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  • Writer's pictureStefan Ivanov

Shiroka laka - the birthplace of the Rhodope song

My dear friends, it is really a great pleasure for me to take you to the place where the Rhodope song was born, a land that has preserved the authentic Rhodope soul, hidden between such beautiful green slopes of the mountain and by the sound of the river, a center of patriotism and knowledge, a place, which gives freedom, peace, tranquility and confidence for a better tomorrow!


Welcome to Shiroka laka!

Shiroka Laka village, Smolyan district, Smolyan municipality

I so love coming back here again!

This charming Rhodope village is located in the Shirokata Laka area, along the Shirokolashka river in one of the most charming and unsurpassed in elegance Rhodope valleys.


This village, nestled in the bosom of the majestic Rhodope mountains, got its name from the Old Bulgarian word lѫka, which means bend and also curve.



I don't know about you, but for me, walking along the narrow cobbled streets brings me incomparable relaxation. The sights that surround me caress all my senses. If the wind blows, the leaves of the centuries-old trees surrounding the village on all sides whisper ancient melodies that fill my heart warmly and it picks up the songs to the rhythm of the Rhodope Mountains.

Notes of freshness, of charm, of green timelessness, of bright colors and of hot embers in a hearth caress my soul, which feels younger and more vigorous.


Shiroka Laka village, Smolyan district, Smolyan municipality

The white Rhodope houses, located amphitheatrically, are perched on the slopes of the mountain - between the two Rhodope divisions - Chernatitsa and Perelishki.


The altitude here is 1058 meters.


Shiroka Laka village, Smolyan district, Smolyan municipality

In every window the bright sun smiles from the blue sky and the village seems to sing.


The Valley of Chans and Songs

For more than half a century, this is how Shiroka Laka has been known - the valley of songs, of people with big hearts, of Kaba bagpipes, the valley of Bulgaria, a hearth of enlightenment, of culture and patriotism.


Called the "Song Capital of the Orpheus Mountain", for 52 years this valley has been sung by the talented graduates of the National School of Folk Arts "Broad Bow".


National School of Folk Arts "Shiroka laka"

NUFI "Shiroka laka" was opened on September 1, 1971.

Everything started with the great desire and courage of a handful of people.

The first entrance exam was held on September 5, 1971. Prof. Parashkev Hadjiev, Prof. Manol Todorov, Prof. Asen Diamandiev evaluated the first candidates.

The initial period of building a normal curriculum was by no means easy. The then principal of the primary school, Manol Radichev, provided the top floor of the new building to the school he led, having to deprive himself of specialized offices. The Director of Forestry, Georgi Penelov, is vacating premises for a dormitory. Hardly anyone from this extraordinary team realized that they were participating in a historic event.

Through its artistic compositions, the school currently promotes the folklore wealth of Bulgaria. There are numerous concerts in the country and abroad. Representative groups of the school visited Libya, Switzerland, Greece, Belgium, France, Moldova, Germany, Ireland.

The rest is history and music!


Rhodope songs

Shiroka Laka is from the villages where she was born and where the Rhodope song continues to develop. Many of the most famous representatives of Rhodope folklore - singers and pipers - were born here.


The Nightingale of the Rhodopes - Radka Kushleva, so called because of the beauty of her specific timbre, was born into a family of singers and pipers from Shiroka Laka. The young woman from Rhodopes has been singing since she was a child. Her first appearances were in 1942, the voice of the Rhodope nightingale sounded for the first time on Radio Sofia, performing original Rhodope songs.


Бела съм, бела, юначе,

цела съм света йогрела,

един бе Карлък останал

и той не щеше остана,

ам беше в могла утонал.

В моглона нищо немаше,

сал едно вакло овчарче.

Сиво си стадо пасеше,

с медно кавалче свиреше,

с кавалан дума думаше:

Галени га са ни зьомат,

Технону бално колко е!

"Бела съм, бела, юначе"

Народна песен


Every heart sings here. The song rises from the mountain and echoes into eternity!


