Series by Rosa Vroom about the people, traditions and nature of Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria
If you first ask a Bulgarian about the Nature and resources of his birthplace, the bell will always ring. “Solishta is surrounded by Chernocheto, 300 years old pine forest”. “Solishta has a unique quarry of soft rocks perfect for handcraft and arquitecture” “Solishta has also a water spring that arrives directly from Perelik, the highest peak of the Rhodope Mountains”
Only some thoughts will drop in the conversation if you ask in a second place about the current situation of his birthplace. “There is no work in Solishta” (long pause) “Once they tried to open a quarry to extract the unique rocks we have in Solishta but they abandoned the idea when they realized the amount of money they had to give below the table”.
Finally, a Bulgarian will not respond easily if you ask in a third place about him or herself. “I am a school bus driver” answers the owner of Pishtalov Guesthouse. Two or three questions later, salad and rakia, Mr. Pishtalov is able to remember what was his third profession: carpenter. “I have made by my own all the furniture of the house”, says this modest local that also repairs what is needed when the eldest neighbors of the village need a hand.
Georgi Pishtalov returned to Solishta in 2005. Being his birthplace, he moved to the district capital Smolyan when he was 15 years old. His children live and work in Plovdiv. According to him, villagers have been moving from Solishta because of the lack of opportunities, careers and jobs. “In the past we produced a lot of potatoes. But nowadays who is going to produce potatoes here if Bulgaria imports them from Poland for 40 stotinki a kilo? Our potatoes are very good, but they cost 1 leva.”
There is a church standing out from the rest of the buildings in Solishta. Apart from Pishtalov Guesthouse, there is another guesthouse and a funny sign that says “Free camping for Members of the European Union”.
This carpenter, guesthouse owner and bus driver explains that the village has some incomes from tourists: some foreigners that mostly set their caravans and different Bulgarian visitors: those that explore the surrounding places or those that go skiing or those “that come to drink alcohol” adds Georgi with a smile. “Some of the guests also come just to spend some time working on their computers”.
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.