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Leshten – Rodopean Fairy Tale

Georgi Georgiev

Leshten is a lovely village, huddled among the woody hills of the impressive Rodope Mountain, 15 km northeast of Gotse Delchev. This is an unusual village. The houses and other buildings are like relics from the past and some of them have more than 300 hundred years old history. During the last few years Leshten has turned into an unique holiday village with any kind of modern facilities. The houses are fully equipped with WC, telephone and satellite television.

As it refers to me I didn’t get to the rooms and even less to the TV sets. And who needs a television at this heavenly site. Here everyone can run his imagination, to project his own film, to experience his dreamt script and relate it if he has the gift of speech. Unfortunately I’m not a master of the short story but anyway I will try to tell you what I have seen and felt in Leshten.

I was driving along the main road E79 which is meandering between the Rodope and Pirin Mountains. There were about 5 km left to Gotse Delchev when I turned left to Ognyanovo village. This is a lovely spa resort. Its mineral water springs and pools have proven curative power. From Ognyanovo the road continues up hill in the Rodope Mountain.

And here the story begins. It was the end of august and the sun almost touched the blue peaks of the unapproachable Pirin Mountan. The road was like a huge snake winded around the edges of the Rodopean gorges. I had seen such scenery only in the National Geographic reports about Himalayas and Andes. And I was happy to see that just 200 km south of Sofia I can feel myself like a real explorer and adventurer. Soon I entered the village and I found myself into another dimension and the experience was quite strong. Modern man who got used to the mobile phone the din and the crowd of the big city fails into a lost world full of silence and calmness. I parked the car in the centre of the village next to “St. Paraskeva” church. When I came out I heard music sounding from the tavern In front. I climbed the stairs and found myself in the yard of the restaurant. The primary feeling of vanity and static momentarily vanished. There were tourists behind the wooden tables, who had finished their tour around the architectural reserve. Smoke and fragrance of delicious dishes were floating from the premises. Something was burbling in a large vessel over the open air fireplace next to me. This made me to remember my childhood, when my grandmother used to prepare winter supplies. And the memory got stronger when a disheveled nipper ran by me. Probably this “little town prince” was brought here by his parents to see and to get known a world which I hope isn’t near extinction.

To become well acquainted with this world I started walking on the cobblestone streets, by the high stone fences. And the beautiful views to the green Rodopean peaks, Pirin Mountain and the church tower in the foreground revealed in front of me. The houses are masterpiece of the Rodopean masons. They have wide verandas and the typical roofs covered with “thikly” – tiles cut of stone. A jolly group of young people, who had rented the dwelling for the weekend, was out on the balcony of the house. As they saw me they waved me friendly. At the same time a lazy cat, lying on the cobbles, was staring at me with its veiled eyes.

I went on wandering among the reserve and finally I reached something which was completely different from everything I had seen in the village till that moment - a rotund house made of clay. This was the Flintstone’s house which could be rented too. This site was really weird and the impressions got too strong. It was enough time for a break in “Kruchma” (Tavern). That simple was given to the restaurant in the centre of Leshten. I sat behind the wooden table under the large acacia tree. It took a little time of the cook to prepare my meal but the result worth it. After 30 minutes the host, who was responsible for the tavern and the house accommodations, served me one of the local specialties - leshtensko meat ball. The dish impressed me not only with its size but also with the way it was cooked. The meat wasn’t minced but chopped and it was much more delicious. While I was taking pleasure in it, the group I had met in one of the houses sat behind the table next to me. The host met them heartily and joined them. Obviously they were regular customers. He gave out the glasses quickly and when the typical wooden vessel (baklitlsa), full of brandy (rakia), went around the table several times, they started a cosmic conversation about the life and the universe. And is there something else that man could think about in this heavenly site, forgotten by people but touched by God.

After I had a good fed I started the car and I took my way to some more distant and also very beautiful site - the architectural reserve Kovachevitsa. But as long as every real and unique experience should stop at the right time to make place for the next experience to start, I will therefore stop my story now, so that my next story is even more interesting to you.

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