Mandritsa is quite a small village in Eastern Rhodopes. We went there during the first day of our Rhodope adventure, which we called “The Rhodope Highway”. We were full of energy and thirsty for sights and new experiences.
We had just visited the Lutitsa fortress. We headed south from the town of Ivaylovgrad to the villages of Mandritsa and Dolno Lukovo. First we stopped in Mandritsa. Near the village flows the White River – one of the big rivers in the Eastern Rhodopes, known for its clear waters and beautiful meanders.
Why visit Mandritsa
The village of Mandritsa is Albanian and the only one of its kind in Bulgaria. Almost all of the houses there keep their old specific architecture. Some of them, unfortunately, are in ruins.
Mandritsa was founded in 1636 by three Albanian brothers. Тhey were milkmen and thus the name of the village – in Bulgarian “mandra” is the place where the milk is processed and transformed to other dairy products.
Most Albanians settled in the village in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. At the beginning of the 20th century, about 3,500 people lived there. According to a local woman only 37 people currently live in Mandritsa, and some of them still speak Albanian.
The main local livelihood in the recent past was silkworm cultivation and tobacco growing. A large part of the houses in the village are very old and have a similar architecture – adobe with two or three floors. Several Greek-style brick houses with carved ceilings, wrought-iron balconies, and colonnades were also built. The village is on the border between Bulgaria and Greece and at the beginning of the 20th century part of its population was Greek. Hence the Greek houses.
One of them belonged to Dr. Atanas Peikidis, one of the few graduates at that time. It is called the “Doctor’s House” and is located opposite the town hall just before the main square. Its ground floor was utilized as a gynecological clinic, and the living quarters were on the upper floor.
More information about the history of the village you can find here.
How to get to Mandritsa
The village of Mandritsa is located about 19 kilometers south of Ivaylovgrad and it is reachable by car. Despite the short distance, the driving is quite slowly – it takes about half an hour. The road is quite good, but with a lot of turns.
If you decide to visit Mandritsa, I would advice you to go to the next village as well. It is called Dolno Lukovo and looks like a real open-air ethnographic museum. The houses there are quite old and still well-preserved. In addition, one of the oldest operating temples in the Rhodopes can be seen in the outskirts. The church is called “St. St. Constantine and Helena” and was built in 1806 for a just week.