Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ягодина (Yagodina)

I spent two days in and around Ягодина (Yagodina) last September. I waited to write about it because I knew I'd be back to visit a friend and fellow volunteer serving there. Having gotten to know the place a bit more, I'm sure I'll return again someday. Although they are very different, Ягодина is very much like Широка лъка (Shiroka Laka) in that it has been able, to this point anyway, to open itself up to tourism without losing its authenticity and genuineness.

There is no public transport to and from Ягодина. For those of us without cars, that means one of two things: hitchhiking or walking several kilometers from the nearby village of Тешел (Teshel). Since the weather was perfect, I opted to walk. It's a beautiful walk along mountain streams, through evergreen forests and narrow gorges, and beneath rocky outcroppings.

Nestled into a lush valley, the village's location is tough to beat.

Every morning and late afternoon, cows parade through town on their way to the nearby hills.

After the cows have departed, someone has clean up their mess.

And everyone else goes about the business of the day.

As much as I would have liked to have just hung out and watched life go on, we had work to do. We started by clearing the area in front of the читалище (community center) of overgrown weeds. Then we hung bird nest boxes and put in signs for an eco-trail connecting Ягодина with the nearby villages of Триград and Гьоврен. It was great seeing so many kids working to better their communities.

Of course, when not working, I kept nosing around town and exploring the surrounding hills, taking pictures of whatever caught my eye.

A few kids even joined me at the Оролово Око (Eagle's Eye) which offers unobstructed panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

After our work was complete, we were treated to a free tour of Yagodina Cave and some traditional folk dancing and singing. All things considered, it was a brilliant couple days in the Rhodopes.

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