It might be due to my childhood memories, however, everyone I have brought here confirms it – Miykovtsi is a special village. It makes you feel like home as soon as you arrive.The peace and quiet of the Balkan, combined with the hospitality of the locals sets you off for an amazing experience. Whether you want to spend a quiet few days or to roam through the uncharted woods of the Balkan – you will find what you are looking for here.
Miykovtsi is a village located 15 km from Elena, Bulgaria and 50 km from the old Capital of Bulgaria – Veliko Tarnovo. You can get to it by car & bus or bicycle for the most optimistic. 🙂
It is said that the name of the village comes from its first inhabitant – Miyko. In Bulgarian, when you add the suffix “tsi”, it would mean “the people of Miyko” as it is in the case of Miykovtsi.
Miyko most likely was not alone in his endeavor as the village quickly grew to have 9 hamlets, or small neighborhoods within its borders. They are all spread on different hills, besides the very center of the village which was built close to the river so the power of the running water could be utilized.
The last developed hamlet was also the first to become depopulated. It was built on a very high hill, about 3 km up from the center of the village and you had to go through the forest in order to reach it. The reason was that people needed shelter from the constant attacks of the Ottomans and usually they hid as high in the Balkans as possible. Overtime it became difficult to live and provide for a family there, so the people started moving back to the central parts of Miykovtsi. No electricity had been supplied to this hamlet so it wasn’t very popular among the youth. The last living person there died in 2011 and until his last breath he was herding his sheep and went to the village daily for various supplies.
During the years after the Liberation, the village continued its development and was bustling with life. A lot of small inns were opened, there were bakeries and the river was fully utilized by the wood-processing workshops, 11 flour mills and fulling mills down the river. A school with day care was opened so the children could study and live like they do in the city, minus the raising pollution and noise. Despite the colder climate, the inhabitants were growing their own produce and crafting tools as needed.
How it is now
Nowadays, the village is become less and less populated due to the urbanization of the country which is leaving rural areas desolate. Only 18 years ago, there were 180 people living in the village. Now the local inhabitants are only 28. On one hand, this is a good thing as Miykovtsi remains a place of pure nature, not ruined by the presence of people yet. And if you come here, you can hear and feel the mountain live – all the birds and animals living in peace in the vast green areas untouched by humans.
On the other hand though, it is becoming difficult for the few remaining locals to lead a normal life as there aren’t many amenities. From all the inns in the past, only 1 has remained which also acts as a small shop for most needed supplies. The school is just a big structure in the center of the village with its swings only reminding of all the fun children have had there. There is no sign of the workshops and the fulling mills are just some ridiculous looking dams on the river.
Fortunately, over the years, the locals have realized the power of the rural tourism and have remade their houses into Guest Houses for everyone who dares come and have some peace in the Balkan. This has become the main trade of the village now and it is passed from the locals not only to their kin but to newcomers as well. Currently, a visitor is able to experience everything the Balkan has to offer with the benefit of having a connection to the outer world. But honestly, once you come here, you would want to ditch your cell phone/laptop or any other 21st century trinket you have in order to benefit fully from what the mountain has in for you.
So how to benefit from all this?
The village is literally at the end of the road, where the mountain begins and you can experience it in its rawness and full beauty. The views are majestic and the air is as fresh as it gets. The 9 hamlets mean that you have 9 different roads to experience, each showing its own story and leading you to a different experience than the other.
All four seasons can be experienced in the area and each season brings its own beauty and treats for every visitor. Regardless of whether you are a summer or a winter person – you need to see how each season develops here. From the awakening of the forest in spring, through sunbathing down the river in summer and the colorfulness of fall to how it all goes to rest in winter providing you with such white views you will feel renewed.
Most cellular networks have no coverage in the village and in order to get connection, you need to walk to an open hill. I promise you that during this walk, you will be so immersed in the views that you will forget you needed to connect to someone.
The trails to small hideaways like “The Robber’s Well” or “White Cow” are swinging through the forest, desolate from all else but pure nature. The legends you can hear from the locals are so vivid they will make you want to tell your children too and bring them there to experience the past. The rivers are so clear and full, you will never want to go to an ordinary beach again.
Dining with the locals is a pleasure which they will allow you to bring home by teaching you local recipes and providing you with cooking insight collected over the course of decades.
And the hospitality, oh, the hospitality of the Balkan people is so distinguished that even before meeting anyone you will feel like you have come home and this is where you were headed to all along.
Want to visit?
I hope that by now you will have realized that this is a place to see and I do hope to see you there soon! If you need help with accommodation, please check my recommended houses below & click on the photos to get more info. They are all very cozy and offer everything you might need to feel like home, including home cooked meals, so delicious, even your grandma would want the recipe! If you have any questions about getting there – feel free to ask in the comments 🙂