traditional villages

SPRING IN BOZHENTSI VILLAGE

When spring in Bulgaria is in full swing, something marvellous happens. At night, songbirds go crazy. When darkness descends, nightingales, orioles, larks and gold finches sing, chirp and improvise for hours, as if their lives depended on it, creating a symphony celebrating life itself.

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ENDANGERED KOPRIVSHTITSA

Is it possible for a place where a rebellion against a powerful empire started to be saved from being raised to the ground by the victorious power? History is full of examples where the answer is a resounding "no." Bulgaria, however, has a town where the opposite happened.

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SHIROKA LAKA: PICTURE-PERFECT IDYLL IN THE HEART OF THE RHODOPE

Made with stout beams and massive stone foundations, the houses smell of ageing wood and geraniums planted in old earthenware pots. The streets are made of cobbles.

Sadly, the old Rhodope villages are slowly disappearing. Some have been transformed beyond recognition by their inhabitants, who fancy new plastic window frames over wooden ones, and shiny roof tiles over stone slabs. Others are dying out, with their ageing and diminishing inhabitants leaving their abandoned houses to the mercy of the elements.

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BOZHENTSI

The recent craze to escape the crowds has led thousands of tourists and holiday home hunters to the traditional mountain settlements in Bulgaria. Be it the Rhodope, the Stara Planina or the Strandzha, everywhere you can find once deserted houses which have been more or less well renovated and turned into lodgings or private villas. The craze has saved almost dead villages, like Leshten and Kosovo in the Rhodope, but has also killed the erstwhile pastoral atmosphere of places like Arbanasi near Veliko Tarnovo or Delchevo near Gotse Delchev.

In this crowd, Bozhentsi stands out.

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ALL QUIET IN BRASHLYAN

Trapped in a house in the village of Sarmashik, which was still part of the Ottoman Empire back in April 1903, a small group of Bulgarians were wondering what fate would bring in the next few hours. Rebel leader Pano Angelov and his men had been preparing a revolt against the Ottomans when they were betrayed. Thus they found themselves holed up in the house in Sarmashik – now famous as Balyuvata kashta, or Balyu's House – surrounded by Turkish soldiers.

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