Humans of Rhodope Mountains: Chapter 4 – A Walk in the Wild

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

Break in the path between Hvoina and Kosovo.

In the Rhodope Mountains and in general in Bulgaria, it is common to hear complaints about touristic local trails: ‘They are not marked’ ‘They are marked on one way but not on the other one’ ‘In Bulgaria we do not know how to make proper signs’. And if you continue asking you may also come by with the so hated and yet so beloved answer of ‘This is not Europe’


Signs in the trail between Kosovo and Hvoina.

It’s quite true that some trails are not suitable for everybody. Even at the gentle mountains in the Rhodopes. GPS tracks basis, basic knowledge of cartography or knowing where the sunrise and the sunset will take place are some times very necessary. Steep slopes, snowy winters, dense forests, do not always show a clear way forward. Even between Hvoina and Kosovo.

Tourists on the trail Kosovo-Hvoina.

Indeed to reach Hvoina from Kosovo village there is a path with post sings on it. One feels outside Europe but it is not signposting provoking it. There are only occasional posts that have fallen down. The reason lies in the vast slopes hiding the closest villages, in the revival of the diverse flora at the first days of spring or in the just awaken chirping birds. This is Europe, but in it’s wild side.

However, the most experienced hiker knows that a road is not road until it finishes. In Hvoina Milka and Zdravko Karnev warmly receive the guests. Guest House Panorama tenders a resting place for hungry and thirsty backpackers but also a place with traditional music and traditional dance. It is also a place full of stories and history of old times in the Rhodope Mountains.



Zdravko Karnev playing the accordion at Panorama Guesthouse.


Milka Karnev used to be recognized as the woman with the longest hair of Bulgaria. Even she doesn’t like to talk about it she keeps an old newspaper with her picture on it.

Zdravko Karnev playing the accordion at Panorama Guesthouse.

They are hospitable, warm and friendly. They also grant with a space and time to share. When Zdravko starts playing the accordion and Milka smiles, the guest will realize that it would be a night difficult to forget. A day and a night in the wild Europe, always surprising for its magic, folklore and history.

Milka Kaneva dreams of creating an ethnographic museum, to tell the story of the customs and lifestyle of the Rhodope Mountains.


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, patiently and, sometimes, with nostalgia, stories of the people that live in the remotest mountains of Bulgaria.