The Bagpiper of Shiroka laka

The sculpture is located on the main street next to the town hall building.


Shiroka Laka village, Smolyan district, Smolyan municipalityShiroka Laka village, Smolyan district, Smolyan municipality

"The Bagpiper" is a composition built in celebration of the wide-ranging bagpipe players and singers, famous in all corners of the homeland, as well as beyond it.


Shiroka Laka village, Smolyan district, Smolyan municipality and Shirokolashka river

Here, even the river sings - the Shirokolashka river quietly murmurs on the rounded river stones and softly whispers tales from the old days - about brave outlaws, about indomitable Bulgarians, who kept faith, kept hope, won freedom!

The Shirokolashka River is a right tributary of the Vacha. Its length is 29 kilometers.

The river is believed to be suitable for the prospecting and mining of river gold.


Shiroka Laka village, Smolyan district, Smolyan municipality and Shirokolashka river

Along its course in the municipality of Smolyan, in addition to Shiroka Laka, there is also the village of Stoykite, and several impressive arched bridges with distinctive architecture have been built in this area.


The Arched Bridges of Shiroka Laka

Opposite the church "Holy Virgin" and the building of the old cell school "Holy Panteleimon" rise two beautiful arched bridges - priceless and worthy of respect monuments of the construction art of skillful ancient master hands.


Along with the authentic revival domestic architecture, they represent both a curious and attractive engineering combination and give the entire surroundings a unique look, a kind of originality and beauty.


It can be seen from afar that the ancient masters were looking for a dual purpose of their creation - practicality when crossing the river bed and an architectural motif - artistic and architectural beauty. And yes - they succeeded!


Shiroka Laka village, Smolyan district, Smolyan municipality and Shirokolashka river

Another arched bridge is located next to the "Shiroka Laka" DGS building, built over the Lukovitsa River.


The arched bridge, raising its stern over the singing creeks, is a main and main element and in the logo of this Rhodope charm - I discover it by chance, looking at the stone bas-relief located in the garden of the pile, as the locals say, (in the center) of Shiroka bow and this is far from a coincidence.


Coat of Arms of Shiroka laka

Additional elements in this stone symbol are the Rhodope gega, the Orphean harp and the centuries-old forests.


Shiroka Laka village, Smolyan district, Smolyan municipality
The symbol of Shiroka laka

What are these symbols? What are they saying?


  • The arched bridge (centrally located in the upper part) - as I already told you, the bridges are emblematic of this village, and they have withstood the severe tests of time;

  • The shepherd's gag (in the middle) is a symbol of animal husbandry. Sheep-breeding was among the most well-developed industries in the whole area, and therefore the sheepfold occupies its central place here;

  • Orpheus' harp - it is a well-known fact that there is no home in Shiroka Laka from which at least one musician did not come, and the most famous masters of the Rhodope kaba bagpipe are precisely from the village and the villages in the region. This is the village that gave birth to the Rhodope song! That is why the harp has found a place in the middle of the emblem-symbol of the village;

  • The ancient forests - they have protected the people in the village since time immemorial, that is why the protection and management of the forests in the region have always been a priority for the local population.


Shiroka Laka village, Smolyan district, Smolyan municipality

The reason why people once settled here is the forced Mohammedanization of the Bulgarian population in the region during the cruel events that took place in the 17th century.


History

Initially, these lands were the property of the Yuruks - a Turkic ethnic group of Muslims speaking the Turkish language, whose main distinction from the Turkish population is their nomadic way of life, who gradually moved to the White Sea.


Shiroka Laka village, Smolyan district, Smolyan municipality

More than 90 objects from the numerous houses of Shiroka Laka, which preserved the authentic Rhodope architecture, arched bridges and churches, have been declared cultural monuments.

Most of the houses were built in a typical Renaissance style, called Rhodope.


Shiroka Laka village, Smolyan district, Smolyan municipality

Covered with stone slabs, the roofs are somewhat reminiscent of fortresses, which is no accident, because only in their homes during Ottoman slavery did people feel relatively protected. This is the reason why every home has hiding places in the walls or cellars.

