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Discovering Kovachevitsa and its Surrounding Area

The architecture tale of stone and wood representing the best of the Revival age is displayed in all its glory in the protected museum town of Kovachevitsa.  The Kovachevitsa Architecture and Construction School also influenced the architectural design of the neighbouring villages and some of these are also under protection orders. The environs around the village also offer some arresting scenery with impressive canyons, a crystal clear river, marvelous waterfalls and thick forests. Fishing in the Kanina River is a popular sport due to its abundance of trout.




Around Kovachevitsa

The eaves of the houses in this village cast a deep shadow on the cobblestone pavements creating excellent shelters against snow drifts during harsh winters. The picturesquely narrow alleys and the 12 fountains are of postcard quality. Each of the Kovachevitsa houses in itself is a unique work of architecture; a practical solution to achieve maximum residential space with minimum means. The Daskalov, Sarafov, Bangov and Urdev houses are the best architectural examples in the village. This lead to large elevated upper storey areas and small bases. The sparse use of timber on the ground floor makes the houses look like medieval fortresses or watchtowers. St Nikola Church is worthy of a visit. It was built between 1841 and 1847 by the Western Macedonian refugees who fled to this area is also testimony to the skills of this time. The church tower was added in 1900 and the church bells were cast on the spot by skillful craftsmen using materials including gold and silver donated by the whole community. The bells were removed twice until the craftsmen were satisfied that they had obtained the perfect tone and pitch. St. George’s Chapel is a modern day addition to the village. It was built in 1995 against a pretty backdrop of beech and pine forests close to the ruins of a monastery that was destroyed under Ottoman rule. The church’s exterior is simple yet appealing. Inside, the church has a nave with a small altar and what makes it special is that all of the walls were painted by the painter Nikola Karamfilov by way of donation. Karamfilov has painted many of the famed Bulgarian saints and martyrs like St. Petka, St. John Rilsky and Sts. Cyril and Methodius. One particularly interesting scene is that of the Zograph Monastery in Aton; as well as images depicting everyday monastic life the painting also includes the burning of 26 icon-painters by the Romans. In 2004 close to the Chapel a large metal cross was erected as a sign of the areas longstanding Christianity.




Historic Villages

The village of Leshten on the slopes of the Dubvara part of the Rhodope Mountain is also similar its architectural style. Its Revival houses were constructed on multiple levels on the steep mountain slopes. Leshten contains around 30 houses in all and every one of these museum pieces is enormous with large, spacious terraces, old-fashioned inner courtyards.  Interiors have been lovingly restored to show off their original character and most contain their own private entertainment cellar known as a Mehana. The village’s most notable landmark is the St. Parashkeva Church built in 1833. Its stunning interior contains some amazing wood-carved iconostasis and antique icons.
The village of Dolen lies 1,020 m above sea level and is another classic alpine village. Like Kovachevitsa, this village was also populated by immigrants fleeing the brutality of the Turks. There are 70 Renaissance houses in this village, which is also a cultural and historical reserve. The best examples of the Revival age are seen in the Angelov and Talpa family houses as well as the church, which was built in 1834 and contains icons painted by a famous painter of the time, Georgi Philipov.
Gotse Delchev is a town, which still prides itself in its traditional way of life. Cows, sheep and goats wander through the streets on their way to nearby green pasturelands. Locals ride atop hay ladened horse and carts. The air here is fresh, scented by the alpine flowers which litter the meadows like a multi-coloured carpet of yellow, green and blue. There are many craft and workshops here and the main boulevard is lined with fragrant cherry trees, whilst vineyards and orchards line the hillside outside of the town.

Natural Sites

Sinia Vir, which means Blue Pond in Bulgarian, is one of the most eye-catching natural landmarks on the Kanina River. It has its own wonderfully natural architecture cut into the granite rocks, which gush with water. This area is truly magnificent with an alpine environment. It is popular with local fishermen because this part of the river is full of trout. It is also a good place to pick wild herbs and berries.
The Kozia Kamak is another unique and protected rock formation 14 km north of Kovachevitsa. The area has around 120 holes dug in geometric rows; archaeologists examined this phenomenon and found them to be some kind of stellar map on the rock surface dating back to 3000 B.C. and similar to other finds of this nature in Europe and Russia. The ancient Greek philosopher and historian Herodotus alluded to this spot as the probable location of the famous Dionysus’s Temple and it is possible that the star map was carved in this era by priests of the Dionysus Sabasius God. Kozia Kamak has some spectacular views of the Kalayaliiski Rocks and the distant peaks of the Pirin Mountains.
To the south east of the Kozia Kamak lies the Beslet Peak. It is 1,938 m above the sea level and the highest point of the Beslet Hill. Made of granite, it is surrounded by the peaks of Malak Beslet to the south west, Trite Hvoini to the north east and Cheren Kamak to the south. The views from here are good especially the way the Kanina River springs out of its eastern slope. The area is covered with Mediterranean vegetation and coniferous alpine trees particularly White fir.

Photographs courtesy