The Rhodope Mountain is the perfect place for a small holiday amidst beautiful snowy landscapes, crystal air and… silence!
Shiny and puffy snow, hugging deep valleys and high rocks, small houses with smoking chimneys on their white roofs, bright blue sky, with small, cotton-like white clouds and the wind bringing the scent of pitch… This mountain simply wouldn’t stop surprising its fans, no matter how long those have wandered around, no matter the developing tourist infrastructure. The place is covered with mysticism and legends and it looks even more unreachable through the winter, when everything is covered with snow and the weather is freezing cold, blocking the small settlements. However, most of the roads in the area are passable, so everyone can reach the goal set.
Pamporovo is the most common destination – it is favorite to skiers and snowboarders from this country and abroad. Winter sports can be practiced in the area of the town of Chepelare and at the foot of the Mechi Chal peak, where some of the most picturesque ski slopes are situated. Small and big facilities of this kind can be discovered elsewhere in the mountain either – for instance, near the village of Mogilitsa at the border with neighboring Greece, or at the Predela area near the village of Stoikite, where small slopes for beginners and ski lifts can be found.
On the other hand, a whole bunch of small villages, lost in the snow invite the curious traveler to get acquainted with the most remote parts of the mountain, soaked with sorrow and nostalgia. Some of those spots can be reached only with terrain vehicles, but it’s worth it – tourists fall in love with their beauty. For instance the border village of Kesten – merely 20 people live there, mostly elderly ones. The silhouette of a small volcano that used to be active millions of years ago can be seen in the area of the village. It can be reached for a couple of hours. No guest house can be found in the village, so one can stay in Trigrad, situated nearby, where there are plenty of those. Two of the most visited caves in the Rhodope – Yagodinska and Devil’s Throat, attract many tourists in the region. The owners of wonderful guesthouses offer cozy fireplaces and tasty Rhodope meals, following all European standards. Low prices are another advantage of these places and so many people opt for them.
The village of Shiroka Laka is another place that must be visited by the tourist, who is in the region of the town of Smolyan. This ethnographic settlement is a picturesque view through the winter months with its snowy narrow streets and stone buildings with small porches and wooden gates, covered with iron. Mariana Barganova from the Tourist Information Center in Shiroka Laka explains that their guests may opt for skiing in the Pamporovo resort, situated 12 km away, or may go the villages of Gela and Solishta nearby, which have small slopes for beginners. However, most people visit Shiroka Laka because of the preserved architecture and the possibilities for village tourism, Mrs. Barganova says and adds:
“A fireplace can be found in each house with the typical Rhodope style, while the hosts charm their guests with the common homemade meals, such as patatnik, klin, kachamak etc. Besides that we have some very nice festivals, such as the forthcoming mummer’s fest on March 3rd that attracts lots of tourists. We also welcome many visitors around Christmas due to the traditions, related to this fest. Local boys, called koledari on that day, walk around the village to bless people, including the guests at the hotels. Epiphany takes place on January 6th, when the priest throws a wooden cross into the river and men jump into the freezing waters to take it out. Tourists simply love this attraction! “
The Rhodope Mountain offers its magnificent folklore, the beautiful dressings, the sound of the kaba – bagpipe and the strong and pure voices of its singers that reach the blue sky. This is the trademark of this mountain that brings magical winter experiences to its guests.
English version: Zhivko Stanchev
Veneta Nikolova . Neverending Journey