From a wooden spoon – to the rich history of the Rhodope Mountains

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

‘This region must have been very rich’ we concluded after visiting the village of Mogilitsa. At first sight, this village situated on the South Rhodope Mountains looks similar to other villages. Old wooden houses, connected by a non-very-well-conserved pavement, that reach the sky through the black smoke produced by its chimneys.

However a detail-oriented visitor will notice the difference quickly: a 5 meter-long-wooden-spoon that decorates the centre buildings. Perhaps if the visitor is clever enough he might also think that there is ‘something else in this village’.

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Old picture of Mogilitsa at the Ethnographic Complex Agushevi Konak.

Indeed at the other side of the street -not related to the spoon- there is a huge Ottoman complex -KONAK- once owned by the local feudal lord. Agush Aga was his name and according to local people he was not originally from Turkey or Greece, but from someplace in Macedonia or Albania. The whole region around the village was given to him in reward for his efforts to defend Ottoman interests from Greece.

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Main yard/ Detail of the chimney. All the rooms have a stove for warming, with the same decorations found in the Hajyiska House.

In our visit we met one of the restorators of the place: Master Roshana. He worked as well for Kosovo Houses. His honorific title doesn’t match with his modest behaviour. He is shy, but he is a Master and he does not stop talking if it’s about restoration or crafts.

Mladen Roshanov started to work at the restoration of the Konak in 1966 and finished it in 1977. “Those were other times, were you had to learn by working. That’s how I did it” said Roshana. Roshana along with a team of 7 locals leaded by professionals started a brigade that had one primary goal: “Keeping things like they use to be”.

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Master Roshana walking at the main yard of the complex Agushevi Konak

He remembers stories of all the little details. He knows which kind of wood was used in every single corner of the 5.000 m2 complex: oak, cherry, even the much desired walnut. Agushevi Konatsi (The Konak of Agush) has a large number of houses, the residential ones and the farming buildings. The residential houses were the house of the lord and the houses for the servants or temporary farm workers). All this buildings are connected by three consecutively connected yards.

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Details of the Konak (many elements like the roof can be seen at Complex Kosovo Houses)

At the end of our short but intensive tour through our complex, even if it’s cold outside, Master Roshana wants to show us an hidden detail of the architecture of the konak: a different tower stands out the left part of the konak. This tower was ordered by one of the sons of Agush. Amazed by a building he had once seen at the sea coast, he wanted to keep this memories with a similar one in his Konak.

Roshana smiles slightly explaining the story “it is so unique that’s not even traditional anymore”. However, while explaining how the restauration of the tower was made, he frowns his brow. The paintings were made on leather that was removed carefully for its restoration. Hard work.

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The unique tower.

Roshana’s humblenes will surprise us one more in the face to face talk at the cafeteria. For him there is no ‘original architecture’ only the beauty of a well done task.

-“How do you define the traditional architecture from the Rhodope Mountains?”

-“From the Rhodope? Watching a Turkish soap opera with my wife, I found out that the houses were the same, even the mechanism to open them.”

 

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.