitsa village, Bulgaria
Houses in Kovachevitsa village
Houses in Kovachevitsa village

It is visible that the master builders of Kovachevitsa deserve their glory. The houses are still standing, even without maintenance. If you take a walk through two similar villages in the area – Leshten and Dolen, you will see more examples of the impressive 19th century architecture. Beautiful stone houses, rising above the cobblestone streets. The ovens of the kitchens outside the walls, hanging above the streets.

A house with an oven above the street
A house with an oven above the street

Kovachevitsa from above

I pass by the last stone houses and a barn, strong as a house. I reach the terraced fields, once used for growing the food and living of the local population. They are now abandoned and only remains of roofless houses can be spotter around. It is strange to take a walk through such place in the winter. You feel like the paths have been made by animals rather than people.

The road outside Kovachevitsa
The road outside Kovachevitsa
An old stone fence
An old stone fence

The fences around the fields are now a memory. You can occasionally spot remains of decayed sticks and wooden fences. I wandered through the field without a purpose. The weather was mild and I could feel the smell of a burning stove. It was incredibly quiet and calm.

The roofs of Kovachevitsa
The roofs of Kovachevitsa
The deserted fields
The deserted fields

I got lost between the overgrown fields and again reached the end of the village, where my walk was interrupted by a fence. There were not any cultivated fields and no livestock could be heard. It was incredibly quiet and the village looked forgotten. However, the houses were still standing, some of them for more than 200 years.

Kovachevitsa village, Bulgaria
Kovachevitsa village, Bulgaria

The community centre in Kovachevitsa

I returned down to the main street, which is still full of life, cars, a tractor, a small digger, a post office, a town hall and a community centre. The post office, the community centre and the town hall are relatively new buildings, raised in the mid-20 century. They have red tiled roofs tahat can be esily distinguished from above among the grey-greenish stone roofs of the other houses. The dedicated building of the community canter was built almost a century after the community centre itself was established. On the occasion, local people donated thousands of books to the centre.

The central street in Kovachevitsa village, Bulgaria
The central street in Kovachevitsa village, Bulgaria
The post office in Kovachevitsa
The post office in Kovachevitsa

Nowadays, the most important and interesting cultural event here is the annual “OFF THE BEATEN PATH” – a festival for classical chamber music.

OFF THE BEATEN PATH is a festival for classical chamber music that gathers world renowned classical musicians in Kovachevitsa. In 2020 the festival will take place between July 31 and August 3. The performances will take place in the village of Kovachevitsa and the town of Gotse Delchev.

The church and school in Kovachevitsa

Just next to the community centre, surrounded by the same stone wall, are the school and the church in Kovachevitsa. The Public Elementary School “Yordzhe Dimitrov” bears the name of its benefactor, who donated the money for building the school. The construction of the building was done free of charche by the local masters in 1892.

The bell tower of Sveti Nikola church in Kovachevitsa
The bell tower of Sveti Nikola church in Kovachevitsa
The church was built by local carpenters between 1841 and 1847 and its patron is Saint Nicholas. Next to it was the church school, before the new building of the school was made. The local governers are concerned that it can be attacked by looters, because this has already happened before. This is why they asked us not to publish photos of the interior of the church and leave them for our personal collection. And we will comply with their desire although we really want to share them with you. However, if you are visiting Kovachevitsa, it should not be very difficult to find someone to let you see the church. We advise you to ask in the local shop/pub in the village centre, they should know who is in charge of the key.
The door of the old church school in Kovachevitsa
The door of the old church school

I continue my walk in Kovachevitsa. There are many fountains across the village but now not all of them are well maintained. Most of them are still working and recall the times when the village was full of young people and life.

One spring photo from Kovachevitsa, when the mood was fresher and not that gloomy
One spring photo from Kovachevitsa, when the mood was fresher and not that gloomy

If you are wondeding where to stay, there are many guest houses in Kovachevitsa. Another great idea is the nearby village of Leshten or the SPA village of Ognyanovo, known for its hot mineral waters. One more place we love is near the town of Gotse Delchev – hotel UVA Nestum Wine & Spa, also featuring the only winery in the region.

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