Kovachevitsa: In the footsteps of history
The spirit of authenticity
Just one look at the houses here and you can easily tell that the place has a glorious past. Even those unfamiliar with this period of history will feel the genuine spirit of Bulgarian Revival leaders, enlighteners and educators that lived in the olden times. Undoubtedly, they too will be astonished by the distinctive houses, authentic cobblestone streets, lining one after the other charming yards or winding beneath entirely protruding first floors and oriel windows with intricate designs. What we see here, urges us to unfold the pages of history and find out who were the authors of this amazing architectural masterpiece. There’s so much more to these buildings than just engineering and masonry.
Though time has taken its toll on most of the traces of the first settlers here, it has been kind to some interesting evidence for their existence. They can take us on a journey back in time starting from the Copper-Stone age, into Antiquity, across the following centuries and all the way to the Bulgarian National Revival that still shines in its own unique light.
Kovachevitsa is situated in the Western Rhodopes in the valley of Kanina River (“Karvava reka” or “Blood River”) surrounded by a wreath of high ridges. The place was settled in several waves and mainly by refugees. The first migration wave dates back to 1393, but the truly massive one was during the Ottoman assimilation and forced conversions to Islam in Bulgaria in 1650, when hundreds of people found refuge in the isolated and inaccessible mountain village. But they found a number of livelihood opportunities as well - vast pastures, spring waters, abundant nature, many wild fruit trees, shrubs and herbs, etc. and started developing various crafts too.
Around 1791, Bulgarians from Western Macedonia settled here as well and left their mark in architecture - they were known as skilled self-taught masons, but most of all – they succeeded in raising the spirit of the locals and strongly influenced the architectural appearance of the place. The village demonstrated incredible resilience, managed to withstand the pressure of the Ottoman rule and has never had Ottoman administration, therefore later it became one of the centers of the Macedonian national liberation movement.
Several generations of families, almost 2,000 people, have put their hearts and souls, their lives and all the creativity they were capable of into the village in the boom years during the Bulgarian Revival. They have created the peculiar, wondrous, bizarre, enchanting and captivating Kovachevitsa with the unique stone and wooden houses thanks to their skills, artistry, consistency and continuity and most of all - indomitable spirit. The buildings are characterized by stacked unhewn stones cemented with a mixture of clay and water - seemingly simple technique, but extremely robust. To a great extent, thanks to that stone setting technique, the buildings are still preserved and their unique appearance and aesthetics made significant contribution to the announcement of the village a historical and architectural reserve.
We can’t omit the fact that after the Liberation of the village in 1912, the population has decreased very quickly; many of the houses were abandoned and left to self-demolish and if it wasn’t for the movie industry, the village might have never been revived again. Most of the buildings have gradually been restored and the place has been featured in a ton of TV shows and movies - another reason to visit Kovachevitsa and that’s merely the beginning. The village is a starting point for several interesting tourist routes - to the “Sini vir" waterfall and the “Kozi kamak” area. There’s another place, perfect for rural tourism nearby – the historical village of Leshten. And not only that, you can also stay in one of the historical houses and try typical local dishes. You simply have to stay for a few days – to maximize your benefits and fully enjoy the magic of history.