You can visit the Sgurovska, Bogdanova, Uchikovskaya and Kalaidzhii houses. But not only them, every building in this settlement has its own look and charm, which is a recognition of broad-beamed people who were famous master carpenters.


The characteristic local speech, specific customs and songs give every visitor the opportunity to touch the preserved Bulgarian culture and Rhodope uniqueness.


Because of all this, the village has been declared the only architectural-folkloric and ethnographic reserve of its kind in Bulgaria.


On the main street opposite the river is the house of Captain Petko Voivoda, which was his headquarters in the period from 1878 to 1879.


Shiroka Laka village, Smolyan district, Smolyan municipality
Home of Captain Petko Voivoda
Captain Petko Voivoda

Petko Kirkov (Karakirkov, Kiryakov), better known as Captain Petko Voivoda, was a Bulgarian Hajdush voivode and revolutionary, who dedicated his life to the liberation of the White Sea Bulgarians and their unification with Bulgaria, defender of the Rhodope Mountains, fought for the freedom of the oppressed in the Ottoman Empire .


Петко льо, капитанине,

Петко льо, командирине,

яла са, Петко, откажи

от сванка пусто хайдутство.


На майка ти са додяло

по денем вода носене,

по нощем ризи перане,

юнашки глави скриване.


Майчо льо, стара майчо льо,

яз съм си янджиче проводил,

яз съм си янджиче проводил

в Стамбула града голема.


А га янджиче си доде

какви хабери ще носи,

тогава ша са откажа

от този пусти хайдутлук.

Народна песен


Shiroka Laka village, Smolyan district, Smolyan municipality

The main street here is named after the famous voivode. A monument and commemorative plaque in Shiroka Luka commemorate his work.


Shiroka Laka village, Smolyan district, Smolyan municipality

Exarch Stephen I Bulgarian

In the center of the settlement I also found a monument to Exarch Stefan I Bulgarian, whose secular name is Stoyan Popgeorgiev Shokov.


At its session held on November 19, 2001, the Israeli memorial institute "Yad Vashem" honored Exarch Stefan I of Bulgaria with an honorary diploma, a medal and the title "Righteous One of the World" for his contribution to the rescue of the Bulgarian Jews in 1943.


I have dedicated a separate independent publication to the work of this Bulgarian, which you can access if you follow this link.


Shiroka Laka village, Smolyan district, Smolyan municipality

There are currently two churches in Shiroka Luka - "Assumption" and "St. Nicholas".


Assumption Church

The Assumption Church in Shiroka Laka is a symbol of faith, built in just 38 days.


As you can guess, I have dedicated a separate standalone post to this impressive temple and its remarkable history, which you can access by following this link.


Shiroka Laka village, Smolyan district, Smolyan municipality

For those who are governed by the Spirit of God, they are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery, so that you would be afraid again, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry: "Abba, Father!" Thus the Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.

The Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Romans 8:14-16


Saint Panteleimon Cell School

In the courtyard of the "Assumption" temple, there is the "Saint Panteleimon" cell school, built in 1835.


Shiroka Laka village, Smolyan district, Smolyan municipality

The village of Shiroka Laka is site number 87 of the 100 national tourist sites.


How do you get to the village of Shiroka Laka?

Shiroka Laka is a village in Southern Bulgaria, Smolyan District, Smolyan Municipality.


The village of Shiroka Laka is located in a mountainous area about 24 kilometers (about 34 minutes by car) northwest of the regional town of Smolyan, about 14 kilometers (about 20 minutes by car) from the Pamporovo resort, about 6 kilometers (about 8 minutes by car) from the village of Stoikite and about 21 kilometers (about 28 minutes by car) southeast of the town of Devin.

Its altitude is 1058 meters.


It is located in the Shirokolashka river valley in the Shirokata laka area, between the Perelik section of the Rhodopes and the Chernatitsa ridge. Around the village are the villages of Gela, Stickel, Solishta and Stoikite.


