Lost In The Tranquility Of Kovachevitsa
Bliss is the word that comes to mind when I look at the uniqueness of the village.
It is July and I’ve left Sofia early in the morning while the weather is still cool. I have figured out that traffic will not be busy at this time and I'll get to Kovachevitsa, approximately 215 kilometres away, in about three hours.
I enjoy the deep green of the trees and fields along the road. When I approach Bansko I can see the distant snowy peaks of the magnificent mountains along the way. After the hike along the eco trails in Kovachevitsa, my plan is to pass through Ognyanovo village and dive into its thermal waters. They say that the women in the area used to accumulate the heat from the waters of Ognyanovo and stored it in their bones in order to prepare for the cold winter.
As soon as you leave Ognyanovo the road makes a sharp turn and I suddenly enter a Roma ghetto where naked children run around, enjoying their freedom. I pass through quickly as hundreds of them huddle together in mere seconds whenever I try to take a picture.
I continue along the winding picturesque road and stop to take some photos of the magnificent view of the mountains lying before me. It's a perfect picture – the red roof tiles of a village in the distance, surrounded by green fields and forests.
I follow the road and enter the first stone village, Leshten, an authentic settlement with several restored old houses. I'm curious to see the clay house so I stop in front of the only pub in the cillage. It is so quiet, I only hear the buzz of insects and birds singing. The rocky way to the left of the church is steep, but it opens up to amazing views – authentic white houses, with colourful flowers and large flat stone roofs and to the right, the clay house swaddled by shrubbery. I walk around the small house - it looks like a mushroom. I photograph every corner and feel as if I've been teleported back to the Flintstone's age. All restored houses in Leshten preserve the authentic spirit of the ancient times, but offer the comforts of the 21st century and are open to accommodate tourists.
It is lunch time and I'm thinking of a light lunch at the pub in Leshten. I order tarator (which is made of yogurt, water and cucumbers) and a shopska salad, made with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and cheese. Enjoying the taste of home-grown vegetables, they remind me of my childhood. After the magnificent views and light lunch, I decide it's time to walk along the road to Kovachevitsa. Near the exit from Leshten, I get to a house gallery: music, paintings, stones, arts, combined with an unbelievable view to the valley and the surrounding mountains– simply stunning.
On the drive back to Kovachevitsa the road passes through Gorno Dryanovo Village. There are no authentic houses here, life is faster and the sound of motorbikes is audible. You can see the strings of tobacco in front of some of the houses. (Tobacco is picked and dried by the locals.) I notice women wearing colourful head-cloths and shalwars sitting in front of a house. I quickly take a picture and they smile warmly at the camera.
After 10 minutes along the narrow winding road, surrounded by deep gorges and breathtaking views, I reach the wooden "Welcome to Kovachetivsa" sign. The houses are amazing with unique architecture. The village itself is situated in the valley of a small river which meanders through the slopes of the neighbouring peaks of the Rhodopi Mountain. I park the car in front of the old school and start walking along the cobblestone road. I am not in a hurry so I look around trying not to take in all the houses – they are so different – white with wooden spacious balconies, all covered with large flat stones. There are no more than one hundred houses in Kovachevitsa. Some are restored by their new owners – artists, nature and art lovers. The locals are gradually decreasing in number. Quiet surrounds me. All I can hear is the songs of birds and the buzz of bees. There is only one shop, where you can find everything you need, and it is in the main street.
I pass the pub in the main street and take a turn right along the cobblestone street. I sense the greatness of the tall stone walls surrounding the houses in front of me and just before I slip under the bridge of towering walls, I notice the green eco trails map to my right. I map out Kaninska Trail – it has extreme sections - which is exactly what I need right now. I immediately plan tomorrow's hike, depending on the weather. A hike to Kanina River to enjoy the natural beauty is a good option, but should the weather turn bad, it is a challenging trail.
I take the main road back, continue up along the cobblestone road and reach the end of the village where there is a fountain with real mountain spring water – ice-cold, tasting like life itself. They say it is good for the hair and I very much feel like plunging under the water, so that my hair would become as shiny as the day’s sun. There are many spring water fountains in Kovachevitsa, so don't miss the opportunity to enjoy their freshness.
I continue along the dusty road, the beauty of the whole village showing on my left, the stone houses perched on the hill. I cannot resist the temptation to take a photograph. It feels like the top of the world. Bliss is the word that comes to mind when I look at the uniqueness of the village, the belfry of the white church visible in the distance. There is no priest in the village, but the bell tolls every Sunday morning, as a reminder of Christianity.
It is time to check into one of the guest houses where I can sit for hours on the wooden balcony and enjoy the surrounding landscape. But I intend to take several walks along the eco-trails and on the following day I may take a hike to Bez Bog peak, passing the Dobrinishte Village along the way. This is also part of my programme, along with the crystal clear Bez Bog and Popovo lakes on Pirin Mountain. I am not going to be bored. If I want even more excitement Saint Georgi Chapel is nearby the village. Breathtaking views towards the valley and Pirin Mountain open out there. There is also the big Kozya Skala Rock, where maps of the starry skies above Kovachevitsa are engraved. I will be enjoying the vegetables grown in the gardens of the local people and the tasty wild strawberries, blueberries, and mushrooms during my stay. Forest fruits may be ordered from the locals, just ask the people sitting in the square and they'll give you directions.
Sounds of nature, tranquility and timelessness are the best words to describe my favourite Kovachevitsa. I love this place along with many artists who find inspiration in the beauty of the village. More than 20 films have been shot in this magical location, which fascinates you right from your first glance.