A village to unwind
We all need to leave the city now and then to get some rest. To enjoy some peace and quiet. To sleep like a rose in a serene village. To be woken up by singing birds and have coffee with a view on the mountains. For a change of scenery you have many opportunities in Bulgaria. A place where you can completely relax is Mirkovo. 'Mir' means peace and upon arrival you'll surely notice the slower pace of life in the village. People have time for each other, take long strolls and spend free time enjoying a drink in the sun. Even though it's only 65 kilometres from Sofia, you'll feel the atmosphere is completely different. North of Mirkovo is the Stara Planina mountain range. The village itself is in a flat valley. Further south is the Sredna Gora mountain range. Towns such as Koprivshtitsa and Panagyurishte are close if you have your own transport.
My stay in Mirkovo, at Reni's guesthouse
As the train halted at Mirkovo, a few ladies and I got off. The ladies had wheeled shopping bags with all kinds of vegetables sticking out, probably from a market in another village or in Sofia. It seemed they had all the time on their hands, chatting with each other and walking downhill towards the village. It was already late in the afternoon as I arrived, to avoid the midday heat. I asked a gentleman and a lady for directions to guesthouse 'Pri Reni', which stands for 'At Reni's'. The gentleman asked: "What are you doing all alone, young man? Isn't there a Mirkovchanka (girl from Mirkovo) you are coming to visit?" I replied that I had come alone just to explore the village. Neither the man nor the lady knew the guesthouse so they asked a young man in a garden. He wore short pants, slippers, a flat cap and had a tiny cigarette end in his hand. He came towards us, carefully passing a section of tomato plants so not to damage them. "Reni's guesthouse? I know a Reni but she has no guesthouse. Are you sure you're in the right village? There's also one called Mirovo." Yes, I was in the right village. I called Reni and she would await me on the main road leading to the village center. I thanked the kind people and walked over to the corner where Reni was standing. "Welcome, let me show you the house!" I met her husband and son, Stoyan and Simeon. They were all delighted to receive a guest. I got a nice room and freshened up. A few minutes later, Simeon knocked on the door and asked me to come for dinner and to watch football.
Dinner was lovely, with fresh and local produce. I asked to make a picture of the table but Stoyan said "Wait a little, there's more to come. Take your pictures once the table's full." He got a bottle of homemade rakia, made a toast and the family welcomed me to their home. Next morning, after breakfast and a cup of strong coffee, the family invited me to come to the local market in Zlatitsa. There was also a village party where the people danced tirelessly in the heat.
The family took me to Smolsko village. Reni's mother lives there. The lady has a garden full of vegetables and it surely keeps her busy. She offered liquor filled chocolates, then sat down on a small uncomfortable chair. All sorts of stories followed. The lady spoke in the local 'Srednogorski accent' which I was unable to understand. I tried my best to figure out the story's subject, it was about a donkey in the village. Reni saw I had trouble understanding and laughed loudly: "He doesn't understand your accent, mum!", upon which she started to speak louder to get the story across. We all enjoyed some rest in the shaded garden and continued by car, uphill to the church at the highest point of the village. Scratches and damage to the car didn't stop Simeon from conquering the dirt road. They really wanted to show me all of Smolsko. After returning to the guesthouse in Mirkovo, the afternoon was spent relaxing in the garden.
How to get to Mirkovo
As Mirkovo is on the railway line to Karlovo, there are quite some trains passing. The ones stopping at Mirkovo are the slow ones that halt at every station. They have no first class. Going by train will take you around an hour and forty minutes. A bus takes close to an hour and a half. Here's the bus schedule.
Where to sleep
Besides the guesthouse, Mirkovo has a hotel called St. Ivan Rilski. I stayed in the hotel another time and it was excellent. Rooms are 30 Levas per person, (May 2016). Do keep in mind that the restaurant hosts many weddings and parties. If you'd like a quiet night and some good sleep, best is to call the hotel before, to ask if anything will be hosted. If so, you could stay at Reni's guesthouse, offering rooms for 18 Levas per person (May 2016). Both accommodations offer lunch / dinner. At St. Ivan Rilski Hotel, however, the restaurant might now and then be closed when it is reserved for a party.
About ten kilometres from Mirkovo is the village of Chavdar. It is often called one of the country's prettiest villages, with a completely renovated town square and hilly surroundings. There's a hotel on the main square, Kompleks Mutafchiev (00359879327523), where you can also enjoy a drink / lunch. Impressions of the village square are in the video on the left. Besides, there are fragments of the guesthouse in Mirkovo and of the dances in the village of Zlatitsa.
I walked from Mirkovo to Chavdar but as it's pretty far and the route is either along the main road or through the forest, it's best to arrange transport. Nonetheless, many cars stopped to offer rides!