Shiroka laka stands at:

  • 226 kilometers (about 3 hours and 12 minutes by car) from the capital

  • 93 kilometers (about 1 hour and 47 minutes by car) from the city of Plovdiv

  • 426 kilometers (about 5 hours and 43 minutes by car) from the city of Varna

  • 318 kilometers (about 3 hours and 47 minutes by car) from the city of Burgas



What can be visited nearby?

Only about 8 kilometers south of the village of Shiroka Laka (about 15 minutes by car) you will find Gela - the smile of the Rhodopes.


Gela village, Smolyan municipality, Smolyan region
Gela - the smile of the Rhodopes

In the village of Gela, I recommend that you take an incomparably beautiful walk and marvel at the majestic beauty surrounding the village.



In the village of Gela, be sure to visit the interesting ruins of an early Byzantine basilica - the highest located in southeastern Europe (1480 meters above sea level).


Ruins of an early Christian basilica in the village of Gela
Ruins of an early Christian basilica in the village of Gela

Only about 19 kilometers southeast of the village of Shiroka Laka (about 29 minutes by car) is Mount Snezhanka.


Snow White Peak and Snow White Tower
Snow White Peak and Snow White Tower

From the top you will enjoy unprecedented beauties, and from the top of the "Snezhanka" tower you can see the sun's glare in the waters of the White Sea.


Opposite the summit are the Orpheus Rocks, from where you will be blown away by more fantastic and extraordinary views.


Panoramic view from Orpheus Rocks
Panoramic view from Orpheus Rocks

About 50 kilometers north of the village of Shiroka Laka (about an hour by car) there is another picturesque village, combining silence, greenery and Rhodope tranquility - Zabardo.


Zabardo village, Chepelare municipality, Smolyan region
Welcome to Zabardo

Just before the village, there is the turnoff to Chudni mostove - a wonderful Rhodope magic that will enchant and amaze you with its beauty!


The wonderful bridges near the village of Zabardo in the Rhodopes
The spectacular curves of the Miraculous Bridges

About 56 kilometers northeast of the village of Shiroka Laka (about an hour and 20 minutes by car) you will find another charming Rhodope jewel - Belitsa, Laki municipality.


Belitsa village, Lucki municipality
Panorama towards Belica

The "Belitsa - Cave" eco-path starts from the village, which I advise you to take.


Eco-path "Belitsa - Cave"
The rock paintings in the cave near Belitsa

Entering Belitsa, you will witness this wonderful rock bridge - a natural landmark "Rock Bridge".


Natural landmark "Rock Bridge" near the village of Belitsa
Natural landmark "Rock Bridge" near the village of Belitsa

The charming Gumbertia waterfall is also located near beautiful Belica, so visit it and enjoy it.


Gumbertiya waterfall near the village of Belitsa
Gumbertiya waterfall near the village of Belitsa

About 67 kilometers northeast of the village of Shiroka Laka (about 1 hour and 40 minutes by car) you will find one of the contenders for the highest village in the Balkans - Manastir.


Manastir village, Lucki municipality, Plovdiv region
The village of Manastir is one of the contenders for the highest village in the Balkans

Nearby are 604 steps to freedom - to Mount Svoboda and wonderful views of the ocean from the Rhodopes.


Panorama from Mount Svoboda
The Rhodope Ocean

About 24 kilometers west of the village of Shiroka Laka (about 34 minutes by car) is the start of the "Struilitsa" eco-trail, near which you can enjoy the wonderful Samodivsko Praskalo.


Samodivsko praskalo waterfall along the Struilitsa eco-trail near Devin
Samodivsko praskalo waterfall

Taking the road Devin – Krichim, you will move along the Vacha river, from where you can enjoy several exceptional panoramas to the charming Rhodopes and to the "Tsankov Kamak" and "Vacha" dams.



Enjoy!


And as a finale, my dear friends,

you shouldn't miss a look

the special album with photo moments –

discovered, experienced, captured and shared with you!



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