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Colourful Kovachevitsa: the filmmaker’s paradise

The museum village of Kovachevitsa lies in a remote corner of the south western Rhodope Mountains. It is a village, which oozes old-world architectural charm and has changed little since its foundation in the 17th century, making it a popular choice with film crews. All of the houses here, are constructed from stone and wood and in 1977, the village was acknowledged as an architectural and historical reserve. Its population numbers only 50 inhabitants who live amongst its narrow, cobblestone streets - the well- preserved houses are testimony to the pride the villagers display for their home. Houses with tall white facades with stone-slab roofs and crowded eaves make you feel like you stepped back in time.


Getting There

The village lies 1,020 m above the sea level, in the Dubrash area, high on the left bank of the Kanina (Blood) River. It is 119 km from the capital, 23 km north east of Gotse Delchev and 17 km north of Gurmen.

A Dip Back in Time

Kovachevitsa existed as a settlement back in Stone-Copper Age and many archaeological finds have been discovered to support this fact. Indeed, many rich treasures from a wide variety of ancient civilizations have been discovered here; a late Iron Age tombstone, a 1st millennium BC Thracian Sanctuary and the 4th century B.C. Thracian bronze helmet and chain-mail amongst many other things.
The village past is best documented from Middle Ages and the Ottoman occupation. The first settlers in Kovachevitsa are believed to have been refugees of the Tarnovo Kingdom, who had been defeated by the Turks in 1393. Emigrants from the Kostursko regions soon joined them as did survivors from the village of Ribnovo, whose homes were raised to the ground by the Turks.
The Ottoman tax registers from the 15th and 16th century show the village as being called Kovacheviche or Kovachoviche, however folklore tells that the village adopted its name from the wife of a blacksmith immigrant called Marco Kovachevits, which in Bulgarian means Smith. His wife Gina Kovachevitsa was the areas wise woman, sought out for help and advice on a variety of topics. Villagers used to tell each other that they were going to Kovachevitsa, whenever they visited her house.
What was once a small hamlet rapidly expanded because of its abundant drinking water; the area has over 15 springs and 12 fountains and gigantic pastures full of wide medical herbs, berries and nuts. The fertile land supported the growing of fruit and vegetables and the raising of cattle.
In 1791 more immigrants came to the area from Western Macedonia. The area where they settled is known as the Arnautksa Hamlet today. These new settlers were accomplished builders and introduced new customs and techniques to the local community, who were predominantly tillers and sheep breeders by trade. It was they who had the most significant effect on the Renaissance architecture of Kovachevitsa.
After 1885 a significant change occurred in the lifestyle of the wealthier tillers and stock-breeders occurred. They began to construct cog wheels on the Kanina River and to trade in timber. These people became very wealthy and educated. During the April Uprising against the Turks, villagers set up revolutionary committees. In 1903 rebel groups in the area supported Dimitar Chulev and Stoyko Pashkulev in their revolt against the Turks, who still occupied this area of Bulgaria. Neighbouring Baldevo was burned down and there were many human rights violations in Kovachevitsa, so much so that its inhabitants fled temporarily to areas around Plovdiv and Pazardjik. The area was liberated in 1912 and became part of the Bulgaria.
The population really started to dwindle around 1946, when people left the village to seek employment and education in towns like Velingrad, Novi Krichim and Kazanluk. The population of 2,000 people dropped to 1,229 residents and over the following decades, the decline continued. The village that once housed a market, seven pubs, several butchers’ shops and 20 other retail businesses disappeared. The village could have suffered further decline and ruin had it not been for a handful of filmmakers in the 1970’s that used the village as a backdrop for many movies. By 1977, the village received a government preservation order and is now known as Kovachevitsa Historical and Architectural Reserve.

Eating, Drinking and Where to Stay

Surprisingly, for such a small village there are plenty of places offering accommodation, with several old houses transformed into B&Bs. The Kovachevitsa Hotel is well worth checking out; it overlooks the areas magnificent surroundings. The hotel’s architecture is typical of the Renaissance period, built using traditional methods and materials like clay, stone and wood. Another of the village’s hotels, The White House offers hotel accommodation and a traditional restaurant. This building was also built in the traditional Revival style in stone and wood. Kapsazov's Guesthouse offers smaller more personal accommodation in two houses joined by a beautiful garden. There are just five bedrooms, but the owners offer a personal service in comfortable surroundings. Each of the hotels have restaurant facilities, but other than that, the only restaurant is the Mehana Sinya Vir, a traditional Bulgarian restaurant located at the entrance to the village.

Photographs courtesy