The Magic of the Desolated Village
The village of Skortsite is situated only seven kilometers away from the town of Tryavna. Despite its proximity to the town of the old Bulgarian national revival, the village is not a popular destination among the people who love to travel. You may find almost no information about this village or You may not hear any advertising messages inviting You to visit it. The village, tucked away among the mountain slopes, it seems to be sleeping and remaining somehow away from the dynamics of this century.
The way from Tryavna to the village weaves along the mountain slopes. One may see through the cracks between the roadside trees the mountain peaks, and the very last people on our way just before the village are travelling on horses and somehow accidentally it comes to one’s mind the parallel to a passed epoch when these animals used to be the main way to travel from one place to another place. A wooden plate with the name of “Skortsite” written out with archaic letters shows that we need to turn to the right of the main road, while the gypsies staying in a bivouac near the roadside sign are looking at us with curiosity. After another kilometer or so we arrive at the village. Here, however, we find out that there is nothing in Skortsite of what we are so used to see in the small villages in Bulgaria, namely a shop with all kinds of goods for sale; a small pub filled with smoke where the few inhabitants of the village carrying on conversations while having a cup of drink; and dogs barking from the yards. And there is no way for all of the above to exist, for the village has not even one permanent resident. Lost in the recesses of the Balkan Range, the village seems to be put to sleep many years ago by the same witch from the story for the Sleeping Beauty, and keeps waiting until the present day for someone to wake it up. The magnificent houses built from stone and covered with slates evidence that their former inhabitants of the village used to be people of means. Our assumption is confirmed by Father Lyudmil Manev who was born in Skortsite and grew up here, and who is currently serving as a priest at the Plachkovski Monastery. He tells us that according to the legends the village was established in the end of the XIV c., after the conquest of the old capital Tarnovo by the Ottoman enslavers. In order to escape the invaders, the messengers of Tsar Ivan Shishman established here, amidst the inaccessible recesses of the Balkan Mountains, and established a village of their own here. In the course of the centuries, Skortsite grew bigger, and its inhabitants gradually mended their fortune. In the period of the Bulgaria National Revival /XVIII c. – XIX c./ Skortsite was in its flourishing state. In the winter men used to go abroad to make a living as builders within the Ottoman Empire, and used to return to their birth place in the spring to build their beautiful houses with high walls and big wooden gates. The architecture of Skortsite is the typical architecture of the time of the Bulgarian National Revival and keeps the characteristics of this region.
“Bulgaria is divided not only into folklore region, but also into different architectural regions. In view of the above, Skortsite may serve as a textbook in architecture for the architecture from this specific period of time. There are too few villages in Bulgaria being preserved in this way. Here one may see the typical sample of the so-called “Balkan house”. This type of house is two-storey. The upper floor has the obligatory verandah. The stone is used for the construction of the first storey, while the second storey is usually frame-built with a wattle fence. It is plastered with mud from outside and from inside. It is obligatory that the roof has tile-stones.”, says Father Manev.
The “St. Dimitar” Church is the most magnificent landmark of the village of Skortsite. The Church’s lonely outline keeps rising with due pride at the background of the Balkan Mountains. The Church, however, is closed and left to the mercy of time and the natural elements. It was consecrated in 1876. It is supposed that it was built for approximately a period of one year. The main architect of the Church was Master Gencho – a famous master-builder of buildings and bridges who lived during the Bulgarian National Revival. His work also includes the cathedrals in Varna, in the town of Vidin situated near the Danube Rive, etc. The local population at that time obviously has sufficient resources to invite a master of his rang. The “St. Dimitar” is a church of the Bulgarian National Revival time that is typical for this region. It is an interesting fact for this specific church, however, that the stones used for its construction are so smooth as if polished. There is no other construction of this type within this region. The Church is also unique for its priceless frescoes dating back from the National Revival, a part of which are exhibited in the museums of Tryavna.
It is difficult for someone to imagine that less than one century ago Skortsite, together with the nearby hamlets, used to have more than 2000 inhabitants. Today, their heirs have spread all over Bulgaria, and the village is buried in oblivion, away from people’s vanity. Due to the above, Skortsite has preserved its authentic atmosphere of the village of the Bulgarian National Revival time. And it seems like the time has come for its awakening and turning over to a new life again. All lovers of rural tourist arrive here, yet rarely, have a walk along the small streets and take a look over the stone walls of the houses where they may see dusty agricultural instruments and objects of the everyday life. A picturesque eco-path starts from here, which connects the village and the architectural preserve Bozhentsi. There are even places where You will be told that the houses in Skortsite used to be in every way equal to those in the so popular today architectural preserve Bozhentsi, and maybe used to be even superior.