Humans of Rhodope Mountains: Chapter 2 – Off the main road

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Series by Rosa Vroom about the people, traditions and nature of Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria

One of most interesting experiences of travelling in the Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria is taking an unknown road. Its number of turns, its steepness, its wildness or its width will probably shape your adventure. Or may be not. Sometimes it’s simply about having good luck. Anyhow, fear of getting lost or missing lunch should not hinder it. A receptive and positive mood will guarantee a warm and hospitable welcome from rhodopean locals; and also some rewarding moments.

In the road from Kosovo to Chepelare there is a perfect turn off for making this kind of explorations. This turn off is marked by a big sign with three villages written on it: BUGUTEVO/ OSTRITSA/ LILEKOVO. Maybe because of a lack of touristic attractions or monuments or historical reviews, maybe because its proxmity to the ski resort of Chepelare, this turn off is even unknown and unexplored for locals.

However a very new asphalt road led us to several brief stories of a remote area in today’s lifestyle. Charming, not always idealistic, but a step forward to understand a bigger story “Humans of the Rhodopes”


Bogutevo village bulgaria

Bugutevo is a village constructed along river. This makes it particularly narrow and long. At the middle there is a mosque standing out above the houses.

Old ruined house in bogutevo

The Major of Bugutevo told us on the phone that a man from Pakistan found a gravestone that dated from 1645 in his village. ‘It’s an ancient village’ he said.

Smoking Chimneys bogutevo

After a short walk through its old wooden houses, we wonder where the inhabitants of the village are. ‘It is winter’ we guess ‘they may be inside’. Just a few chimneys are releasing smoke into the sky.

Bogutevo farm land

At the small snack bar of the village there is an old man drinking coffee. He stares at us, maybe surprised of our presence. He blinks his eyes with a friendly smile.

The woman that runs the place serves us the coffee swiftly. We start a little conversation. She is not very optimistic about the village: ‘There is no work. Young people go abroad or to Chepelare, old people stay at home and get older’. ‘And… Where are the animals?’ ‘No animals, only ancient wooden barns’.


Ostritsa village

Even thought in Ostritsa there are many more houses, we don’t find people there. At the town hall, nobody answers.The village is located on a steep slope and from the road we see some men cutting wood. We decide no to disturb them.


Pomaks making crochet while sunbathing



Hands of a lifelong fieldworker


At Lilekovo we find three Pomak ‘ladies’ crocheting with wool threads: the DJURKOVI sisters. ‘At this village the only thing that remains are the old ladies’ is their warm answer ‘sunbathing next to the road.’ They accept being portrayed (photographed) . ‘Wait, I will remove the cigarette’ says one of them ‘I don’t want to appear like this on Facebook’.




A fourth lady appears during the conversation carrying two huge wooden beams. She comes from her piece of land where she keeps a lonely cow. She is happy to pose in front of the camera, even though she asks ‘Am I going to appear on Facebook?’
About the author:

Rosa Vroom, freelance journalist

Born in 1989 in Spain, she has traveled and worked on social and environmental topics in Nepal, Paraguay and the Balkan Peninsula. She’s a journalist, although if you ask her she would not be concrete enough. “I like to tell stories”. From the so called 5w (what, who, when or where), she specially takes care of why “Stories that may improve something”. While traveling through the Rhodope Mountains she listens curiously, impatiently and, sometimes, with nostalgia, stories of the people that live in the remotest mountains of Bulgaria.