I would like to share with you an article about two nearly forgotten villages in the Eastern Rhodopes - Nochevo and Dushka. They lay approximately 60 km southeast of Plovdiv, in an area that is scarcely populated and rarely visited by tourists. When I went there last summer, I was attracted by the ancient niches hewn in the rocks east of Nochevo. They are similar to those that can be seen near the village of Dolno Cherkovishte or at several other locations around the Eastern Rhodopes, mostly along the riverbed of Arda river. For what reason the dwellers of this land thousands of years ago have created these niches, the modern historical science seems to not have given an exact answer. But what I know for sure is, that most of the places, where such niches can be found, are visually attractive and often located in a remote and preserved areas. For a landscape and travel photographer like me, this often is enough to justify a trip.
Basically, to get to Nochevo by car, one needs to take the road from Plovdiv to Kardzhali via Asenovgrad. After Novakovo, which is the last village down in the valley, the road winds its way up the northern slopes of the Rhodopes. At one point there is a left turn and a sign which shows the direction to Nochevo. Drive along the narrow asphalt path until you get to village's square. You will recognised the place by the old dilapidated building of the formal village school. Next to it is the municipality building. A small trail starts below it and heads eastward. Walk that way for about 15-20 minutes and you will get next to the rocks from where you can observe many of the niches. Usually several of them are group together, and almost as a rule, they are hewn high above the ground. There is also another kind of ancient rock monuments, that you can see here. They look like a huge flat stones which levelled surface is hewn is such a way that it forms a shallow vessel. They are called sharapana. There are several of them in the area. The one, that is the easiest to be found, is down next to the trail. The others are below the rocks.
The village of Dushka is located at the other side of the ridge. It is almost completely deserted with only a few houses still occupied. Most of the buildings are old, built in the traditional way with materials taken from the region. Some are still well preserved, others are about to collapse. There is a path which connects the Dushka and Nochevo villages, so if you want, you can walk around and get to know the area better. There are ancient rock monuments in the area which are not mapped. In case you have a bike with you, then I would recommend you to do the route I did when I was in the area last year. It starts about a kilometre before the village of Nochevo, follows the cart path up the hill for the next 700 metres and then turns down and right towards the scattered hamlets of the village of Dushka. After about 3 km of very pleasant cross-country biking, there comes another short uphill section. The goal is the top of the ridge that lays between the Dushka and Nochevo. Shortly after you reach it and turn right, there is a open space and to the left goes a path that very soon turns into a narrow trail. This is the best part of the bike tour. It goes down, but not steeply or anything. There are sections which require you to be careful, enough to keep you awaken, but unless you unwisely speed down too much, you probably won't have any problems keeping you and the bike intact :) I remember one or two places where I had to walk and push the bike, elsewhere going down was fun.