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About Smiliyan, local beans sorts, mountain air and a candidature for Guinness book of records

БНР Новини
Photo: Veneta Nikolova

The village of Smiliyan and the local beans sorts (Smiliyan beans) are very popular in all parts of Bulgaria. Smiliyan beans are a very special sort- it is extremely delicious, healthy and organic. That is why this sort is protected by the Slow Food International movement, promoted as an alternative to fast food. The movement strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seeds and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem. A festival, a unique museum exhibition and a candidature for the Guinness book of records were dedicated to these butter beans which are used for the making of various delicious meals.

Photo: Veneta Nikolova

We would not exaggerate, if we say that the village of Smilyan is an example of a happy life in the Rhodopes. Life here is quite intensive, unlike in other Bulgarian villages. The village has managed to keep its school and kindergarten open, which means that many young families live and work in that region. By the way, some families from the capital Sofia, who fell in love with its beautiful nature, also settled in Smiliyan and started to work online. There is also a dairy-farm in the village of Smiliyan which exports most of its produce to Switzerland and organizes various interesting tasting sessions for its guests. But above all, Smiliyan can be proud of its tourists. The local community center situated on the village square, where the famous collection dedicated to Smiliyan beans is placed, is among the most visited places in the village. Visitors can see there various hand-knitted slippers, authentic local costumes, beans models representing the local rural scenery and the local people. Later, tourists can head towards the nearby hall, where a giant beans mosaic is displayed.

Photo: Veneta Nikolova

The visitors can give their contribution to the village candidature for the Guinness book of records. The local people have the ambition to create the biggest wall tapestry consisting of Smiliyan beans. So far, some 8 thousand people joined the initiative. So, every visitor is more than welcome to glue a bean on the wall tapestry, write his name in a book and contribute to the popularization of the village of Smiliyan and its bright and inventive people. The local cuisine also proves the creativity of the local population. The meals in Smiliyan are mainly prepared with the local butter beans and visitors can taste many different types of soups and casseroles. Trahnata (a soup made of mutton meat, beans, sweet corn, and wheat) is one of the most popular local dishes. Visitors can also enjoy the local bean rissole, beans steamed in a pumpkin and various deserts. What makes the local butter beans so unique? The answer is hidden in the specific climate and the farming subtleties used in this region for centuries. We learn more about this organic vegetable from Iliya Godev who was born and lives in the village of Smiliyan. He is engaged with projects for steadfast development of the local communities. Iliya Godev views the popularization of the village of Smiliyan as a personal cause.

“Agronomists have ascertained that the use of fertilizers burns the leaves of the butter beans and hampers the normal growth of the vegetable. This sort grows well with other vegetables too. You will never see here a field planted with butter beans only. We usually plant two beds of potatoes next to two beds of butter beans. We also plant pumpkins and beans in the same field. Due to this type of planting, the Smiliyan butter beans were included in the Slow Food movement”, says Iliya Godev.

Photo: Veneta Nikolova

The village of Smiliyan which is hidden in the folds of the Rhodopes welcomes tourists all year round. You can find in the local family hotels everything necessary for an idyllic holiday-peace and quiet and a crystal clean air which improves your mood and boost your appetite. The local hosts will do everything necessary to meet your expectations. You can feast there on various delicious meals made of the local beans sorts, fresh homemade mozzarella cheese and fresh milk. The village of Smiliyan is crowded with visitors during the fall when the traditional annual festival of the Smiliyan beans is held. Thousands of visitors flood the village to join the beans fiesta. The festival is accompanied with many songs, dances, beans exhibitions and plenty of good mood. The culmination of the festival comes with the culinary contest, where various meals consisting of beans are cooked. “I counted 42 dishes made of beans during one of the festivals”, recalls Iliya Godev. Apparently, the imagination of the local hosts has no boundaries. The village of Smiliyan situated amidst the mountain recesses of the Rhodopes is yet to surprise us with series of attractions and experiences.

English version: Kostadin Atanasov

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